I’m in California, six hours north of San Francisco, to visit a cannabis farm and learn about the plant from the roots up. IMG_7186If you know anything about me, you know I’ve never really been that interested in pot – so this is a new fascination. But not because I’m smoking it. I’ve been working with web pioneer Aliza Sherman to build a women’s cannabis community.

Contrary to what I’ve always thought, cannabis is not just for a bunch of stoner kids laughing at really stupid jokes as they melt their brain cells into their couches. Smart, successful women are using cannabis to help alleviate anxiety and depression, and using it to manage health and wellness issues like menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, and chronic pain. Women are also using different strains of cannabis to focus themselves, enhance their creative process, or relax after a long day at work or caring for their loved ones.

And now that 95% of the US population lives somewhere where cannabis is legal, people aren’t just smoking it. You can use it in all kinds of ways: from vaporizing it, to eating it, to absorbing it through your skin. You can get oils and extractions from the plant that separate the THC (the psychoactive) from the CBD (the anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic). There are even cannabis-infused personal lubricants (I may not be into smoking it, but BOY HOWDY, ladies).

Legal cannabis sales topped $6.7B last year, and sales are predicted to rise to $22 billion in the next five years.

Anyway, back to my trip to California. I stopped in a small mountain town to visit a “head shop” I found on Google maps. (Head shop is a colloquial name for tobacco/marijuana paraphernalia shop.) The shop was humming with young men and beardy old guys. It was decorated with Grateful Dead tapestries, skulls, and posters of pot leaves superimposed over buxom swimsuit models or skinny grey aliens in baseball caps.

headshop-interior-glass-pipes-water-pipes-paraphernalia-300x225This store, like many others I’ve been studying, was definitely not built for men nor for women like me in mind. Therein lies the rub: current cannabis culture is fairly intimidating – and frankly juvenile – to women of a certain age. And while I’m confident that the staff there was knowledgable and well versed in how to use the variety of grinders, pipes, bongs, and vaporizers in the shop, the store didn’t exactly welcome anyone outside of that particular culture.

I was hoping I could buy some CBD chocolate to relax my body on the cramped airplane ride home, but even though this shop had 1000 different sci-fi inspired glass blown pipes, there was no cannabis to be found. The woman at the counter said you had to order it through a delivery service. Even though weed is legal in many states, including California, each state and municipality has different rules and regulations about sales, consumption, and possession. It’s still the “wild west,” and it can be pretty confusing.

What is clear is that women spend $40 billion dollars on alternative medicine and an additional $5 billion dollars on health and wellness advice. And since it’s a well-known fact that women make 80% of purchasing decisions in households, shouldn’t cannabis be courting us? Shouldn’t this industry be creating on-ramps for women who are beginning to introduce (or reintroduce) cannabis into our lives?

Before now, there was no national resource, network or trusted brand for women to learn how to integrate cannabis into their lives. But Aliza and I are working to change that. We are launching an online community (that also has an offline element) for cannabis wellness especially for more mature women.

Ellementa will help bring cannabis wellness to the mainstream. We are producing instructional content to guide women to quality products with an additional element: women’s communities. We are organizing Gatherings and events across the country, face-to-face to meetings for women to talk about and learn about cannabis wellness together. You can sign up to learn more about Ellementa here.

IMG_7772As for me and California, I’m getting a feel for the countryside, and the grow rooms smell like fresh pine and fruity pebbles. For real. I’ll tell you more about that later.