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When people think of the introduction of marijuana to society for either medicinal or recreational use, they usually don’t think back more than about 50 years. However, the use of marijuana has been seen throughout history, dating as many as three thousand years into our past—and women were just as involved in its use as men were.
In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s explore the many women throughout history who enjoyed cannabis, researched its use as a medicinal herb and fought for greater access to marijuana across time and geography. Here are four prominent women in weed.
While most people don’t really think of marijuana as something other than a “modern” trend, in reality, it’s been around for thousands of years. In fact, we can trace it all the way back to ancient Egypt at the same time that the pyramids and other architectural wonders were being constructed.
However, the pharaoh that we associate with cannabis at the time wasn’t one of the almost exclusively male lineage that ruled Egypt; instead, it was Hatshepsut, one of only a handful of female pharaohs in all of history, who paved the way for marijuana use.
Hatshepsut herself used marijuana as a pain reliever for menstrual symptoms. Taking inspiration from this use, the Ebers Papyrus shows that the public gradually began to practice medical cannabis consumption as well, mixing marijuana with honey. It was most commonly used for menstrual pain and even to help calm the body during the birthing process.
Long after Hatshepsut’s reign, a German nun would take up the mantle of cannabis use and continue to champion its medicinal benefits. Hildegarde von Bingen, who later achieved the status of saint in the Catholic church, wrote a comprehensive medical guide called Physica that kept track of all of the remedies that she had discovered or used on patients.
She reported that hemp—which is the cannabis plant—had proven successful in treating a variety of ailments, such as headaches and other types of pain, when eaten. Von Bingen also discovered that the pain of open wounds could be relieved by creating a cloth bandage imbued with hemp (likely in paste form) to cover the injury.
Later, in the 1800s, cannabis continued its medicinal work in the hands of women—this time Queen Victoria, notoriously one of the most conservative monarchs in British history. Like Hatshepsut millennia before her, Victoria used marijuana to ease menstrual pain.
However, it’s thought that she made other important contributions to the greater discovery and research of the plant because many historians note that she possessed a willingness to explore new medicinal and recreational options.
One such example was her consent to test chloroform, which she used in 1853 to assist with the birth of her last son. Like marijuana, she described her experience with chloroform as a pleasant one that soothed her and was “delightful beyond measure.”
Though the time was not yet right for her to socially step out and encourage the more public use of substances such as these, she paved the way for modern activism alongside her historical sisters up until that point.
Coming into the age that we are all more familiar with, we meet Margaret Mead — cultural anthropologist and dedicated cannabis activist. Her 1969 speech before the Senate attempted to rouse politicians to legalize marijuana consumption for all individuals over the age of 16.
Thanks to her global research, she confidently argued that marijuana was safer than cigarettes and alcohol. She pointed out the hypocrisy that adults could enjoy cocktail hour while smoking a cigar without consequence, but no one could even possess marijuana without repercussions.
Unfortunately, Mead’s attempts at activism were swept away by the War on Drugs under Nixon and later Reagan in the 1980s. Still, Margaret Mead set the final stage for the cannabis revolution that the country—and the world—has seen starting in the late 1990s and especially in the 2010s.
Without the work of these important women, cannabis would not be as ubiquitous as it is now. Those who worked to champion the benefits of hemp and encourage its use might not have seen success in their own times, but it’s on the shoulders of these women of history that we have built the modern success of the cannabis industry for both recreation and medicine.
That’s why Pure Oasis is proud to celebrate our sisters on International Women’s Day. Our minority-owned dispensary offers accessible cannabis products to everyone and can help you find the right marijuana for your needs, whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or a new enjoyer. Stop by our dispensary to learn more about our products or to get help on your next experience.
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