For many women, the varied stigmas associated with cannabis use are enough to keep their closeted curiosities about the versatile plant’s benefits restrained. For mothers, the thought of being perceived as irresponsible, incapable nurturers or, even worse, half-baked stoners is an intimidating hardship to bare.
But times are changing. More women are not only visiting dispensaries seeking products that stimulate relaxation, encourage self-care and enhance sexual stimulation; women are also paving the way to help create better cannabis products that appeal to women’s needs and are found in dispensaries throughout Sacramento. The truth is, women enjoy ganja, too.
In fact, according to a recent Gallup Poll published in October 2020, 66 percent of women support legalizing cannabis altogether, making them one of the most viable demographics when it comes to medicinal and recreational cannabis use.
So why do most products found on dispensary shelves cater mostly to men? It’s a trend Kimberly Cargile says she noticed as the owner of six dispensaries, including A Therapeutic Alternative in East Sacramento.
After studying the packaging of various products at her dispensaries, Cargile says she and a group of women who later formed Khemia, a Sacramento-based cannabis manufacturing company and brand, discovered that less than 5 percent of products were targeting women through marketing or education.
That had to change. So together, they created female-focused products through Khemia that include cherry cheesecake rose petal pre-rolls (pre-rolled joints), CBD-infused chai tea and a skincare line launching this fall. Offering cannabis in a variety of forms outside of smokable flowers is just another way to break down those intimidation barriers, says Khemia CEO Mindy Galloway.
“Women love to support other women, and if they find something that helps their quality of life, they go and tell their friends about it,” Galloway says. “At the dispensary, you’ll see friends bringing other friends, daughters bringing in their mothers, and really sharing what they’ve learned with the people around them and how cannabis can help further people’s lives.”
As a fairly green cannabis consumer, Melanie Dinos says she slowly incorporated cannabis into her wellness routine within the past year. CBD oil offered respite for her achy feet after long days working a past retail job, while bake-your-own, low-dose brownies currently soothe her anxiety. It’s a medicinal sweet treat she says helps quell her insomnia.
“I just had to experiment with what types I liked and what milligrams worked,” Dinos says. “I didn’t like the smoking. At first, I couldn’t do sativa because that messes with my anxiety. Then I tried blends, then I tried indica, just really finding out what worked for me and which edibles worked great. It’s just like with medication: You have to figure out which dosage works because that’s what it is—it’s medicine.”
For a lot of women, cannabis is an everyday wellness tool. And although the stigma associated with cannabis use continues to loosen, it remains an intimidating space for many to navigate.
Dr. Dianne Bennett, a laboratory scientist and chemistry professor, says she waited until her children were grown “to come out of the cannabis closet” because she not only worried about how she would be judged, but she also didn’t want to affect her husband’s position coaching sports.
Now, Bennett sits on Khemia’s advisory board with other women who are pharmaceutical scientists and microbiologists. She says she hopes to inspire others to feel open to alternative ways to manage mental wellness.
“We really need a bit of relaxation, and it’s all biochemically sound. There’s reasons for it,” she says. “It helps to balance the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system, which is a chemical communication system. The plant chemicals are also cousins to natural endocannabinoids that we have in our bodies naturally for that balance.”
For the canna-curious, there are plenty of unassuming ways to explore cannabis: a cup of warm tea to promote relaxation, a couple of puffs on a rose petal pre-roll before or after yoga to soothe muscles, a few sips of hot cocoa while reading a book on a chilly afternoon.
These are all approachable ways for women to see what works for them, says Manndie Tingler, chief revenue officer of Khemia and president of Canna Mommy, a nonprofit that supports mothers’ safe access to natural medicine.
“Those are all really nice, discreet ways to be able to consume cannabis that also can be used at any time of the day,” Tingler says. “It’s just a nice, comfortable product that you can use without having to make a big advertisement that you’re using cannabis.”
Besides floral pre-rolls and cannabis-tinged teas for a little daytime self-care, cannabis can also benefit women and their partners after dark.
“An important thing to talk about is the fact that cannabis actually really helps enhance a woman’s libido,” Tingler says. “Right now, especially this last year, we’re seeing more people with high anxiety rates and depression rates, and it’s just absolutely intense. When you have those high, intense emotions, or stress, a lot of people stay away from physical intimacy.”
With that in mind, Tingler says cannabis is a great aphrodisiac. “It really helps people get out of their head and a little bit more in their heart and their body,” she says. “It allows people to kind of drop their guard, and then that physical connection becomes so incredibly important to just quality of life.”
Dispensaries carry a variety of products specifically made for women to use in the boudoir. THC-infused lubricants increase blood flow to the genitalia to intensify sensations during sex; certain strains, including Mimosa and Green Goddess, can enhance sexual pleasure.
As more women lean into a wellness routine that works for them, it’s important to stress the benefits of starting low and slow when it comes to dosage. For women who are new consumers or for those wanting to explore the world of cannabis further, microdosing, or consuming no more than 5 mg per day, is a good way to ease into cannabis.
Tingler also recommends flowers with a higher CBD-to-THC ratio. If you want to consume edibles, like dark chocolate bars or gummy bears, she says, start with a low dose, then wait an hour or two to get acquainted with the effects.
Home to 30 storefront dispensaries and several cannabis delivery services, Sacramento is slated to welcome 10 additional dispensaries through the city’s CORE program, which aims to give licensing priority to people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Khemia applied to be one of those 10 dispensaries and, at the time of publication, was waiting to hear which businesses the city chose.
In the meantime, women in the cannabis space continue to make strides as entrepreneurs and educators, finding empowerment by taking control of a market dominated by men and using their shared knowledge to inform and bring other women over to where the grass is a little greener.
“It’s a great opportunity to practice being in charge of our own health. And because there isn’t a lot of precedent, we have to be in tune with ourselves and experiment a bit to find which alternative is the most therapeutic for us,” Bennett says. “It can be a little frustrating at first, but ultimately, we get to drive. I think in some ways that’s empowering.”