Cannabis Brands Put Too Much Focus on Women Who Want CBD Without a High

They’re missing an entire segment of their female consumer base

A woman is behind a herbal cannabis counter; she is helping a customer check out on an iPad
Women want to use CBD for self-care, but some of them also want to smoke and get high for the same reason. Getty Images
Headshot of Kimberly Dillon

If you have been following the cannabis industry, you’ll notice the meteoric rise of CBD and its appeal to the archetypal soccer mom. Why not replace that glass of wine with a little something different?

This has resulted in an offering of products with pink cannabis leaves and women not quite smoking but rather holding a puff of pink cotton candy because—god forbid—she just, well, smokes. What’s even worse are the loads of beauty products with hemp seed (cannabis sativa oil), which is particularly interesting because cannabis sativa seed oil doesn’t even contain CBD.

While it is true that women tend to prefer products that have little or non-intoxicating properties, women also tend to be more interested in the wellness benefits of the plant. (That does not mean that women are staunchly against THC or smoking, just for the record, but we’ll get to that.)

I am intimately aware of this wellness approach because it is one that I have been an integral part of creating. I think CBD is a huge opportunity to introduce people to the magical powers of the plant, but we have to be cognizant not to do it at the expense of the 70-plus other cannabinoids like THC that we are only just starting to understand the various benefits of.

“Somewhere along the way, CBD became the friendly, harmless, medicinal part of cannabis, and THC the intoxicating drug. One is medicine and one is a drug,” said Amber Senter, founder of Supernova Women.

The way CBD is marketed, in a way where it’s so detached from the plant, the activism and the movement positions the smoking of cannabis as bad. CBD is just a touch naughty, but THC—that’s outright bad.

As a result, every brand is tripping over themselves to offer wealthy soccer moms a CBD gummy.

But here’s the thing: There are women who smoke cannabis. They smoke it. Sure, men buy more flower to smoke than women, but current data shows us that the difference is a low percentage. A recent report by Headset says men only buy 5% more than women do. This report also shows the fastest growing area of growth is in vape pens. While I don’t have data to confirm if those vape pens are CBD or THC, I know at the very least there was some THC in them because the data tracked dispensary scanners.

This means we have a huge opportunity to speak to women who want and use cannabis. Not CBD, but cannabis. Talking about CBD seems so delicate, so feminine. We imagine the woman who, at the end of a long day, hits the bathtub with a CBD bath bomb and tags it #SelfCareSunday. I’m not saying that women don’t want that experience but a lot of women also want a joint—and they don’t need to justify it with a bathtub.

As marketers, we can hide behind the fact that CBD won’t get you high, but you also won’t experience the same dysphoria that you can feel from THC. That calm, relaxed feeling is evidence that something chemical is happening. We shouldn’t judge one reaction over another. It’s just different. Removing the judgment helps us all feel a little calmer and release that daily stress that prevents us from unwinding. In all its forms, cannabis promotes wellness, whether it’s smoking a joint or applying a salve. And at its root, wellness is about self-care for the mind, body and soul.

Right now, most brands are going after the same self-care positioning with beautiful bathtubs full of fresh cut fruit, house plants or pink clouds representing the elevation but not the high. While there is nothing wrong with this per se, this segment is becoming increasingly crowded, and many brands are overlooking the of all ages, colors and political views who want a little bit of the high.

At the end of the day, there are plenty of women who light up, no namaste needed.


Kimberly Dillon is the founder of Plant & Prosper.
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