Conversing with acclaimed Director/Producer Windy Borman was thoroughly engaging; eye opening too. Borman was far from a cannoisseur when she embarked upon her new film, Mary Janes: the Women of Weed. In fact, her prior documentaries included the award winning The Eyes of Thailand, and The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.
As luck would have it, it was her exposure to cannabis culture as a new resident of Colorado that prompted Borman to consider greener pastures for her latest venture. Mary Janes: The Women of Weed is a story of hope, as well as a cautionary tale. Cannabis isn’t simply an industry—it’s a movement led by pioneering women she calls “Puffragettes™.” Their stories reveal that, in many ways, the fight to liberate ganja is an integral part in the fight for democracy itself.
Cannama: What was the impetus to make this film?
Borman: I was a cannabis outsider. I moved to Colorado in 2014 and couldn’t help but hear about women in cannabis having great success in the state. My previous films have been about elephants in Thailand and dyslexia, but the common thread comes down to these three core values:
- Gender parity
- Social justice
- Environmental sustainability
While researching, I realized that you can’t talk about cannabis without addressing all three. I started by interviewing over 100 different cannabis experts across the US. I narrowed them down to 40, then conducted nationwide interviews over the course of 2016.
It was really important for me to show a good cross section of the types of women entering the industry. We have cultivators, medical marijuana advocates – people leading the legalization movement – and everything from bakers and consultants to accessories designers. We also spoke with women in science and tech because that is what’s really pushing innovation within the industry.
Can you talk more about the women’s experiences within cannabis? What are some of the challenges they face entering and maintaining a presence?
While we’re highlighting women in the industry, we didn’t want it to be this “it’s hard for a woman in cannabis” type of story. What we focused on were opportunities and if there are obstacles, we don’t assume they are gender based.
We examined, for example, the fact that you constantly have to adapt to regulations changes or start-ups struggling to achieve fundraising goals, rather than “men make it hard for women,” because I think it limits the story. If we focus on the positive and the opportunities that exist, it will what attract more women and people of color to the industry.
What were some of the assumptions that were transformed as a result of making this film? What surprised you the most, what did you find most hopeful?
What I found was that once people are more educated about cannabis (myself included), it opens their minds and shifts perspectives. It takes a while to shake off that propaganda from the War on Drugs. I go through that journey on camera.
It’s an invitation for people to learn more about cannabis. We’re not coming from this place that everybody must get stoned out of their mind. It’s more of an invitation to have a conversation. No matter what your access point is—whether it’s looking for health and wellness alternatives, looking for a business opportunity, or if you want to put your money where your mouth is and open a business that is gonna do some social good.
Whatever skill-sets you have, there’s room for you in cannabis. I hope that invitation is intriguing to other people.
Throughout your journey, what were some of your own assumptions that were transformed as a result in making this film?
By the end of a year of filming I was finally ready to try cannabis for the first time ever and I felt comfortable doing it on camera. I put together a group of ‘cannabis fairy godmothers’ to guide me through the process.
I really tried to make empowered, educated decisions about it. I’ve spoken to other women who’ve said the first time they tried cannabis was at a party, or it was given to them with not much thought behind it. I wanted to flip that script. I decided what strain I wanted, purchased it and took it to a friend’s house.
You were a fully informed consumer.
Exactly, they showed me how to do it. When I started he film I didn’t have an inkling that I wanted to do this but I felt like now is the time.
Mary Janes: The Women of Weed reveals the ways in which cannabis liberation intersects with the most urgent social justice issues of our time. Tell us more about that.
If you look at the history of the War on Drugs, you’ll see that over time the reason for the policy has changed, but the policy has stayed the same. That’s when you have to question the legitimacy of the policy. I found that it’s not this gateway drug that we have been taught about. They don’t want to have that conversation at the federal level, especially this current administration. I really hope that we’re at the tipping point.
Currently, we have 29 states that have some version of cannabis legalization (when we combine medical and adult use). I feel like we’re reaching that critical mass where people are just gonna say, “look we want access to this plant so the federal government must catch up.” It’s very similar to Women’s Liberation, Civil Rights and the LGBTQ movements.
At some point there’s a critical mass of citizens who decide “This is the way we’re going to do it,” and then, magically, all the politicians who want to keep their jobs say, “Hey! We’ll give it to you.” If we’re not already there, we’re approaching that point and that gives me hope.
Ultimately, the politicians work for us. If we don’t like what they’re doing, we can vote them out of office.
What advice can you give to women interested in the cannabis industry?
My advice to women, no matter what business they’re in, is to don’t ask for permission, just start doing it. If we internalize this message that we’re outsiders and we’re waiting to get invited, then the invitation may never come.
If you think you have a good idea, do some research, start getting feedback on it and just do it. You’ll find out if there’s a market for it (or not) as you pursue it. Dream big, be brave, and put yourself out there, especially in cannabis.
We’re at a critical time where we have another round of funding coming in that could potentially exclude women and people of color who’ve been in the industry for years. They don’t typically have access to the funding. I think we have this opportunity in the cannabis industry to create a new way of doing business where we take care of people and the environment. We come from this place of social responsibility but if those businesses aren’t the ones that are getting funded, we could very quickly become the next tech industry, where it’s a bunch of white guys in hoodies.
Is it likely that funding to support recreational commerce will be easier for more established canna-businesses to access?
I was initially intrigued to do Mary Janes: The Women of Weed because I learned that 36% of senior leadership in the cannabis industry was made up of women. Well, that number has dropped to 27%. Part of that is the influx of other people coming in. But it also shows who has access to the funding to stay in the game. It would be sad to see women and people of color get pushed out of the industry because we have a new round of money coming in and things are based on that Old World paradigm, where old white guys give money to old white guys.
How can we ganja enthusiasts prevent that from happening?
In my opinion, the way we combat that is by educating the consumers. Most people who come to cannabis, nowadays, don’t fit the typical stoner dude image. They’re coming from a place of social responsibility or are seeking a health/wellness product. They want to find out more.
If businesses can share their story and make the association to show these new consumers how cannabis can fit into their lifestyle, it will be really hard to compete with somebody who’s selling cannabis like it’s Coors Light. There are still people who don’t value things just because they’re quick easy and cheap. If we cultivate that education with the consumers I think the other businesses that have corporate responsibility can compete with those who are just in it for the money.
Mary Janes: The Women of Weed debuted at the Mill Valley Film festival on October 8 and the Alexander Valley Film Fest in Sonoma County on October 21. The groundbreaking documentary will be available to a wider audience in early 2018.
Join The #Puffragette Movement!