As part of our monthlong celebration of women in cannabis, we speak to ladies at the forefront of the industry. From behind-the-scenes policy work, to supplying the goods in MedMen stores, to writing about cannabis, these women have a great effect.
We’re closing out Women’s History Month with a woman who is literally writing the history of cannabis. You may have already read her words in High Times or heard her thoughts on food and cannabis culture in her podcast Weed+Grub. Mary Jane (real name!) went from working on fishing boats in Alaska, to acting in Paris, to writing about cannabis in Los Angeles. She’s had a great deal of female guidance and inspiration along her way and she believes “women in the cannabis industry are especially badass.” Read on to find out how she’s achieving her mission of legalization by bringing diverse voices to cannabis.
Where are you from? Tell us about yourself.
I'm a writer, performer and podcaster, currently based in Los Angeles. I wrote and edited for High Times for over a decade, most recently as culture editor, and I now write for a number of outlets about cannabis culture, entertainment and cutting-edge trends. My podcast Weed + Grub launched a year ago, and we're about to go on tour for a series of live shows from Alaska to California. I grew up in Newfoundland and I attended the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. I worked as an actor in Montreal, Dublin, London, Paris, Seattle and New York City, which is where I started my career as a cannabis writer. Fun fact: I survived going overboard when I was a deckhand and cook on a salmon boat in Alaska!
How did your career in cannabis get started?
I was working as a writer and performer in New York, and met the then-managing editor of High Times at a party. She offered me part-time work as a copy editor, and from there I worked my way up to writing assignments. I was given a full-time editorial position at High Times in 2014, and moved to Los Angeles to open the West Coast office in 2016. I left the company in 2018, and now write freelance for several outlets. I also work as a consultant for cannabis brands, and my podcast Weed + Grub (which I co-host with comedian Mike Glazer) is growing so quickly that it's now almost a full-time job!
What inspired you to become a writer/podcast founder?
I believe that one of the keys to cannabis legalization is listening to, and broadcasting, the wide array of voices and experiences in the cannabis world. As a writer at High Times, I was very proud of my interview with Andy Rosenthal, head of the New York Times editorial board, following the paper’s editorial series calling for legalization. I wanted to continue those conversations with artists, activists and icons like Buck Angel, Jim Belushi and Ophelia Chong, while having a great time with my amazing co-host Mike Glazer. We smoke, snack and dive deep into topics like responsible drug use, safe sex, and legalizing and de-stigmatizing cannabis. We also just launched the Weed + Grub Spotlight Series, which focuses on businesses we believe in. It's the most fun I've ever had while doing something I truly believe in.
What has your professional experience been like as a woman in cannabis?
When I took a full-time position as lifestyle editor at High Times, many of my male colleagues were skeptical that I could offer any perspective on cannabis culture. Five years later, cannabis lifestyle and culture publications are cropping up everywhere. My experience as a woman in cannabis has been shaped by other women in the industry who have refused to allow others to define them. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside brilliant, tough women who make bold strides without worrying about what people say about them. It’s inspired me to carry on, no matter what.
Do you feel that opportunities for men and women are equal in the cannabis space?
Historically, women have always operated behind the scenes in the cannabis world. Draconian drug laws meant that mothers had to hide their marijuana use or risk losing custody of their children. Even now, in states with legal medical and adult-use marijuana laws, the fear of a call to Child Protective Services is very real for parents who consume cannabis. Growing and harvesting has traditionally been dominated by men, but trimming, curing, making edibles and other parts of the industry have always had plenty of female workers laboring behind the scenes. And it’s exciting to witness the rise of the female entrepreneur in the industry. Here in Southern California, I meet just as many women CEOs as I do men.
What have been your biggest challenges in your professional career? Do you feel that you face these issues in the cannabis space?
I don’t think I’ve faced any challenges working as a cannabis writer that I haven’t faced in other areas of life: fighting to be heard, having to defend my point of view. Things that women encounter all too often. We’re accustomed to having to do our work not only as well as men, but backwards and in high heels. Women in the cannabis industry are especially badass, in my opinion, because they have the additional battle against the stigma of marijuana. I’m very fortunate to have a platform with Weed + Grub to fight against that stigma, and have conversations with people from all walks of life who are doing the same.
Are you a cannabis user? What is your favorite product and/or strain?
I am an almost-daily cannabis consumer. I really like low-dose edibles and sublinguals; some of my favorite brands are Kin Slips, 3Leaf Edibles and Kiva Confections. I also love Lowell Farms pre-rolls, they’re great to bring to a party or picnic. I enjoy hybrid flower—currently, Mimosa is my favorite strain. And I love high-CBD flower—I was given some Blood Orange Cookies (Terraform Genetics) last year and it was super delicious.
What are your hopes for the cannabis industry?
I hope big investors will sit down with growers and activists and learn about the plant before trying to profit from it. And that smaller companies are buoyed up by investments and social equity, and not just bought out. Cannabis is a valuable product that can be bought and sold. It is also a useful, valuable thing that transcends money. I would wish that everyone in the industry could listen to each other and realize we're all after the same thing—to fully legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use, and provide safe and fair access to the plant for all.
What advice would you give women who are trying to enter or are in the cannabis space?
Women can assume any role they want in the cannabis space: grower, product maker, CEO, social media maven, extract artist. An important thing to remember is that the fight to legalize marijuana is ongoing. If you want a career in cannabis, then you need to join the movement. Profiting off pot without adding your voice to the call to change laws that disproportionately target young men of color is just wrong. Volunteer, donate, and spread awareness. We need to continue the push to make cannabis fully legal under federal law—then, we can all reap the benefits of legal weed.
You can find Mary Jane’s podcast at weedandgrub.com and on the road this April 2019! Weed+Grub will be on tour starting at the Alaska B4UDIE Comedy Festival, and making its way down the west coast through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and ending in California on 4/20. Visit the podcast website for more information.