Whether you realized it or not while scrolling through your feed, many legal cannabis companies have of late been turning to influencers to circumvent regulations preventing them from promoting their products (which remain illegal under federal law) on major social media platforms. Inevitably, this has given way to a whole new breed of Instagram personality: The cannabis influencer, aka, the weed thot.
While this cannabis influencer comes in several shapes and forms — cannabis chefs, cannabis activists, cannabis reporters — because this is Instagram, one of the more prominent methods of cannabis influencing revolves around women posting sexy photos of themselves smoking blunts in the bathtub or covering their nipples with strategically placed cannabis leaf pasties.
This female cannabis influencer phenomenon has become so popular that searching #GanjaGirls on Instagram will garner more than two million posts, many of which feature mostly naked women either smoking weed or posing provocatively alongside massive bags of weed. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that numerous large Instagram accounts have been created for the sole purpose of promoting bikini-clad women smoking cannabis.
Despite this, the analogous male cannabis influencer — one who posts photos of himself balancing joints on his six-pack or tucking blunts into his Speedo — is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, you can very easily come across male cannabis influencers who post videos of themselves taking massive dabs or chatting about specific strains, but good luck finding one who’s hyper-sexualized in the same way that so many female cannabis influencers are.
All of which raises the question: Where are all the male weed thots? Depressingly predictably, according to several of the female cannabis influencers who I spoke with, men who are interested in cannabis have generally been presented with other (better) opportunities in the massively male-dominated cannabis industry, while cannabis-minded women tend to find that risque modeling is their only way in. “Sex sells, and that sucks,” cannabis influencer Baked Beka emphasizes. “Unfortunately, as a woman in the cannabis industry, you don’t really get anywhere unless you go that route.”
To clarify, Beka is a cannabis expert who also works as a buyer for the boutique cannabis provider Northstar Holistic Collective. She explains, though, that it was modeling that really allowed her to thrive in the cannabis industry. “I tried it without using sex or modeling with cannabis, and you don’t get the same response,” she says, going on to mention that the absence of hyper-sexualized men in the cannabis industry is only a small reflection of more general societal norms. “You don’t really see [men being hyper-sexualized] in any other industry,” she says. “We kinda just use the same rules — and unfortunately — the same stereotypes for genders.”
Cannabis model and influencer Sarah Jain has experienced similar roadblocks during her time working within the cannabis industry. “I don’t even get half of the respect that I should get in this industry,” she emphasizes. While producing the Hash Masters Challenge, Jain felt the need to muffle her involvement, believing that people would respect the challenge more if they didn’t know that it was founded by a women who posts provocative photos of herself on social media.
Jain also points out that the men who become cannabis influencers are more often allowed to speak their thoughts, rather than being pushed into posting sexy photos of themselves with weed. “They get to be more of a personality,” she says. “We get to listen to what a guy has to say.” Much like Beka, Jain emphasizes that this issue goes beyond the cannabis industry. “It’s more of a bigger societal problem,” she says. “Cannabis brings it to light, because it’s a small community and so in your face.”
None of this is to say that women posting sexy photos with weed is inherently bad: In fact, Jain mentions that being a cannabis model has allowed her to inspire women who previously shied away from cannabis (an impact that might become even more important when you consider that studies claim women tend to be more conservative about cannabis use than men). “There was one girl who I met on the beach, and she and a friend were out there with this big bong,” she says, emphasizing that she was proud to see them smoking so openly. “They said, ‘We forgot our weed.’ So of course, I had to be a little weed fairy, and I gave them weed the whole time. I inspired one of the girls — she’s now a model and moving toward cannabis modeling.”
Jain also says that the camaraderie among female cannabis models is comforting. “We’re supporting one another to be more body positive, to be free and to get over this whole thing of slut-shaming,” she says. “I grew up with it heavily, and now I’m like, ‘No. You can be free. You can own your sexuality.’ […] If I can inspire somebody to live their life more freely and enjoy themself, that makes it all worthwhile.”
Beka has a similar mindset toward cannabis influencers. “If that’s what works for a girl, I don’t mind her doing that,” she says. “But I’d prefer that women don’t have to [pose provocatively on the internet] to be heard by the cannabis industry.”
In fact, Beka has a message for anyone who believes otherwise: “People need to realize, ‘Hey, this girl actually really knows what she’s talking about’ in the same way that some of these male influencers (or educators) know what they’re talking about.”