Filmmaker Windy Borman grew up with a negative perception of cannabis. She labeled pot smokers at school as “stoner dudes,” under-achievers who often skipped class and usually smelled like a skunk.
“That ‘I don’t care’ mentality just didn’t jibe with me,” recalls the award-winning director and producer. “It wasn’t very inviting.”
When she started interviewing women in the cannabis industry for her documentary, “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed,” Borman realized her view was limited.
“I went, oh ok, maybe there is a way this could fit into my lifestyle that I’m not going to end up like a ‘stoner dude,’” she says. “I can get all my shit done, be a responsible adult and have a fun experience, and be safe and around people that I like.”
The 85-minute film, which was released in October 2017, shows a side of the growing cannabis industry not often portrayed in mainstream media or the “stoner film” genre. Instead of using weed as the butt of a joke or focusing on stereotypes of sex, violence and greed, Borman interviewed a diverse group of 40 trailblazing women.
She interweaves the stories of these ganjapreneurs or “puffragettes” as Borman calls them (including Grammy award winning musician Melissa Ethridge), and explores how their role in cannabis liberation intersects with gender parity, social justice and environmental sustainability.
She also smokes pot for the first time while surrounded by her “cannabis fairy god mothers,” many of the same women she interviewed for the film.
“Women see the same opportunities that men see,” explains Borman. “With those opportunities we can create the companies that we want to work for. We can be the CEO. We get to create the products that fit into our lifestyle.”
If men make all the decisions for what women need, Borman believes it leads to pinkwashing.
“They’re going to take what they like and make it smaller and pink and say, ‘That’s what women want,’” she says. “How about, ask us. Or even better, just let us do it.”
When filming on “Mary Janes” began, Borman found a statistic showing that cannabis had the highest gender parity within any industry in the United States.
By the time the film premiered on the festival circuit—and cannabis was legalized in more states—that statistic had fallen drastically.
“We’re still ahead, but in 18 months to go from 36 percent to 27 percent, that’s a big dip,” she says. “I would hate to see that we end up like the tech industry, literally founded by women, and we now have the percentage of female coders we do because of this tech bro mentality.”
Considering women are one of the largest growing consumer groups for cannabis, Borman doesn’t believe the industry will survive if it resorts to this “business as usual” model.
“If you want to legalize within the rest of the country, you have to get the buy in from mothers,” she says. “You need the female vote.”
Borman points out that cannabis in film has historically been seen through the male gaze and that the plant and the women in typical “stoner films” are often sexualized in the same way. She believes it is the social responsibility of media makers to move away from these sexist stereotypes and normalize the use of cannabis, not just among men and women but also among people of color and the LGBTQ community.
“If you want to talk to consumers you need to show cannabis as a health and wellness product…show that this is a legitimate industry,” she says. “That’s, in my opinion, how the cannabis industry takes it to the next level.”