Weed Needs More Men

…to show up at events with the word “women” in it


The year is 2019 and we have not been abducted to a feminist utopia in a galaxy far, far away. Instead, we are in a conference room for the Women's Zen Luncheon at the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo in Vancouver. The panel of women is surveying the sold-out crowd waiting for a question when a gingerly man—Jeff Ord from Cannabis at Work—stands up. The microphone is passed his way, heads turn, and within the utter silence, the glaring disparity is undeniable—is he...the only XY chromosome here?—just before he asks in earnest: how can we get more men in the room?

“I would have come but I thought it was just for women!”

April Pride, founder of Van der Pop, is at a Tokyo Smoke party and has just asked why more men aren’t attending things like the aforementioned luncheon. Pride, who recently hosted a Women & Weed Summit to address women's questions around cannabis education and consumption, looked around the room while she was onstage during the panel on sex and said, point-blank: there are three men in the room.

“I have stepped into the role as a leader, which means I have to figure out in any given situation if it’s better to have all women there or have men there too—and what’s the messaging on that,” she says. “I don’t know that everyone is going to be happy but it’s something we need to explore.”

When an event is branded Women & Weed, such as Van der Pop’s and countless others, it creates a high wall to scale for those who might already feel hesitant to pass. Sometimes, it is intentional—a way to create space for women to bond, to form community, and, yes, the presence of a man can change the dynamic of intimacy—but when it is an invitation for all, we have to be clear in asking for what we want.

“Could you do me a favor, next year when you see [the luncheon] on the schedule, could you buy a ticket and go?’” was her reply.

Maybe he will. And hey, bring some friends!

It’s true that no one idea or person or expo or room can resolve all issues. But any such revolution is incremental and created by those who agree something must change. Equality is accomplished when we all believe it is important. It is, therefore, a choice: to attend or not to attend the event you thought was just for women is the difference between inquiring whether or not it is and getting vocal about your desire to be there. Help us, help you, help us.

“We didn’t make this problem ourselves, we will not solve this problem ourselves.”

Founder of Boss Ladies of Cannabis, Rachel Colic, was onstage when Jeff asked about getting more men in the room.

“In a new industry where many companies are going public, we’ve proven that having women on a board makes it more successful,” she says. “As much as we want everyone to do it out of the goodness of their hearts, using a bottom line gives them a reason to look again.”

We know intuitively that diversity matters. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in business terms. A report by McKinsey & Company states that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits.

“Why are we segregating ourselves to a room while simultaneously asking for a seat at the table?”

Colic adds: I’m not saying we don’t need to create safe spaces for all women and people, absolutely. I’m not saying that we can’t have spaces where only women get together; of course we can. I love doing that. But what I’m saying is, if we want to talk about the ways in which we want this industry to change for women or acknowledge women, then we have to bring all of the industry together.

The desire to instigate a meeting of minds by getting bodies in a room appears to be a greater driver for women than for men. We are naturally gifted at creating community, and that remains a benefit so long as it doesn’t become an echo chamber.

“I’ve spoken to many men who said they didn’t think they were allowed to come because we label them as women’s conversations, like a ‘women’s lunch,’ and not a lunch in which we are going to discuss women’s issues,” she says. “If we expect them to care about women in their businesses and do more science around women and think about women’s health and promote more women from within and hire more women, then we need to involve them in conversations and enroll them in the solutions.”

The reality we see is defined and given meaning by the words we choose. The word “women” in the schedule is not synonymous with exclusivity. It is not a lack of invitation. It does not mean “do not trespass” or “thou shan’t buy a ticket, foe!”

Make it known that you want to attend.
Ask a woman 1:1 what the deal is.
Email the event organizer.
Tweet about it.
Buy a ticket and just show up.
Put the oxygen mask over your mouth and nose, breathe normally.

For our part, there is something to recognize in the language we’re using to promote events if the mission is gender parity and we actually want you to be there.

“As a movement, we keep saying “men” as if they’re all in one bucket. “The Men” need to learn, the men need to realize, the men-the men-the men,” says Colic. “If the general conversation is inclusivity, then you really have to have an environment where everyone feels safe to speak their mind and share their vulnerabilities.”

Once we lose the desire to understand—to listen, bear witness, and take action—we lose our grip on the common thread that binds us. Cannabis is a revolution in so many ways because it reminds us.

Curiosity is the beginning of empathy. Empathy is the beginning of change. We need more men in the room because the world is changing outside of it.

We’ll open the doors but will you walk through?

Nicolle Hodges