Chile has a rich history of cannabis culture and hemp production. But for Daniela Rodriguez and Belén Riveros, there was a lack of women present in the space. So, they decided to do something about it. Longtime cannabis users and activists, Daniela and Belén founded Cannábicas Latinas. Their mission is to develop networks among women and cannabis groups in Latin America. Seeing a lack of cannabis content written by Spanish-speaking women, Daniela and Belén decided to fill this void by creating a space for women to share their experiences. While focusing on women in Latin America, Cannábicas Latinas aims to unite ganja goddesses around the globe.
In the beginning, what inspired you to found Cannábicas Latinas?
Belén and I were talking about the cannabis movement and we noticed that there weren’t enough female referents in Chile. This caught our attention because as activists we’ve met many women that are doing great things for vindicating the plant.
Women are doing their own projects but there’s not enough visualization of them. So, I guess it all started with that dream… of all of us getting together and sharing an afternoon talking about cannabis and our projects related to it.
We want to meet not only Chilean women in cannabis but women from all over the world. It is truly inspiring when you hear someone's cannabis story. For a moment you forget about boundaries and that we are all connected.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to help vindicate the role of female cannabis users.
Cannábicas Latinas is an initiative from women to women. There are so many amazing women trying to make a change in cannabis culture. We want to show this and by doing so, help to empower others.
We are incorporating a gender approach because cannabis affects women differently than men. Not only when it comes to its effects after consumption but also how it is understood socially.
In 2016 in La Paz Bolivia, United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) supported Gender Approach when it comes to incarceration and drug control policies. So, if all of these changes are happening in the World, why aren’t we seeing them? Where are all the ladies that support cannabis? Our mission is to show them.
Can you tell us more about your work as cannabis activists in Chile?
Both of us participate in the activities done by our local cannabis organizations where we live. But since we do live in different cities, most of our work is online.
Before Cannabicas Latinas, Belén was part of the coordination of the national campaign “No Mas Presos por Plantar” (No more prisoners for growing). And Daniela worked as one of the founding members of the informative webpage Cannabischile.cl.
By doing these activities, we got the chance to meet at different Cannabis events which eventually led to the decision of working together and once again take our activism to online platforms.
How would you describe the current perception towards cannabis in Chile?
Chile has a long history with Cannabis. Is just that it seems that all the years of prohibition have erased it from people’s minds. Chile used to be a country that was recognized for its hemp production.
Belén has a strong connection to those origins since hemp growing happened mostly in the Aconcagua Valley where she lives. This and her background as an anthropologist has taken her to the task of rescuing the historical heritage of hemp in Chile.
Just last week a survey was published and it revealed that 40% of Chileans have smoked or consumed cannabis. In fact, Chile is the country in Latin America with the highest support of cannabis legalization. But our laws don’t reflect this.
Chileans are asking for “Autocultivo” (the right to grow their own cannabis) and even the Supreme Court has recognized this right.
Nevertheless, several violations are done towards cannabis growers and users every day, regardless if they are medicinal patients or not. Nowadays Chileans are more open to talking about cannabis, but there’s still a lot of prejudice and misinformation that surrounds the plant especially in the most conservative groups of the population.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing women in the cannabis world?
For us, visibility is a key issue. Women’s presence is felt in the industry but there’s not enough visualization of what they do.
This relates to another challenge for women which is being taken seriously. Cannabis has been associated as man's world. We are constantly opening our way in this culture and new industry. It feels like we are trying to prove something: that we are responsible users and productive members of society.
Sometimes it is not easy, but we’ve had a very good acceptance not only from women but from men as well. And this has encouraged us to keep going.
Finally, we think that the most significant challenge is to take awareness, not only of what happens with our bodies but also to recognize women’s achievements in cannabis culture and the important role they play in it.
Name 3 ways a woman can learn more about cannabis
1) Women can learn more about cannabis simply by the act of growing cannabis. Growing is actually a crash course on cannabis. But it also helps us to be more respectful towards the plant in its natural state. This in-turn makes you more aware of your environment. If you wait, good things will come, but it requires patience to see a seed growing into a beautiful flower.
2) Women who use cannabis acquire integral consciousness of themselves and it reflects on their relation with the environment (both natural and social). By being conscious, we are more open to the information we receive and therefore can expand our knowledge.
3) By innovating and creating cannabis related projects. Don't be afraid to innovate in cannabis culture or its market. Even though it has been considered an all-male space, there’s room for everyone and we urgently need more investigation on women’s needs when it comes to cannabis.
How has cannabis influenced your lives?
We both agree that our cannabis usage is holistic. It is not strictly medicinal, or recreational or spiritual. It is a bit of all of them at once. We call it “Cannabis Integral”.
For Daniela, it has deeply helped with her health. She uses cannabis for a depression and an anxiety disorder that was diagnosed when she was 16. The diagnosis was just a sentence to a lifetime of prescription drugs, which made her feel productive but still feeling that sense of inner emptiness that comes with the disorder. So it wasn’t long before she decided to stop her treatment once she realized that it wasn’t the right choice for her recovery. A few months later she was introduced to cannabis and it made sense to her to use the plant as a more natural treatment.
In her own words: "Cannabis helps me by keeping me motivated in my daily activities and by feeling happier and more relaxed.”
In Belén’s case, her mother had different types of cancer when she was younger. At that time she and her family didn’t know much about the benefits of cannabis. However, later people told them about the analgesic effect of cannabis. Cannabis was the only medicine able to calm her pain.
Years after the death of her mother, Belén wanted to experience cannabis’s effects and learn from them. Next, she joined an activist group and the rest is history. Now, as an anthropologist and integral person, Belén knows that the same plant that helped her mother can help many people and societies in the world.
What is your aspiration for women in the cannabis community?
We hope that cannabis is accepted as a plant. Women must stop being imprisoned just for being in contact with it.
We aspire that one day women who use cannabis will be seen as responsible individuals and not drug users who could lose their children. It is not a crime to admit you consume a plant.
We want women to be able to use their gifts in order to support a wide spectrum of choices in which they can develop themselves in the cannabis industry. In addition, we also want women to be respected in the cannabis community and industry.
We believe that an effort must be done to change the existing hyper-sexualized image of females in cannabis. There are still many brands promoting their products by exploiting women’s images and bodies in a sexist manner.
How can cannabis women around the globe unite?
Sorority is a must. We need to stop competing with each other. That’s how we’ll unite. We hope that our platform also helps to achieve that goal by connecting women with similar interests.
Cannábicas Latinas is an example that you don’t need to be in the same geographical space to go after your dreams. We live in different cities and still manage to coordinate our work and have weekly meetings. In this globalized world, everything’s possible thanks to technology.
As women in cannabis, we need to get to know each other. Our names, our faces. And create contact networks so we can show our specific reality.
We must set aside out differences, drop the ego, and work together. Women should support each other and remember that we are working together on a common goal: the cannabis plant and our general well-being as women.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Remember that cannabis is a new market and is willing to accept new proposals no matter where or who they come from. You could be the next great cannabis entrepreneur. But you have to try or you’ll never know.
So keep going. No matter how many people tell you to stop, don’t. Listen to your inner voice, trust that things will fall into place and surround yourself with positive people. Positive people, bring positive energy and therefore success.