The Women of Weed Are Taking Down Walls
Written by Sharon Letts
Women in the cannabis industry are quickly being recognized as the caretakers of the soul of the plant, mirroring her female qualities with strength, determination, and healing in the mix.
Plant-based medicine is still common throughout Latin America and Europe. Cannabis is understood as beneficial, though years of America’s failed War on Drugs and its negative influence have taken its toll. The good news is, the plant is making a comeback for the people, with women rising up to meet the challenges of a new era and industry.
Specifically, the women of Latin America and Spain are coming together to help each other in a traditionally male-dominated culture, nurturing with the medicines made – in the kitchen and in the community.
Status: Legal for medicine, 2017
Ana Florencia Sclani Horrac, Journalist
Ana Florencia Sclani Horrac is a journalist, researcher and activist, with a focus on the geopolitics of cannabis and its regulation in Argentina.
She has written for Haze Magazine for six years, and collaborates with such groups as Soft Secret,
InfoCannabis.org, Milito, and works as an intern for CONYCET, Argentina’s Department of Education, where she researches, teaches, and writes.
Ana has worked with many patients treated with cannabis for diseases such as AIDS, cancer, sclerosis, migraines, and colon problems. She’s learned about dosing and various treatments and applications, including incorporating other beneficial herbs for an entourage effect.
Her goals are to go beyond scientific knowledge of the plant, and add geopolitical analysis of the reality of drug policy in her region, with a strategic perspective on common human rights.
“As a woman, on a personal level, cannabis has helped me through difficult times and tough family issues,” she said. “It has also helped me to be more resolute and insistent in my proposed projects on the subject.”
Her work has been featured in workshops such as “Breaking the Taboo: Youth, Cannabis and Health,” at the National University of La Plata, sharing “Teaching has been nurturing, and I get as much from the students as they get from me.”
Ana is also involved with women’s organizations such as Mujeres Cannabicas, Argentina Mama Cultiva, and competitions like Copa Eva – an event solely for female cannabis farmers in Argentina.
She sees contradictions in the hemp and cannabis industries in her country and abroad, but is hopeful, stating, “My work in geography has allowed me to travel, and I have a diverse collection of friends. This has also helped me to see beyond regions, and beyond the stigma associated with cannabis,” she added. “There are real issues, both technically and politically, that we must deal with. Especially in realizing what this plant can do for our economy, as well as our health.”
Status: Legal for medicine, 2015
Though cannabis as medicine has been allowed in Colombia since 1986, it wasn’t until December of 2015 that sitting President Juan Manuel Santos signed a formal decree with guidelines, stating, “This decree allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants, and marijuana. It places Colombia in the group of countries that are at the forefront… in the use of natural resources to fight disease.”
Citizens are allowed to cultivate up to 20 plants each.
Lorena Acero Acosta,
co-owner Ganja Smoking shop
Cancer in Lorena Acero Acosta’s family brought her into the industry after her mother passed away from an aggressive form three years ago. And while she was too late to help her mom, her focus now is on understanding how cannabis works in the body, and helping others so they won’t have to suffer, as her mother did.
She also has a friend who is the mother of a child with refractory epilepsy, and has witnessed an 80 percent improvement in the quality of the child’s life.
Skilled in public accounting, she co-owns a cooperative called Ganja Smoking, with her life partner, who wishes to be unnamed.
Lorena discovered cannabis when she was just 15 years old. Personally, she said cannabis helps her with anxiety and a hyperactivity disorder.
“I’m constantly moving and overthinking everything all day long,” she shared. “When I leave my job, I smoke to clear my mind, relax my body. It also helps me to think objectively. It’s my energetic connection to people and my environment, and has improved my life significantly.”
“In Colombia, women are not empowered on the subject,” she said. “There is a heavy social stigma, which makes it more complex for a network of women to come together who support and defend the cause. But, slowly, things are changing. I’ve been lucky, as some of the men in the industry have shared their experiences and knowledge with me.”
