Skip to main content
historical women in cannabis

Historical Women in Cannabis


Yes, it’s a funny play on words, but it’s also straight-up FACTS.

Females get you higher. At least when it comes to Cannabis, that is.

The Female Cannabis plant is the bearer of the buds. The Flowers. That sweet sticky-icky we all know and love so much. Now don’t get me wrong, the male Hemp plant is plenty important too, and has many, many awesome uses. But it doesn’t give you that head-change… That warm, fuzzy feeling that the flowers of the Female Cannabis plant do.

With that awesome feminine energy in mind, I wanted to share the stories of a few historically bad-ass women, who fought for our right to use Cannabis.

Historically speaking, women have been using Cannabis for thousands of years. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical texts known to exist, dating all the way back to the 1550’s BC, mentions using Cannabis for everything from menstrual cramps and headaches, to easing pain during childbirth. Queen Victoria was given Cannabis to help ease the pain that came along with her monthly visitor as well.

Hildegon von Bingen, a German Nun from the Middle Ages, wrote about the different ways Cannabis can help with physical ailments. In her book Physica, she mentions using hemp cloth to help soothe wounds, and how ingesting the plant can help ease other pains as well. At a point in time when, really, women even having an opinion on anything scientific or academic would have been frowned upon, Hildegon wrote a book on the subject. Pretty admirable, if you ask me…

As women, we are often judged more harshly than others for our Cannabis use… You can’t be a good Mother, a good wife, or a good business-woman and use Cannabis! No way!

Luckily for our generation, multiple women who came before us have stood up, raised their voices, and fought against this ignorant rhetoric.


Our generation of Women must continue to have these uncomfortable conversations in order to normalize cannabis use for the next generation.

We have to stand strong and say: “Cannabis use does not make me a bad woman, a bad mother, or a bad person.” PERIOD!

Billie Holiday

BILLIE HOLIDAY (APRIL 7, 1915 – JULY 17, 1959)

I couldn’t write this article without mentioning one of my personal all-time favorite singers, Billie Holiday. I may be a bit of a sap, but “Stormy Weather” and “Strange Fruit” will both forever bring tears to my eyes when I listen to them. There is something so beautifully heartbreaking about Billie’s voice… It gets me every time.

Jazz and Cannabis use have always gone hand-in-hand, with most old-school Jazz artists famously using the plant. (Ever heard Cannabis referred to as “Jazz-cabbage”?) Louis ArmstrongRay Charles, and of course, Billie Holiday, just to name a few. The plant is thought to be conducive to creativity and relaxation, two integral elements to great Jazz music.

Billie Holiday was unfortunately known for her struggles with addiction. Heroin in particular. But she also used Cannabis to help ease her pain associated with her addictions and the issues with her failing liver. She would actually take cab rides in order to smoke weed between sets because she thought smoking in or around the Jazz clubs was too dangerous. She was probably right, since she was the focus of one of America’s most famous Generals in what would become the “War on Drugs”, Harry Anslinger. Harry, historically speaking, was a ridiculously huge and ignorant A-hole. If you want a dose of historical bigotry, check out the absolute BS he said in front of congress. I won’t write it here, because it’s too disgusting. But yeah, he was clearly a miserable, hateful person.

In her Autobiography, The Lady Sings The Blues, Billie wrote: “Imagine if the government chased sick people with diabetes, put a tax on insulin and drove it into the black market … then sent them to jail… We do practically the same thing every day in the week to sick people hooked on drugs.” Imagine how disgusted she would be if she saw what is happening with Insulin in America today, but I digress….

Though her life was tragically cut short by a combination of illness and being denied care (more historical bigotry and horribleness…), she will forever live on through her music, and her message. Frank Sinatra once told Ebony Magazine in 1958: “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.”

So if you’re feeling down, do what I do: Spark up some herb, turn on “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday, and let her silky, smokey voice maybe make you cry a little bit, but simultaneously ease your pain as well.

Margaret Mead


Margaret Mead was an American Anthropologist who was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Mead is famous in the Cannabis world for speaking in front of Congress on Cannabis legalization, and why she thought it was a necessary action that our government should take. She even argued that people as young as 16 should be able to consume the plant, because it is far less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

In her testimony, Margaret argued:

“It is my considered opinion that at present, marijuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.”

