Illegal Weed Farm
The Big Picture
According to firsthand accounts, many aspects of the illegal cannabis industry end up reinforcing harmful ideas about gender. In most cases, this affects women much more negatively than men. As a result, many women working in the illegal pot industry find themselves wondering if the potential rewards are enough to offset the sexism they’re likely to encounter.
What’s In A Name
It’s pretty common for illegal marijuana farms to divide labor according to gender. The men typically own the farms and run the fields. The women usually work inside trimming buds.
According to some women who work on farms, this gendered division of labor carries over into other aspects of the work. As an example, just look at the nicknames very often given to women who work on weed farms. “Trim bitches.” “Grow hoes.” “Potstitutes.”
For people familiar with illegal grow operations, these nicknames actually communicate a lot. Kelly Schirmann recently wrote that these nicknames are a way of devaluing the work that women do. Work that, according to Schirmann, is actually really hard. Long hours, tedious work, and challenging work conditions.
Those nicknames also hint at the possibility of sexual violence that often exists at farms. For one, Schirmann described being offered more money if she trimmed topless. And investigative journalist Linda Stansberry wrote that if a woman is assaulted on an illegal weed farm, she’s usually too far away and isolated to get any sort of help or protection.
To sum it all up here’s what Stansberry had to say about the illegal grow scene in Humboldt County, California.
“The exploitation of women in weed is so endemic that District Attorney Maggie Fleming made it a cornerstone of her election campaign. Resources appear to be in even shorter supply than sympathy. That, combined with the insular nature of grow culture and the remoteness of many scenes, makes helping victims a challenge.”
The Financial Possibilities
Despite these possible challenges, there’s no shortage of women working on illegal cannabis farms. The money’s just too good.
Schirmann said she could make up to $3,000 a week trimming bud. And since it’s all under the table cash, none of that money is taxable.
Many women end up working in the illegal marijuana industry as a way to take care of themselves and their families. And the financial possibilities are just too good to pass up.
Women Are Huge Contributors To Cannabis Culture
The sexism that continues to haunt many illegal cannabis farms also obscures the very important fact that women have always been huge contributors to cannabis culture.
Most immediately, the trimming work that most women do on farms is crucial to the farm’s profitability. Good, hand trimmed buds sell way better than buds that haven’t been trimmed well.
But beyond that, the simple reality is that women have made tremendous contributions to the entire world of weed. According to Stansberry, the cannabis scene has been kept alive by “single mothers who trim during the fall so they can buy school clothes for their kids” and by pioneering “grandmothers who moved here in the ’70s and scratched a living out of the hillside, praying that the sun would shine and CAMP helicopters wouldn’t darken the skies above their homesteads.”
Illegal weed farms that grow sexism alongside cannabis end up erasing this important reality. They end up trying to replace the actual women who have devoted themselves to the cannabis industry with empty stereotypes.
And of course, not every illegal grow operation is sexist and misogynist. In fact, there are many that focus on what Stansberry called “egalitarian domestic partnerships” where men and women work alongside each other equally and happily.
Women And The Legal Cannabis Industry
As cannabis moves out of the illegal black market and into the legal mainstream, a lot of that sexism could be changing. There are dispensaries and other cannabis companies owned entirely by women. New strains and cannabis products are invented and marketed by women, for women.
In fact, a study at the end of 2015 found that the marijuana industry has more female business leaders and CEOS than any other field.
The Final Hit
Sexism and misogyny are present in virtually any field, industry, or profession. And that includes cannabis.
But as more and more people shed light on this issue, we’ll be better equipped to put an end to unfair and dangerous practices. We’ll also be able to recognize the huge contributions women make at every stage of the cannabis industry. And if current trends continue, the legal cannabis industry could become a leader when it comes to gender equity.