Filmmaker calls “cut” on lack of attention on women leading the weed industry

Windy Borman talks about telling the stories of the cannabis industry "Puffragettes"

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The Georgia Straight will be hosting the first Canadian screening of Mary Janes: The Women of Weed on October 24, 2018 at SFU Harbour Centre. Visit EventBrite for tickets and more information.

In the world of weed, female consumers are revered. There are entire companies running on the platform of a rejuvenated feminism, while others bow at the feet of the soccer-mom-vaper. At cannabis conferences, there are panels discussing the day-to-day nuances of being a woman, and how pot-infused products from insert-company-here can help assuage that frustrating UTI.

I have yet to see that mirrored for male consumers. I have never seen a panel of the cannabis industry’s finest gents sitting around in a theatre in front of several hundred other men with notepads, support-cheering one another through emotional come-to-cannabis-stories.

What I have seen, however, are panels of c-suite men talking about the ebb and flow of the cannabis stock market, and the pioneering of extraction technologies, and forecasting the shifting tectonic plates of the Canadian political landscape.

MARY JANES

The women behind the scenes—the sweet few c-suiters—tend to slip through the cracks when it comes to publicly acknowledging entrepreneurial thought leadership. Only recently have publications like Gill Pollard’s Her(B) Life and 48North’s Latitude really started to highlight the stories of successful women in the cannabis industry.

Not convinced? Go check out this article published in the Financial Post last week. It’s a neatly wrapped “I told you so” delivered right to the doorstop of anyone who says they’re tired of hearing women complain about not getting enough attention. The nationally distributed paper published a list of “20 Power Players” in the cannabis space. Take a stab at how many were women.

Answer: Zero. And it’s not because there are none. (Part one of the two-part list featured one female profile on Trina Fraser, a cannabis lawer.)

American documentary director and producer Windy Borman challenges this notion, saying it was the rising number of women in the cannabis space that drove her to shine a light on these largely ignored success stories.

Behind the scenes of Mary Janes: The Women of Weed.
MARY JANES

After moving to Denver, Colorado, in 2014, and having never smoked weed, the award-winning filmmaker initially laughed off the teasing remarks from friends about the number of dispensaries she would see in her new city. Coincidentally, she moved to the Green Mile on Broadway—also known as Broadsterdam—a tourist flytrap for weed. The southern stretch of the street earned its name for having a pot shop on almost every corner.

With a heightened awareness of weed culture, she stumbled on a statistic in a 2015 Marijuana Business Daily study showing women made up 36 percent of senior-leadership positions across the cannabis industry nationwide. At the time, the national average across all sectors was 22 percent.

Armed only with a foggy understanding of the substance, she set about interviewing more than 100 men and women from within the weed space to try to better understand her new cause.

“Clearly something about cannabis was attracting more female leadership, and I wanted to figure out why,” Borman says.

As a result, in February 2016 she began filming a documentary depicting the stories of the “puffragettes”; in 2017, the film, Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, aired in the United States.

Puffragettes is a smoky adaptation of the late-19th- and early-20th-century term for women who fought for the right to vote—except instead of “deeds not words” these women believe in “weed not words”. The film follows the stories of 40 industry disrupters and fierce advocates from the modern-day cannabis industry.

“It’s a film about gender parity, sustainability, and diversity,” she says of Mary Janes over the phone.

“Those three core values have been in all my other films, so I figured I had an opportunity to help elevate the stories of these women leaders because I had an access point.”

Known for critically acclaimed documentaries like The Eyes of Thailand and The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, Borman says she wanted to represent the industry through a hard lens of diversity. She wanted every woman to see herself in the puffragettes.

“We had women from 10 different states; some of them were medically legalized states while some were adult-use states, so we could see different phases of legalization,” Borman says.

“We wanted to show a really broad cross-section of the type of women involved in cannabis and their challenges working in different political and social climates.”

MARY JANES

Borman, who consumed cannabis for the first time on-screen in the film, says her true goal with the film was to embolden women who didn’t see themselves represented by mainstream media. If she could portray women of colour, in a spectrum of ages, and from a blend of socioeconomic backgrounds, she hoped it would empower others to be bold in their strides into the rapidly evolving industry.

“There’s this great saying, ‘if I can see it, I can be it’ and I really took that to heart,” Borman says, quoting actor Geena Davis.

“Instead of having to play the game where they get stuck at the glass ceiling and see all of their male counterparts promoted past them, women should know they can go start their own company, be the CEO, and hire other women and people of colour to create a corporate culture they want to work for.”

On October 24, the Georgia Straight will host the first Canadian screening of the documentary, at SFU Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings Street). Borman hopes to do many more screenings now that Canada has legalized adult-use cannabis. Beyond that, she says, she’s working to build on the documentary’s timeliness and momentum.

“Our ultimate goal is to turn the film into a docu-series focusing on women in the U.S., Canada, and abroad, because women are leading in cannabis everywhere,” she says.

“Let’s just keep telling their stories.”

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