Pilar Sanchez, co-founder Pideka Farm
Pilar and her partner, Denis Contri, restored an old house in Bogota with the intention of creating a space for urban gardening. The project and house became Pideka Farm, a place where questions could be answered on the plant after decades of misinformation from the drug war.
Partnering with friends, Camilo Cruz and Jenifeth Gaitan Cifuentes, the couples founded the farm, to educate their fellow Colombians. They invited local authorities over; wrote letters to the Ministry of Health, the Food and Health Regulatory Authority in Colombia (INVIMA); and registered the farm as a company.
Within weeks, Pilar said doctors began contacting them for information, as well as the local media – which Pilar said was very helpful in spreading their message. Pideka Farm is now considered one of the pioneers in organic, medical cannabis in Colombia.
As a founding member and general manager of Pideka Farm, and co-founder of the Association of Cannabis Women of Colombia; through the farm, Pilar provides consulting on indoor farming operations for others coming up in Colombia’s newfound cannabis industry.
“Within the Association of Cannabis Women, I lead a group of empowered women who seek to transform the female involvement in the cannabis world,” she explained.
Coming into the cannabis space in Colombia is personal to Pilar, as she’s suffered migraines since she was eight years old. At 24, she became a medical cannabis patient.
“I was living in Europe and a medical doctor suggested I try cannabis to treat my migraines,” she said. “For years nothing had helped in the way cannabis had. After I returned to Colombia, I began to study the benefits of the plant and learned how to grow it.”
Today, Pideka Farm has a database with more than a thousand medical cannabis users, who utilize its products to treat numerous ailments, including immune system related illness, neural and psychiatric disorders, and chronic pain.
“Our youngest patient began treatment at three years old, and our oldest patient is 93 years old,” she said. “During the past three years I’ve been able to see how the medical benefits from cannabis have helped improve the quality of life for many people. Children treated now live a more dignified life, and are able to laugh and play.”
At a women’s conference in Barcelona, Spain, Pilar shared her experiences from the farm.
“During the conference, the idea of creating a group of women in Colombia began,” she said. “We now have a core team of 10 women spearheading the project. We registered with the Chamber of Commerce in Bogota, then launched during the ExpoMedeWeed in the City of Medellín, Colombia.”
The association is a platform for visualizing the role of women in every aspect within the cannabis industry. It also takes into consideration the women who fell victim to the War on Drugs in Colombia, causing much heartache and bloodshed.
“The network of women in the cannabis space around the world is growing,” she concluded. “It’s within us to give this emerging market a spin by showing a new image and lending our voice, through knowledge of the plant. With the work we are doing, we are helping to build a more peaceful country.”
Status: Decriminalized, 2003
According to CannabisLawBlog.com, Spain is one of the most cannabis-friendly countries in Europe, with regions throughout the country setting their own laws regarding usage of the plant. For instance, in blog author, Nadja Vietz’s hometown of Barcelona, there are more than 200 cannabis clubs, with public use.
Cannabis clubs began in Spain as early as 1993, with no legislation backing them up. After the clubs’ insistent planting, harvesting, and partaking was challenged in a series of court hearings, by 2003, its Supreme Court rulings successfully decriminalized its usage, but not sale.
The clubs are run as a kind of “members only, bring-your-own,” speakeasy with annual fees. Entry to the clubs are done by association: new members are accompanied by a friend who is a member. Because of the “no sale” clause in the rules, semantics are important — plant material and products are “acquired,” rather than “purchased.”
With a green light on usage, Spain has also become a top research hub for cannabis as medicine, specifically in the study of cannabis and cancer.
Sandra Corominas, Journalist & Farmer
Sandra Corominas is Colombian, currently living and working in the cannabis industry in Barcelona, Spain. She considers herself a farmer, activist, and both recreational and medicinal cannabis consumer.
As a journalist, she works at Radio Prat, hosting a weekly talk show with a focus on international cooperation, human rights, and solidarity for the plant.
