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Cannabis Brands that Objectify Women to Make Money Don’t Deserve Money

“You could never trivialize pussy | but a bum nigga like you would try it.”

Ads aren’t just nestled between the pages of magazines and newspapers hot off the press anymore. They’re added to cute anecdotes in podcasts. They’re every fourth photo on your Instagram Feed. Every blog post, video, mobile game, and every waiting room has designated areas to display them. 

Ads are no longer just examples of cookie-cutter, white personas with archetypes that fit the status quo like a glove. As society makes progress, marginalized people at all intersections are advocating for accurate representation, playing a pivotal role in revolutionizing the advertising industry. 

Yet and still, advertising is trailing behind when it comes to gender stratification and instead, damaging stereotypes are reinforced. Whether displayed as a damsel in distress or someone ditsy, commercials portray women as less powerful than men. And the numbers don’t lie. Women are 48% more likely to be shown in kitchens, while men are 89% more likely to be depicted as smart in comparison. These gender ideologies are frequently applied to business ads ranging from bank services to health and hygiene products. This “Brutally Refreshing” Sprite campaign didn’t disappoint. Nothing is off-limits, and the cannabis industry, despite its radical and rapid growth, hasn’t been an exception. 

Cannabis websites and apps are loaded with brand ads of women posing suggestively – channeling Ms. Bellum (you’re too young if you don’t know, but here’s a picture) – to persuade people into buying clothes, bongs, and grinders. More recently, shoutout to Dan Blizerian, this:

With so many ads similar to this displayed across the public (like Cannafornia), you’d think the cannabis industry is primarily male-centric. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women are increasingly becoming entrepreneurs and consumers in the cannabis market, making up 20% of business owners and 27% of executives.

Outside of cannabis, women are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases through a combination of their buying power and influence. We have a multiplier effect. Even when we aren’t paying for ourselves, we are often the gatekeepers behind someone else’s purchase. We’re not just buying for ourselves. Our purchasing decisions directly affect everyone in the home as well as everyday household activities such as cleaning, preparing meals, and doing laundry.

Outside of the household, women make up damn near half of the workforce accounting for 76% of the nation’s teachers, 55% of undergraduates enrolled in college, 60% of accountants, and 91% of registered nurses. Not to mention, we are responsible for birthing over four million babies a year in the U.S. alone. Can you imagine how this will transfer to the cannabis industry, especially in regard to health, wellness, and reproduction?

Needless to say, marketing strategies that reduce women to sexual objects aren’t just offensive and lazy, they exclude a large portion of the market. Most businesses probably couldn’t care less about how women feel, yet they will risk life and ligament to increase the commas in their bank accounts. It’s against common sense to objectify half of your consumers through sex-selling and gender-biased marketing tactics. 

So, what does a “sex-selling” ad consist of?

Sexual Behavior

It’s actually not as straight-forward as it sounds. Sexual behavior can range from someone simply behaving provocatively through flirting, gestures, tone, and facial expressions to simple displays of affection to outright inferred intercourse. Ad courtesy of American Eagle.

Sexual Referents & Embeds

The types of images or displays that stimulate our subconscious. Common embeds include objects shaped or positioned like genitalia and small hidden messages of nudity and body parts. Here, Burger King came through with a footlong sandwich that’ll “blow” you away. 


Well, it’s not straight-up nudity. Since mainstream advertising platforms have policies against it, nudity is rare. It’s more like suggestive clothing such as open blouses with exposed cleavage, tight-fitting outfits that highlight the body, side and back shots of models, tub and shower scenes, and in some cases nudity from the waist up. The Tom Ford brand outchea trying to win an AVN award with this ad.

Sexism/Gender Roles

As stated above, these ads reinforce traditional gender stereotypes. Men and women are portrayed in ads according to the socially constructed definition of femininity and masculinity. To be a woman is to be feminine and to be a man is to be masculine. 

Discrimination is a standard established in the spices of capitalism and tethered to the culture at large. No industry is immune to bigotry, and no person is safe from being affected by it. But, the legal cannabis industry is still in the process of acquiring global acceptance, in-depth research, and reliable regulation. There isn’t much room for irresponsible and tone-deaf adverts, especially when it alienates an entire base of its growing consumers.

Women are trailblazers in the cannabis industry. We demand representation that allows us to express our sexual agency without being degraded to passive objects of the male gaze. We are layered individuals that are sexy and intelligent and innovative and assertive and influential and high as fuck.

Support women.
Support women in cannabis.

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