EDMONTON—Women are transforming cannabis culture as legalization approaches, and Chelsea Handler is here to spark up the conversation.
The comedian, actor and activist is touring Canada for a series of chats about pot and politics with Derek Riedle, the publisher of cannabis-centred news outlet Civilized.
“Women really need to be reintroduced into the cannabis world and be emboldened and empowered to make it part of their lifestyle,” Handler said in a phone interview with StarMetro on Tuesday, stressing the medicinal benefits of the drug.
Handler, who has hosted several TV shows including Chelsea Does, is planning to launch her own line of marijuana. She’s been travelling to grow-ops to educate herself and aims to soon launch a product line for women.
She said she will focus on products that are light and won’t overwhelm people, drawing from her own experience getting scared off the drug in the past by taking uncontrolled doses.
“I think a lot of people have bad experiences with edibles, where you’re high for eight hours in a corner in a bathroom. That’s no fun at all, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.
Handler, who recently shifted focus from comedy and acting to activism, said using cannabis is the only way she’s been able to survive Donald Trump’s presidency.
While marketing products specifically to women can be a fine line to tread — Doritos got hammered on social media in February for marketing a less crunchy, less dusty “lady-friendly” chip — Handler said she is merely using her own experiences as a woman to share the benefits she gets from weed.
“It’s not like I’m a man trying to appeal to women. I think women want to feel like they’re in control. You go out for a few drinks of wine with your girlfriends, you know what kind of night that’s going to be. If you’re going out for margaritas, you know what kind of night that’s going to be. And that’s the way it should be with cannabis,” she said.
“So it took me a long time to come back to it, and now that it’s so controlled, I’ve had such an amazing experience with it that I just want to share it with everybody.”
Handler lives in California, where cannabis was legalized in 2016.
She said she pays frequent visits north of the border, notably taking ski trips to Whistler, B.C. and Banff, Alta.
Read more: How this ‘crusader of cannabis’ is helping women step up and shape a new industry
In Canada, where legalization will take effect Oct. 17, female entrepreneurs are gearing up by encouraging other women to be open about their cannabis use and creating products specifically for them.
A group called the Green Hat Society, which describes itself as “an unofficial sisterhood for women over 50 who enjoy cannabis,” holds events where they can gather and talk about how weed helps them in terms of stress, depression and sexuality.
Headquartered in Vancouver, the society is developing a product line called Fabuluscious U for female cannabis consumers that will include everything from smoking accessories to high-end jewelry to vibrators and cannabis-infused lubricants.
“It takes a woman to understand what another woman needs in some areas,” said Calgary-based co-founder Thelia Foster. “So we are addressing sexuality, we have a panel that goes with it. We are talking about health and fun and enjoying cannabis and trying to erase the stigma.”
Toronto-based Hemlock Rose is a cannabis “lifestyle brand” that carries products meant to appeal to female cannabis users, though they are not explicitly marketed as such.
Its merchandise includes small pipes — some made with real gold — as well as slim lighters, candles and bongs that can be flipped around to hide the mouthpiece and hold flowers, passing off as a fancy ceramic vase for visitors.
Co-founder Elsie Va said the “female esthetic” has been seriously lacking in the marijuana industry.
“In the past, if you walk down the street, there’s a head shop and you’d walk in and there would be snakes and skulls,” she said. “When looking for cannabis products, I didn’t see anything that I would want displayed in my home.”
According to Statistics Canada numbers from 2015, 48 per cent of men reported using cannabis in their lifetime, compared to 32 per cent of women, while eight per cent of men and three per cent of women reported using weed on a weekly or daily basis in the last three months.
But Va and others expect women to start closing that gap once legalization takes effect.
Stephanie Ostrander co-founded the Edmonton chapter of Women Grow, which became Canexions, and she’s working to build diversity in all corners of the cannabis industry.
She said the big players in the industry are dominated by people who come from other high-stakes sectors, such as oil and gas, mining and pharmaceuticals, meaning there are considerably fewer women or people of colour involved.
Ostrander is working to tip that balance, but said women are showing their strength in the meantime as smaller independent entrepreneurs making cannabis products for women — whether they be designer strains, smoking accessories or cannabis-infused beauty products, which are expected to become legal in 2019.
“I think it’s going to be a huge market, an absolutely huge market,” Ostrander said. “And it’s important that women are the creators of those products, because they know what women want.”
Handler’s tour, A Civilized Conversation With Chelsea Handler, starts in Calgary on Sept. 20 before going to Vancouver (Sept. 21), Winnipeg (Sept. 22), Montreal (Oct. 4), Ottawa (Oct. 5), Toronto (Oct. 6), and Halifax (Oct. 7).
Kevin Maimann is an Edmonton-based reporter covering education and marijuana legalization. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMaimann
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