Feminized: The proliferation of women’s events in the cannabis space

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      Vancouver’s cannabis event scene is getting a woman’s touch.

      In the past, there were just a few dispensaries, like the Village Bloomery on Granville Island, that championed a softer, more feminine approach to cannabis marketing. Then the product lines followed suit, shifting toward fragrant weed bath bombs, lip balms, and stylish stoner stash bags. Now, as we creep toward legalization, it’s the cannabis event space that’s seeing an injection of femininity.

      On a sunny Sunday in early July, about 30 ladies gathered on a secret rooftop patio in the heart of downtown Vancouver for afternoon tea. While most of the elements of the event emulated the high-class rituals of the 19th-century socialites that are now tourist staples at places like the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, there was one modern addition: weed.

      The high tea—playfully dubbed “Sip, Savour & Sesh: An afternoon for the herbally inclined”—invited attendees, including a sprinkling of dapper gentlemen, to don their Sunday best and partake in recreational consumption.

      The women, ranging in age from mid-20s to 60s, were keen to take advantage of the rare and pretty smoke-friendly festivities.

      Along four farm-style tables draped in white linens and fresh flowers, the group nibbled on finger sandwiches, sipped black tea sweetened with cannabis-infused honey, and plucked joints from Mason jars.

      After tea, attendees settled into Victorian jewel-toned velvet settees to spark their doobs, network, and dab weed concentrates from a dainty bar.

      While the crowd was not exclusively female, the event was reflective of a new wave of women-centric marketing strategies sweeping the soon-to-be-legal cannabis industry. Since talk of revised cannabis regulations began, dozens of companies have jumped to peddle statistics about the purchasing trends of North American female cannabis consumers and mothers feeling stigmatized when they whip out their vape pen at the soccer field—all in hopes of boosting product sales to that demographic.

      It should come as no shock that some of these pinking attempts are catching flak for their crude capitalization on feminism, but some organizers of these events say it’s simply about creating room for previously unaccommodated consumers.

      “I’ve been in the cannabis industry now for about three or four years, and I kept seeing these alcohol-fuelled events over and over again. I wanted to see something different. I wanted to see something that reflected my friends, my cannabis tribe,” says MaryBeth Lafferty, photographer and founder of the creative marketing agency Blüm & Grow.

      Lafferty was commissioned by the Vancouver-based organic cannabis product company Miss Envy Botanicals to organize the high-tea event. She says as the culture shifts, there is room to explore new design concepts around cannabis consumption—including feminine themes.

      “We decided to go with a bit of a play on an Alice and Wonderland theme, very whimsical and sweet. It’s not something we’ve really seen much of in the Vancouver cannabis space, and now is definitely the time to play around with new concepts for different consumers.”

      Lafferty says she is catering to the community she wants to be a part of, adding that she thinks creators from all demographics need to help expand the scope of consumption-friendly events—not just women.

      “I just really hope this can be an example of not only future events, but how future cannabis lounges may operate, dispensaries may design their spaces. The more diversity we create in the design aspect, the more customers will have choice to find something that suits their lifestyle,” Lafferty says.

      These feminized consumption-friendly events aren’t the only facet of Vancouver’s quickly diversifying landscape of initiatives catering to the ladylike pot smoker. Camille Ritchie, a private cannatherapist, has recently introduced Ellementa to the West Coast—a women’s cannabis networking and educational talk series hosted across North America.

      The first Ellementa event, a women-only, consumption-free networking night, took place at the end of July. Ritchie hosted around two dozen canna-curious ladies in the newly renovated Aura Dispensary.

      “It’s providing a platform for women to have candid conversations around not just the medical uses of cannabis for women’s conditions, but to talk about our experiences as a consumer or buyer,” Ritchie said to a Georgia Straight reporter after the event.

      The health-focused talk was presented by Kelly Insley, a registered nurse and founder of the Canadian Cannabis Nurses Association, and touched on the role of weed in things like menopause and motherhood.

      “A lot of women just don’t know what to do or where to start, but they don’t feel comfortable going to a male budtender to ask questions. Ellementa is trying to create that comfortable place for women to come talk about their experiences and feel safe to ask questions,” Ritchie says.

      On August 15, Ellementa presented its second talk: an evening dedicated to the role of cannabis in women’s sexual health with actor, producer, and cannabis consultant Siobhan McCarthy.

      From giggling over lubes to managing sex-related pain, the evening answered the most blushworthy of queries.

      “Please! Ask questions,” said McCarthy to the crowd of women. “Women always do their best learning when talking to one another, and we don’t have to be scared of talking about cannabis anymore.”

      Granted, there is reason to be frustrated when companies claim to champion the fourth-wave era of feminism by way of a gilded one-hitter or hot-pink rolling papers. But this tactic is nothing new.

      As the country braces itself for October 17—the official date for the federal legalization of adult-use cannabis—hundreds of businesses are reaching for their slice of the commercial pie, and female consumers are a relatively untapped Canadian market.

      While many criticize the feminization of cannabis products, the silver lining of these female-focused events and spaces that are being created is that for the women who haven’t been comfortable with the existing marketplace, there may now be a draw to explore the therapeutic and recreational benefits of the highly stigmatized plant.