This piece first appeared in Cannabis Now.
With cannabis legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C., rolling a joint or pulling on a bong has become increasingly more socially acceptable as a recreational lifestyle choice. No wonder, then, that more and more women are putting down the booze and picking up the pipe. In just the past four years, Marie Claire magazine has featured an article on the “Stiletto Stoners” phenomenon, television networks from NBC to CNN have dedicated air-time to “marijuana moms,” and a woman touting herself as the “Martha Stewart of Marijuana” has capitalized on her Beverly Hills status to glamorize the notion of fancy ladies who fancy a toke.
Of course, female consumption of marijuana is not a new phenomenon — women from multiple communities have been proudly extolling the virtues of the cannabis plant for generations. What is particularly interesting is that today, mainstream, successful career women are specifically acknowledging that they’re choosing cannabis instead of alcohol. And the reasons for their pot preference are as varied as the strains themselves.
Some women point to the cost-effectiveness of cannabis compared with alcohol as the impetus for their decision. But for many, choosing to light buds over Bud Light comes down to the risk/reward ratio surrounding their respective side effects. The drawbacks of pot are well documented and not inherently dangerous (hunger and sleepiness). Alcohol, on the other hand, comes with a host of negative consequences that, for a “recreational” substance, can be quite the buzzkill.
“The side effects of alcohol are just too negative compared with cannabis,” Simona, a 35-year-old office manager, has concluded. “Going out [drinking] with the girls or my partner is supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to make me feel good. But I can so easily end up feeling terrible the next day. For the relatively short time that I enjoy the buzz from alcohol, I suffer for hours after. A full day of recovery for a couple hours of fun is just not worth it. My time is precious — being hungover is a lot to risk when I only get two days off.”
Another reason women choose cannabis is because it feels safer in their bodies than alcohol, especially when it comes to the question of overdoing it.
“When I would drink too much, the hangovers were terrible — throbbing headaches, nausea, vomiting,” revealed Lisa, a boutique owner who no longer drinks. “I felt out of it, like I was no longer in control of my faculties. I’d embarrass myself in front of people I wanted to impress. And I couldn’t drive. I’m a woman who is fiercely independent, but when I had a certain amount of alcohol in my system, I was forced to depend on other people for my safety. Honestly, I was afraid for myself. I felt like I could hurt myself and not even notice.”
Or worse, she adds quietly, she would occasionally black out and wake up with no recollection of the night before — a very scary and dangerous prospect for any woman.
But the side effects of consuming cannabis, by comparison, are far more benign.
“If I smoke too much pot, the worst thing that’ll happen is I’ll fall asleep — a calm, peaceful sleep,” she said.
The British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs states that this is because cannabis “differs from alcohol… in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.”
But it’s not just the risk of injury or hangover that’s causing women to think twice about choosing alcohol as their drug of choice. The damage that alcohol can do to the body from a health standpoint — from cardiovascular disease, anemia, cirrhosis and cancer, to nerve damage, depression and even death — is a significant drawback. Still, even beyond the substantial health risks, the more superficial consequences of alcohol consumption constitute another salient reason some women have traded the bottle for the bong.
“As someone who enjoys having a nice physique, I pay a very high price to drink alcohol,” Adrienne, a health-conscious spa owner and yoga instructor, said. “Alcohol can wreak havoc on one’s physical appearance. People who put in any sort of effort to maintain a certain physique have to work twice as hard to maintain it if they drink regularly. [Alcohol is] all carbs.”
With a global trend toward consuming natural and organic products, perhaps it’s not surprising that women choose cannabis because it’s a plant, and in many social circles, it’s not even considered a drug.
“I take issue with the common conflation of cannabis with alcohol and other drugs,” Adrienne said, “because cannabis is not toxic — and as such, is not an intoxicant.”
Indeed, no study has ever shown cannabis to be toxic (or poisonous) in any consumable amount. She only wishes she’d known this sooner.
“I honestly didn’t realize I had a choice before,” Adrienne confided. “But now it’s not uncommon for people to smoke pot. Now I can choose something that feels better in my body, something that has no negative side effects at all. Only benefits.”
“I’m happy with my life, I have a rewarding career, a fulfilling relationship — there’s nothing I’m trying to avoid or escape. Alcohol makes you depressed. I’d much rather get high than get low.
“[Alcohol] numbs you to your feelings, which I guess might be what a lot of people are going for when they drink. But cannabis has the opposite effect. As Bob Marley said, ‘It puts you in touch with yourself.’”
It bonds her to her partner, as well.
“If I’m feeling distance between my beloved and me, I suggest we smoke a joint together. It brings us closer every single time. Cannabis helps us avoid arguments by facilitating clear communication. I once thought we needed counseling. But then I realized we only needed a joint.”
On those rare occasions that Chloe and her boyfriend have a few drinks on a night out, the two often end up in serious miscommunication territory. “[O]ur wires just get completely crossed and alcohol stands as some sort of barrier hindering our ability to understand one another. It happens all the time in bars — there’s a misunderstanding, someone gets offended and attacks.”
With cannabis, she said, “The only thing that’s gonna get attacked is a bag of Doritos.”
As marijuana becomes more socially acceptable and lady stoners come out of the cannabis closet in increasing numbers, it seems easier for people to casually brush it off with comments like, “Everyone has their vice.” But, Chloe observes, “There’s a reason they call it ‘kind bud.’ It creates euphoria, promotes relaxation and makes me patient, compassionate, kind, and not sweat the small stuff — attributes that are priceless, as a mother.”
To these stiletto stoners who eschew alcohol and stereotypes for the enjoyment of a plant that’s gaining new status as a harmless and even beneficial recreational choice, cannabis is not a vice. It’s a virtue.
Dragonfly de la Luz is a ganja journalist and self-styled chronnoisseur. Although she studied English Literature and Women’s Studies before pursuing her graduate degree in Feminism and Social Justice, she currently spends her time traveling to exotic countries with relaxed marijuana laws and writing about the myriad cannabis counter-cultures she encounters.