Bulling Prevention and why women in weed need to lead by example
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. People tend to think of the cannabis community as open minded, progressive, accepting and tolerant. However, in my almost five years in the industry, I have seen a LOT of bullying in the industry. Today I want to speak out about my experiences being bullied by women in weed. I hope this post helps other victims of bullying know they are not alone, life will get better and to have the courage to speak out.
Before I go any further, I’d like to clarify a couple things. I felt torn sharing usernames of women involved. While the dominant Aries in me wants to call out everyone’s shit, what good does that do? When women hate on women, everyone loses. So lucky for those who hid behind their devices. I’m sharing my story, and helping save face in the process. I don’t want women to receive the same bullying I did. I also don’t want women to gain clout off their actions. So sit back, spark up and get ready for the most anxiety filled blog I’ve ever written.
Part One: No Conservatives in Cannabis
Around this time last year I found myself the target of a so-called expose for my political views. The woman leading it all, couldn’t understand how I, a woman, didn’t support government funded birth control for all women. I tried to explain my belief in free market economics. I don’t support government force via taxation to take money from all citizens, give that to Big Pharma (who already lobbies Congress $80 million a year) for “free” birth control, thus making women reliant on government for reproductive care. I mean do you really trust our government with its history of oppression and violence towards low income and minority communities? Look what happened during the government shutdown, which rendered 800,000 federal employees unable to get paid and another 39 million unable to collect food stamps. Do you REALLY want to make the estimated 75 million menstruating Americans reliant on government? I don’t.
But let’s be honest. No one wants to learn about basic economics or Libertarian principles when they’re part of the “call out culture.” My direct messages to deescalate soon turned into carefully crafted screen shots blasted on this person’s story. I was compared to Sarah Sanders Huckabee and the alleged rapist at Select. Women started to promote the hashtag #NoConservativesInCannabis. I even read comments where people threatened to “whoop” my “ass” if they saw me at events. Things continued to escalate and this person told me she planned to write a post exposing my views. I said, “I hope it’s accurate because libel laws are real.”
That statement somehow morphed into me “silencing a black woman” on her next three posts. Women were outraged. My inbox was flooded. However, considering she misspelled my last name in the opening lead, it should make you wonder what else she got wrong — which was a lot.
Now here’s the part where I planned to fact check this person’s “journalism.” I could spend hours debunking this two-part opinion piece, but at the end of the day, some people will never agree. This is one of those situations. (I’m also in Cabo then Paris this month, so would rather focus my energy on travel with family and friends). Instead of addressing each point, I extend an invite to every single female who’s openly bullied me, to come and discuss these ideas unedited and unfiltered on my vlog. For each person who participates, I will donate $100 to the cause of your choice.
Part Two: Being Bullied over an idea
I was just as curious as you to read Part Two of this person’s expose. It included a few more screenshots to voice disagreements on my politics — but here’s the kicker. The only person to provide character statements is a white, female cannabis influencer I’ve literally met once. Between her statements and comments from another female business owner, it became evident this actually had less to do with my politics and more to do with personal bias.
This other woman publicly made claims I “stole [name redacted]’s idea,” tagged her company on a post about guns and here’s the kicker, accused me of copying her agency because I created my own. I guess only one woman is allowed to make a cannabis creative agency. Pretty bold statement for someone who’s stolen influencer captions verbatim for memes and literally shares a company name with a woman who implemented the same name years prior. But I digress…
Many of the women I saw speaking out against my political beliefs not only didn’t know me, they all shared a common connection — a fellow cannabis lifestyle photographer. Now the statements above aren’t the first time I’ve heard what this woman is saying. In fact, I’ve heard about it from photographers, influencers, co-workers, creatives and Leafly’s entire social media team. So now I am speaking out about my years of being bullied by this female, and her group of friends, for the perception I “stole her idea.”
You “Stole” My Idea
In 2016 I worked at a cannabis marketing agency. I started Cannabess in February and shortly after, our agency hired a new guy. His girlfriend shot photos and wanted to get into cannabis content.