She elaborated:

“We occasionally find a society that will reject anything that leads to any kind of ecstatic state or of people ever getting outside of themselves. . .  But in general, man has sought for ways of changing his moods, of making it possible for him to work longer than he could, to stay up longer than he could, to get through a meeting or a tremendous bout of work better than he could have otherwise. When the work is over, whether it is plowing a field or taking a hazardous journey in a canoe or getting through a terrible board meeting, he very often uses the same drug as a relaxant, which suggests that the relationship between these mood changing drugs is not as simple as we have thought they are. In the West Indies, people smoke marijuana to get through a hard day’s work and after they have done the hard day’s work, they smoke another bit of marijuana to relax and enjoy the evening….They smoke to keep working and then they smoke to relax, and all of these things fall under this general question of whether that man has any right to use natural or distilled or pharmaceutically produced aids to permit him to live the kind of life that he wants to live. And in most cases, we find this combines work and relaxation or religion, work and relaxation.“

As sound as that argument was/still is, Margaret was heavily criticized for her opinions on Cannabis. In one instance, the acting Governor of Florida, Claude Kirk, called Mead a “dirty old lady”. Between her thoughts on legalization, and the permitted age limit for its use, she caught a lot of heat for that testimony. But she stood fast in her beliefs, regardless of the ridicule she received. And in spite of that ridicule, her life’s work would end up being highly celebrated. She testified in front of Congress multiple times on a wide range of subjects, went on to earn 28 honorary doctorates, and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Though I couldn’t find much saying that she consumed Cannabis herself, just one blurb about her saying she had “even tried it once herself”, her testimony meant so much to the Cannabis community. She was standing up for others, not just herself. She believed we should all have safe access to this amazing plant, because it can actually help us function, on top of helping us relax. Something that many of us preach today!

You can regularly find me talking about how I use Cannabis to help me focus. I always say, it’s like I have 500 internet tabs open in my mind at all times, and Cannabis helps me focus on 5 tabs at a time. I can focus, be more calm, more creative, and solve more problems when I have my favorite plant helping me. Margaret Mead knew what she was talking about, and I am living proof.

Brownie Mary

BROWNIE MARY (DECEMBER 22, 1922 – APRIL 10, 1999)

And now, perhaps my favorite Canna-Woman in history: Brownie Mary. A woman who lived in San Francisco, CA, and was known for handing pot-brownies out to AIDs patients that she affectionately called “her kids.”

Mary Jane Rathburn a.k.a. Brownie Mary was born in Chicago, IL. She took to activism early in life, fighting for abortion rights and for the rights of minors to form Unions. Her love of activism eventually brought her to San Francisco, CA. She married and had a daughter, Peggy, in 1955. Unfortunately, her daughters life would tragically end far too young, being struck by a drunk driver in the early 70s.

Later in life, her friend and fellow activist, Dennis Peron, would say: “Mary had lost her only daughter in an auto accident… And now she adopted every kid in San Francisco.”

While working at an IHOP, Mary would make money on the side by selling Cannabis brownies. She became known for her little basket of “magic” brownies. Mary would also hand them out freely to sick AIDs patients, and there were a lot of them in San Francisco at that time. People would donate weed to her, and she would take it all in and bake around 50 dozen brownies a day… That is a LOT of baking!

She was arrested multiple times, her first arrest happening at age 57. On that charge, she was found in her home with over 18 lbs of Cannabis, 54 dozen brownies, and a few other drugs as well. That arrest would lead to her working with The Shanti Project for her community service. She would continue to work with the Shanti Project for years after her community service was over.

Mary was known for being brash, honest, sweet, empathetic, and having a mouth like a sailor. I wish she was still alive, because I live 15 minutes from San Francisco, and I would go find her and adopt her as my Grandma. I instantly loved her the first time I heard Brownie Mary’s story, and I just KNOW we would have gotten along…

My personal favorite story: (WARNING: it has foul language… But they are Marys exact words, and I think she would say “…Get over it.”) About a month after her 3rd arrest, she went to a rally in front of San Francisco City Hall, and spoke. Standing proud, with her “Grandma” curls and glasses, she yelled: “If the narcs think I’m gonna stop baking brownies for my kids with AIDS, they can go f**k themselves in Macy’s window!”

I mean, how can you not just love her?!?

She played a very important role in getting multiple Cannabis legalization acts passed in California, including Proposition P and Proposition 215. These Props passing in California would pave the way for Medical Cannabis legalization in multiple states nationwide. Our industry wouldn’t be what it is today without Brownie Mary.

Today, there are so many Women standing up for Cannabis rights… It’s simply awesome. We are normalizing Cannabis use every single day, and getting ridiculous amounts of work done while we do it! I am incredibly proud and honored to call you my colleagues and friends.

Much like the amazing women who came before us, we are going to change the world, ladies!

I cannot wait to see what our generation accomplishes.