Women and Cannabis

Women account for 40 percent of annual cannabis users, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This means that there are 13.1 million women in the United States who have used cannabis in the last year (compared to 19.9 million men).

When it comes to monthly use (use of cannabis in the last month rather than the last year), women account for 38 percent of all users—some 7.5 million women (compared to 12.4 million men).

Of past month users, about 1.7 million of these women are teenagers, 6.7 million are between the ages of 18 and 25, and 11.4 million are 26 or older. Forty-four percent of these women have some college education or are college graduates and 13 percent are currently enrolled in college.

Most of these women are in good health, with 56.2 percent indicating they are in excellent or very good health.  Another 28.6 percent report good health, and only 15.2 percent report their health as fair or poor.  How many of these women are medical cannabis users is not indicated by the survey data.

Forty-five percent of these women buy their cannabis, compared to 61 percent of men.  And 1.5 percent of them grew it themselves (compared to 4.6 percent of male monthly users.) Most of the women who bought cannabis got it from a friend (81 percent) or a family member (9.1 percent), and only 10 percent bought it from someone they had just met or didn’t know well (compared to 15.1 percent of male purchasers.)

About 10 percent of female monthly cannabis users reported selling drugs in the survey, presumably cannabis.

But there is a big difference between teenager users, of whom 27 percent report sales, and adult women (7 percent). However, the survey responses to the question about drug sales only reported data for 38 percent of all the women who use cannabis on a monthly basis. If they are representative of the women who responded to the survey but did not answer this question, these percentages are accurate.

Women who use cannabis are adults, educated, healthy and self-sufficient. They aren’t that much different from men who use cannabis, but that’s not really the point.

What’s more important is that the average or typical marijuana user is not necessarily a guy; it’s just as likely to be a gal. Yes, the survey statistics indicate that three out of five cannabis users are men. But the other two are women.

It’s not a contest, the math is clear. The difference between three and two is not really that important.

Women are a significant, important, and vital part of the cannabis community. They play a major role in the advocacy of legalization and the development of legal cannabis industries. This isn’t news to anyone who uses cannabis, supports legalization and/or is an entrepreneur in newly emerging legal cannabis markets.

It certainly isn’t news to the readers of High Times.

Nonetheless, there is a general problem with social and medical research in the United States because it tends to focus on men. This is likely also true when it comes to understanding cannabis use. Commentary, research, discussion and conventional wisdom tends to be gender biased.

Think, quickly, about the portrayal of cannabis use in popular movies. It is most likely that cannabis use by men comes to mind. There are exceptions, of course, but they fall into the general category of confirming the main point.

And the main point is this—as a society, we don’t really know much about women and cannabis.

We should.

Women and men are, and should be, equal partners in society. Equality, though, should not be used to ignore differences. Women likely use cannabis for many of the same reasons men use it, but at the same time, there are likely differences.

As legalization trends continue to bring more cannabis use out into the open and promote more realistic and perceptive understanding about cannabis use, society can learn valuable lessons from the women who play an important role in the cannabis community.

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