We only shot once, where she mentioned a photo project called “Marijuana Moms.” Since cannabis and parenthood content isn’t an original idea, and one I’ve also had, I reached out after buying the URL momswhosmokeweed.com to ask if she wants to collaborate. This woman ignored my text and I noticed the caption on her post suddenly changed. I reached out again asking to photograph her, and she said she didn’t feel comfortable because I took her idea.
We agreed to talk about it over coffee. This woman felt I copied her idea and said she “didn’t shoot grow photos” because that was my thing. Wait, what? I told her it’s not “my thing.” High Times has been publishing grow photos for years.
I left the discussion sticking to my stance I never “stole” an idea, but felt we resolved it issue. Apparently the feelings weren’t mutual. According to my bosses, this woman’s boyfriend a) asked to move his desk away from mine and b) talked about quitting. I assumed that was the end of things, but it wasn’t.
Soon after, this woman used inside company information to reach out to a former client (the one I moved to Washington to work for) less than a week after our agency’s contact ended, asking to collaborate. I found out when the owner messaged me. Since I hadn’t even removed their IG from my phone, it was pretty easy to see for myself. I never said anything, but found it a bold move for a woman accusing someone of copying. IDK, maybe it’s hard to find clients in i502?
I occasionally ran into this person at work functions and things always seemed tense. Whether it felt like an exclusion from social circles or stopping conversations when I approached, it became apparent she still held a grudge.
Things escalated in February, when everyone and their brother posts similar Valentine’s Day content. We both posted flat lays that morning less than 30 minutes apart. I had a hunch this would turn into another one of those “you copied me” moments.
Two days later I see an Instagram post with lips painted “Fuck Off.” However, the caption is the kicker. “Often imitated, never duplicated. Cheers to being one step behind.”
Uhhh… What? You freelance for a cannabis media company. Who’s one step behind? Certainly not any grows, processors or retail shops. It sounded like a pointed post, so I sent a text. Now most people who receive a text like mine would say, “Oh my gosh, no that’s not intended for you. I am so sorry you felt that way!” but I took her silence as affirmation of my intuition.
Things got even worse less than a week later. I confirmed a paid shoot with a Seattle-area stylist for that weekend. The stylist mentioned our shoot to this photographer, who said it made her uncomfortable. The stylist ended up cancelling citing a “conflict of interest.”
Naturally this didn’t bode well. It’s one thing to talk shit, but it’s another to try and impact my work. I called the woman, who answered seemingly surprised. We agreed to meet and talk over coffee and cannabis.
Turning Over a New Leaf?
After a solid chat, things seemed to be settled. We hugged it out, hit a joint and agreed not to view ourselves as competitors. Despite her still not feeling comfortable working with me, this woman unblocked and followed my account. Is this the beginning of a new leaf?
One week after our talk, I found myself the recipient of a catty DM. This time it accused me of copying her St. Patrick’s Day caption. Now this is where I draw a line. How many green jokes can the cannabis community make regarding St. Patty’s Day? This isn’t Nobel Prize winning journalism. Grow up and get out of my inbox.
Less than a month later, I saw more passive aggressive posts. This time accusations my Jacquie Aiche Cannabess denim weed shirt copied her DIY denim jacket. Let’s be honest, that “when people can’t be original” story isn’t a coincidence the first day I wore it to work.
While most people say to ignore online bullying, I believe it’s important to address someone’s behavior with them directly. And that’s exactly what I did. I sent a text calling out the hypocrisy, which included a slew of screenshots as proof she and her friends also seek inspiration from other people’s content.
I’ll be honest. This is basically the equivalent of kicking a digital hornet’s nest. It’s really hard to argue timestamped screenshots, and I assume (based on the blocking from her friends shortly after) it’s what escalated their harassment as well. Luckily, I no longer ran into this person, as they moved to a new state. I assumed the bullying would cease and she’d move on to her own clients. However, as time would soon tell, her friends continued the mean girl behavior.
