The [cannabis] industry is completely market-driven and overwhelmingly dominated by capitalist, straight, white, cis men. I love my straight white brothers, but I do not think it is fair that they have come to control this industry, especially because of the disproportionate incarceration of black and brown people for cultivating and selling pot throughout the span of the war on drugs.
–Madrone Stewart, in the introduction to The Feminist Weed Farmer
Whether you’ve personally felt it or not, many women, people of color, differently-abled, queer, and non-binary folks, and folks with other disenfranchised identities face more stigma and negative consequences in the cannabis world. Madrone Stewart has an idea that might help: more feminist weed farmers. In her book, The Feminist Weed Farmer, Madrone shares hard-earned knowledge gained from years of growing cannabis.
“After three years of working for nearly a dozen cannabis farms and doing everything from cooking for the crew to managing,” Madrone explained by email, “I was able to buy my own land and start my own farm. It all happened relatively quickly and I credit this to the strong and persistent encouragement of a friend of mine who owned his own cannabis farm. He knew how financially and psychologically empowering it would for me to have my own place and he believed that I could be successful. So by year four, I was putting everything I had learned into practice. In the subsequent few years I not only developed confidence in my cultivation skills, I was also able to evolve my intentions.”
The Feminist Weed Farmer is a full-length adaptation of a cultivation guide the Humbolt grower first wrote for “friends who were going to help my farm but had never done it before,” published by Microcosm in 2018. “I encouraged them to read Jorge Cervantes and Ed Rosenthal,” she says, “but the vibe of those books feels like a mismatch for what we were trying to cultivate. So I wrote something for them which is heavily infused with my principles and my style of growing.” What style would that be? Diversity. Inclusion. Empowerment. Support. “My friends are queer guys,” she says, “and I am a biracial cis woman. For the book I needed to make it more explicit that this guide was written to encourage all people to grow, especially those of us who might not have considered growing because people who we identify with don’t grow.”
In the introduction, Madrone explains, “I believe that in order to consume cannabis with integrity, we must derive our plant medicine from ethically responsible sources. The current cannabis market, which is a blend of black market dealers and corporate-controlled dispensaries, is completely market-driven and is not in line with feminist, environmentalist, or social justice values.”
In the process of breaking down how to grow your own “mindful medicine”—including details on picking seeds, planting, and dealing with the soil, pests, and weather—Madrone emphasizes the importance of rebuilding confidence in marginalized growers and communities. Not to mention the joy and healing that cannabis can bring.
While in graduate school studying to become a psychedelic-assisted clinical psychologist, Madrone wants to destigmatize the use of cannabis and psychoactives as tools for personal health and wellness. “The [Feminist Weed Farmer] explicitly normalizes walking to the beat of your own drum,” she says. “Even where growing is legal, there is a residual stigma against it, so it requires an inner-strength that empowers you to do this thing that some people around you might resist. I hope this book empowers all people to grow a few plants for their personal enjoyment. I also hope that this book contributes to the diversification of cultivators.”
And if you can’t grow your own, how do you support your local cannabis community? Madrone has a very simple place to start: “Say encouraging things!” she suggests. “Think encouraging thoughts! I would never have bought my farm if it were not for the constant nudging by a straight, white, cis male pot-growing friend of mine. Without his constant expression of his faith that I could run a pot farm, I would have continued to strictly inhabit traditionally-female roles within the industry, which are the lowest paid and most insecure.”
She’s not wrong. As of 2017, less than 20% of cannabis business across the country were owned or run by people of color and less than 30% by women. In an industry that has long left out marginalized groups, it’s more important than ever for women and people of color to grow their own cannabis when possible.
“It is about showing love for the canna-women in your life,” Madrone says, “by telling them that you believe in them and that you will support them if they ever need it.”
Cyn Marts is an east-coast Boricua living on the west coast, searching for her own path through life’s bullshit. She spends her time practicing self-care, devouring pop culture, and working as a publicist and editor in Portland, Oregon. She writes a cannabis lifestyle zine series called Ganja Bruja and posts about it on her Instagram.