Why Sex Still Sells in Cannabis

Last month, a handful of billboards popped up all around the city of Los Angeles with women posing in their underwear under the phrase “Nice Grass” to promote cannabis. The brand, Ignite Cannabis, was founded last year by Dan Bilzerian, a typical white male “bro” who reportedly has a history of violence against women including kicking one in the face at a nightclub and throwing another off a roof and sending her to the hospital. It’s hard for anyone to argue his posturing is anything but a severe case of small endowment…but we digress. 

Unfortunately, through this obsession with flaunting naked women, guns, and gambling, he’s amassed nearly 26 million followers on instagram and so many “fan accounts,” we lost track (even his pet cat has a fan account). 

 

Gender Equality has Come a Long Way 

If you’ve been reading this and wincing, you’ve nailed the correct reaction. In the last four years, we’ve seen so much progress on gender equality: taking to the streets for the Women’s March for four years in a row, banding together for justice against a repeat sexual assaulter (Harvey Weinstein), witnessing progressive advancements like California’s law that every company listed on the stock exchange have at least one female director on their board, and so much more. So when we come across a relic from the stone ages—a male so publicly holding onto the demeaning and objectification of women—we can’t help but feel a bit shook.

 

But the Cannabis Industry is Stuck in the Dark Ages

Sadly, given the cannabis industry, it’s not all that surprising. When we set out to start Molly Jones two years ago, it was due in part because visiting our local dispensaries left us feeling awkward, intimidated, and gawked at. Even though cannabis was medicinally legal at the time, we were often the only customers packing vaginas in the room. Historically, cannabis has always been a man’s world and we know this because Hollywood backs it up—as evident by Snoop Dogg, Seth Rogan, and Willie Nelson, to name a few.

In fact, the cannabis world has been so male that in the rare case that a woman is shown smoking on-screen, it’s always reminiscent of the Mad-Men era. With her cleavage revealing just enough breast to get the mind wandering, she daintily raises the joint to her ruby red lips, inhales slightly, then slowly releases an exaggerated amount of smoke in an overly sexualized manner. We’ll let you take a wild guess which gender normally scripts and directs these scenes.

Sadly, that Mad Men cannabis culture still has its place today. All it takes is a quick search on Instagram of #stonerchicks or any variant thereof to find hundreds of thousands of young girls posing in their underwear, reenacting the all-too-familiar pouty-lipped, big busted smoking ritual. 

Instagram influencer Dan Bilzerian unveils billboards across Los Angeles with racy photos of women in their underwear for his cannabis brand Ignite Cannabis Co.

Our Sexuality isn’t for Sale

To be clear, we understand the power and personal choice of a woman to own and present her body however she wishes. We think it can be empowering for women to redefine their sexuality, just look at Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Lizzo. And if every single woman on the billboards and social media channels of Ignite were to explain that they posed not out of money, pressure, or status, but because they truly believe in the mission of the brand and feel personally empowered by supporting it physically, then we’ll be the first to champion their cause. 

Yet, we’d argue that there’s a fine line between a woman finding power in her sexual being, and her being exploited in a “sex sells” campaign led by male-dominated companies in a male-dominated industry. According to Forbes, 38.5% of cannabis employees are women and “only 17.6 percent of these women in cannabis companies held a Director or Executive role.” 

This is the issue we currently face with cannabis.

To take it a step further, perhaps the real tragedy of this situation is how hollow and sad this representation of cannabis really is. We marvel all day about how mystifying this natural plant can be for both physical and mental health, so it’s no wonder that presenting cannabis as a way to get big busty blondes into your bed hurts us down to our core.

The only solution, as we see it, is to push for more equity behind the cannabis brands in the industry. For every one Dan Bilzerian, we want to see four Oprah Winfrey’s. Yes, we’re a tad biased here, but it’s why we push for women to support women and for everyone to buy from women-led businesses. Because while we’ll be the first to throw a fist in the air when we see a woman like Christine Blasey Ford, we’re still a long way away from billboards of both women and men enjoying cannabis as it should be enjoyed—authentically.

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