Over the course of the next year I found myself dealing with the occasional online harassment from this photographer’s group of friends. From a FB friend request followed by personal attacks for my thinning hair, to an IG Live complaining about my stance on guns and this woman’s friends harassing me for vaping abroad, it felt like middle school. Grown women behaved in a manner worse than anything experienced during my teen years. I also found it incredibly telling how quickly these same bullies hit the block button when confronted with their behavior. It’s why I didn’t bat an eye when I saw these same women amplify calls for my “cancellation” over political views and throw out public accusations regarding a situation they don’t even know.
Ladies, Bullying Prevention Starts With Us
So there you have it. The story comes full circle. You’ve got a group of women who don’t like me for my political beliefs, others who don’t like me because of a personal bias, and heck, there’s probably women who just don’t like me. You know what? That’s perfectly fine.
While a side of me felt anger towards women who’ve bullied me, compassion helped overcome it. I noticed my most vocal critics are the same women who speak loudest about anxiety, body image, depression, bipolar and other mental health issues. I started to realize their actions had little to do with me, and instead are a reflection of their own struggles.
The last year was especially awful and I wouldn’t wish that type of treatment on anyone. It made me see why people commit suicide over bullying. I severed ties with at least 50 women I considered friends or allies in the community. I can’t imagine what that would be like for an isolated or emotionally vulnerable teen, and felt thankful to have such a strong support system. It’s why I believe bulling prevention, even at an adult level, is so important.
As a result of the bullying, there have been creatives I felt apprehensive to contact. I’ve avoided events. I even wavered on whether or not to leave the industry. I took a step back from social media. I looked at corporate jobs, mulled over law school and even applied to grad school. But if I leave over a few bullies, who wins? Well, no one. These women lose too, because they’ve lost out on the opportunity to meet someone who doesn’t share their views but is still willing to connect, create and grow together.
If You Have the Freedom to Disagree, Please Check Your Privilege
I’ll be the first to admit. My political views are anything but typical. I certainly stray from the two-party paradigm. But I’d be willing to bet if these cannabis critics actually sat down, smoked a bowl and discussed the issues, while you still might not agree with me, I hope you’d be tolerant enough to understand where I’m coming from. After all, it’s our life experiences that shape our beliefs and mold us into the people we are today. Also in case you forgot, in America we are FREE to disagree.
People aren’t always going to get along, and we might not always agree, but you know what’s more dangerous than one woman with liberty-oriented views? A supposedly tolerant, open-minded and progressive community wanting to silence views they disagree with. It’s the same mindset of Mao’s Communist China, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Moreover, I think we should all check our privilege. Our freedom to complain about capitalism on devices created through capitalism, without fear of repercussion. Meanwhile protestors in Hong Kong, Venezuela and other parts of the world currently fight against government suppression branded as socialism. America isn’t perfect, but we have it pretty damn good compared to most.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I live by the motto “don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.” Maybe the idea of voluntaryism is hard for some to comprehend, but I truly believe people are more empowered when they are free, instead of reliant on government. I could discuss for days free market economies, and how they consistently outperform centrally planned (AKA government regulated) ones. I’d rather see people helping people, instead of government using force like taxes, fees, fines or penalties to “help people.” And if your answer is “oh but without government, we won’t have that,” please ask yourself, if an idea has to be implemented through force, is it worth implementing?
Look, I’m not going anywhere and my politics aren’t either. If anything, the harassment I received as a result of my views only inspired me more. It motivated me to connect with local Libertarians, rethink my role in the cannabis community and sparked my next creative endeavor. I look forward to discussing liberty on a more regular basis, and hope the same women who felt so confident to call names behind a keyboard will feel that same confidence discussing these ideas with me live, on-air.
As I wrap this blog, I ask all of you to please be kinder to each other. Recognize we are all unique beings with different upbringings. The world has enough hate and division. We don’t need that in the cannabis community. In fact, I challenge all of you as election season approaches, to smoke a bowl with someone you might not agree with. Talk about things you disagree on. Listen to things that question your beliefs. Step outside your comfort zone and expand your horizons. Lastly, I ask you to learn, live, love and if you don’t agree — leave people alone.