She’s also founded Pota Verda in Barcelona, an association that advocates for the use of cannabis, otherwise known as “Maria,” providing members with a space to create and share.
“Pota Verda is a large association with 657 members,” Corominas said. “We have space for theater, workshops, language courses, art and painting. We also have therapeutic doctors and psychologists that advise and assist our members about risk prevention, and the regular use of cannabis.”
Similar to Pideka in Colombia, Pota Verda also promotes physical therapies, such as yoga, reflexology, and belly dancing, as well as offering workshops and lectures with doctors knowledgeable in cannabis as medicine.
Through her work, Sandra said she has witnessed “amazing healing” with cannabis, and have noted quality of life improving for patients on a regular basis.
“Of the many patient experiences at Pota Verda, two stand out in my mind,” she continued. “One was a 34-year-old patient helped with symptoms from diabetes; the other was a 63-year-old woman with chronic sleep issues who now sleeps eight hours a night. The woman helped with sleep also saw great improvement with her attitude towards life – it helped make her a happier person.”
Sandra also uses cannabis to sleep at night, and for anxiety – stating, “I’m calmer and no longer grind my teeth at night. I also no longer need to use anti-inflammatory drugs that negatively affected my liver, as the clenching of my teeth caused chronic headaches – that are now gone.”
As part of the network of women supporting cannabis across borders, Sandra said she’s hopeful for positive changes.
“Cannabis brings people together, not just in healing, but in social change,” she concluded. “As women warriors, we are helping to change drug policies, regulations, and unite for one cause – the healing and well-being of the people.”
Clara Sativa, aka: Clara Torrijos Reina, Journalist & Human Rights Activist
Clara is a well-known journalist and human rights activist in her home country of Spain. She co-founded Marijuana Television, part of the audiovisual communication cooperative, LiberInfo. She’s also a contributor to Cañamo Magazine, Spain’s premier cannabis magazine; is co-founder of REMA, the National Network of Women Anti-prohibitionists; and volunteers in communications for Women in Cannabis, Spain.
Her focus has been working with drug policy within Europe, and Latin America. She’s also a member of the Responsible Regulatory Platform of Spain; and works with citizens and social organizations, advocating for comprehensive regulation of cannabis.
She said she is most excited about the Latin American Network of Cannabis Women, and new contacts made with women in the U.S.
Clara use cannabis for therapeutic issues, such as relaxation, inspiration, and creativity – with occasional relief from menstrual cramps and other pain issues, as needed.
Due to her work as a journalist with Marijuana TV, she has witnessed a great deal of healing. The channel recently launched “Verde Medicina” (green medicine), and has hosted patients dealing with myriad ailments, sharing their success stories on the program.
“We have shared cases of fibromyalgia, childhood epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and will soon present new cases of rare diseases, helped with cannabis, such as cancer and more,” she said. “Our main objectives are to inform in an unbiased way, about everything related to the culture and medicinal use of cannabis; and to influence the global failure of the drug war, while revealing cannabis as a beneficial medicine.”
Status: Legal for CBD
Polita Pepper, Communications
Mexico announced the legalization of CBD (imported from U.S.) medicine, cannabis advocate Polita Pepper couldn’t be happier.
“All over Mexico, people are already using the plant to heal,” Pepper said. “We just needed the government to allow us to do what is already being done. As information from the [U.S.] and Spain on medicine is spread, the black market in Mexico is increasing every day. We need laws that allow personal cultivation for people who cannot afford to purchase it; and for patients who might need higher amounts of THC for specific illness, as is allowed in the U.S.”
Like many enlightened Mexicans, Polita has understood the benefits of the medicinal herb used in Mexico for centuries. As an activist, she’s chosen her field of communications to help spread education on its healing properties.
“Activist groups, such as Cannativa, can work to educate families on the therapeutic properties of cannabis, teaching how to grow and safely prepare medicine,” Pepper added.
