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Tokin’ Woman: The Long History of Women and Weed

It has long been speculated that the predominance of women in our culture coincided with the suppression of medicinal herbs and plant allies used by ancient medicine women – including cannabis.

To bring some balance back to the equation, Tokin’ Women: a 4000 year history presents a representative sample of more than 50 women associated with cannabis over the centuries, starting with ancient goddesses all the way to today’s movie goddesses.

The relatively recent (since the 1960s) rise in marijuana’s popularity has been enjoyed largely by men, who make up the bulk of the readership of magazines like High times as well as the ranks of activist groups such as NORML and the growing marijuana industry. But that is quickly changing as women organize themselves into their own groups and bring back the spirit of the goddess along with the freedom to enjoy her.

These women don’t tend to look, talk or think like the ubiquitous stereotype of the male stoner. For example, many mothers in the Phoenix area, surveyed by the website Chikii.com, admitted in 2007 to using marijuana as a relaxant. “These were middle to upper middle class women, professional women, mommies,” said surveyor Shay Pausa. “We had some who were members of the PTA and a school teacher even reported.”

According to a 2011 Time magazine article, researchers found that men who were given material to read suggesting that marijuana harms the brain performed worse on cognitive tests in retrospect than men who did not. However, women scored better on tests of verbal skills and memory than women who were not given the negative information. “I think the stoner identity reads differently than women,” said study researcher Mitch Earleywine. “They said, ‘I’ll show you!'”

Or maybe there’s a chemical reason. Estrogen could help protect women from some of the learning and memory problems caused by THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, researchers at Louisiana State University predicted based on a 2009 study in rats. (However, the protection did not appear to apply if the female rats were exposed to cannabis for the period corresponding to human adolescence.)
tokin women _ book

Women, of course, are often the caregivers in our society, either as mothers or as daughters and sisters. This can give us a more compassionate view of the medical benefits of cannabis, as well as justified outrage at the laws that stand in the way of enlightenment for our loved ones. “When my mother-in-law was in the last, harrowing throes of pancreatic cancer, she only had one good day, and that was the day she smoked weed,” wrote Marie Myung-Ok Lee in The New York Times. “Of course we were eager to make the magic happen again, but it never happened. The pot just scared her too much.”

Mavis Becker, a Vancouverite in her 60s, told CTV in 2007 that she is under a lot of stress caring for her 93-year-old father who suffers from dementia. When she gets excited, Mavis rolls a joint for herself. “I hope my grandkids are willing to roll a doobie for me if my arthritis gets too bad,” she said.

Longtime cannabis user Ruth Bergner showed herself in her 2005 autobiography, I smoke weed with my family: speaking at 85. “I don’t have to apologize for my hearing aids or my blood pressure medication, why should I apologize for weed, my emotional vitamin?” asks Berner. “With just one puff, I am instantly more open, more communicative, loving and forgiving…I believe that, when used wisely, this substance helps us become more loving and emotionally healthier people.”

Evidence of marijuana’s health benefits can be found in the story of Fulla Nayak, the world’s oldest woman when she died at the age of 125 in 2006. Nayak attributed her longevity to her daily use of marijuana.

Excerpt from: Tokin’ Women, A 4000-Year Herstory available Sept. 17 from Evangelista Sista Press (Berkeley) and from NORM in California. Visit www.mkt.com/california-norml/tokin-women-a-year-herstory.

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