Of the many projects she’s been involved in, she’s collaborated with Cañamo Magazine, distributed in Spain, Mexico, and Chile; La Dosis in Mexico; Weeds in Colombia and Chile; and Chronic Magazine in Denver, Colorado.
She also works in communications for Heaven Grown, a hemp building company based in Mexico City; and is part of the network of women in Latin America, helping to educate and empower women throughout her home country of Mexico, and beyond.
“Cannativa, is an association for information and education on medical cannabis,” she explained. “We provide the basic tools for learning about the plant as medicine, through discreet consultations.”
Polita said she has been able to witness profound changes in people’s health and the quality of their lives improved with the use of medical cannabis.
“I’ve seen how this plant opens doors to self-care,” she said. “It’s an ancestral medicine, used in Mexico by our elders for years. Personally, it brings me joy, has improved my health, and gives me the strength and conviction to create another world where grandmothers, women and children – and men, can sow seeds of change in positive ways.”
Like many people throughout the world, Polita said she’s known of the plant and it’s healing properties since she was a young girl, and is grateful the laws in Mexico are changing.
“The people need education on the plant now, more than ever,” she continued. “It’s the only way to combat the stigma from the drug war here. Up until now, it’s been a male-dominated industry, and a reflection of the exclusion of women in the labor market in Mexico,” Polita added. “Being part of the Latin American Network of Cannabis Women is a dream come true. I also look at it as a way to come together with the men and put our strengths together for a common cause.”
Polita feels that cannabis’ inclusion in The War on Drugs is “ridiculous,” and never should have happened. It’s left her country with “deep wounds,” she said.
“The seeds are already germinating, with many wonderful men and women joining forces now to educate,” she said. “And though we have a long way to go, we will not step back, only forward. We will bloom together now.”
San Diego, California
Status: California: legal for medicine, legal for recreation January, 2018
Adelia Carrillo, CEO, Direct Cannabis Network
Adelia’s grandfather was from Durango, Mexico. He moved to America with his family, and met her grandmother in the states. Adelia’s mother was the youngest of eight children raised in California. Adelia eventually made San Diego her home.
In 2014, Adelia crossed over into the cannabis space after complications from a pregnancy that led to more serious issues.
“My pregnancy worsened and I had to have emergency surgery and lost the baby,” she shared. “After surgery, I was given a lineup of prescriptions that actually hindered my recovery. The pharmaceuticals made me feel worse, and my fiancé suggested I turn to cannabis,” she explained. “To be honest, I was a bit naïve, as my previous experience was in recreational use, and I had no knowledge of the medicinal aspects at the time.”
Adela is now a full-fledged patient, primarily using CBD only products, including topicals, vaporizing via a pen, and partaking of a low dose THC activated product in the evening to destress from her often 14-hour work days.
Though cannabis has helped her physically and emotionally, finding intelligent information on the industry was a challenge.
“At the time, I couldn’t find much on start-ups, technical aspects, or innovations in the industry,” she said. “That’s when I began to develop the Direct Cannabis Network.”
With a background in the consumer electronic industry, Adela started her journey, with a mission to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that elevates ideas, connects communities, and raises the expectations of the cannabis industry.
Direct Cannabis Network (DCN) provides information related to the industry, including profiling start-ups; supporting business to business events via its New West Summit; streaming sit-down interviews, with its “Cannabis & Coffee” talk show; and hosting informative articles.
California legalizing is a double-edged sword for many in the state where legal acceptance for medical cannabis began in 1996. Adela shared while she acknowledges the pitfalls, she sees potential for the state, her network, and for women.
“I’m hoping legalization will give women the confidence to take a leap and become a part of this industry,” she surmised. “When I tell people I’m CEO of the network, they seem stunned. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a Latina or a young woman – maybe both. One thing is for sure, we all need to continue building a voice and taking a stand for what we believe in. I believe women have the opportunity to become role models and help to propel the industry in ways that other industries will want to follow.”