New Amsterdam Exhibition on Women in the Cannabis Industry: We Are Mary Jane

“We Are Mary Jane” exhibition poster

The new exhibition ‘We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis’ opens June 8th at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. To help officially announce it, we spoke with twins Shiva and Shanti, the namesakes of the cannabis strain, about the topic of women in the cannabis industry, and their personal experiences.

Virtually every industry, just like virtually every society, suffers from the oppressive constructs of patriarchy. Sadly, the cannabis industry is no exception. But there is a change happening that has been a long time coming, and although it is gradual, it is huge, and hopefully unstoppable. Happily, the cannabis industry is one of the places where it is most prevalent.

Power, resourcefulness, creativity and determination

The power, resourcefulness, creativity and determination of women in the cannabis industry is celebrated in a new exhibition at our sister company, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum.

It showcases aspects of the feminine principle in the field of cannabis from the ancient Chinese goddess of hemp Ma Gu (‘hemp maiden’), to the pioneer of Dutch hashish making Mila Jansen, to the latest in luxury cannabis products created by the all-female team at Whoopi and Maya for relief from menstrual discomfort.

A black and white portrait of Whoopi and Maya

Introducing Shiva and Shanti

When exhibition curator Simone Badoux (herself a woman in the cannabis industry) reached out to Sensi Seeds for additional inspiration for women to feature in the exhibition, the obvious choice was very close to home – Shiva and Shanti.

The twin daughters of Sensi Seeds founder Ben Dronkers have grown up in the cannabis industry. In the early years of what has become the world’s oldest cannabis seed bank, they ran the Sensi Seeds booth at cannabis exhibitions.

Two of our most popular strains, Shiva Shanti and Shiva Shanti II, are named in their honour. From 2008 onwards, Shiva has organised the Cannabis Culture Awards, presented by the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the acceptance of cannabis in all its forms.

Shiva and Shanti Spaarenberg in coffeeshop Club Media
Shiva and Shanti Spaarenberg (1981) in coffeeshop Club Media
“It’s in our genes!”
PH: Maria Cavali, 2018

For part of the We Are Mary Jane exhibition, Shiva and Shanti were photographed by Maria Cavali in Amsterdam coffeeshop Club Media. This author caught up with them there to ask them a few questions about being women in the cannabis industry; an edited version of this informal interview is below.

Scarlet Palmer: Who are your female role models, whether inside or outside the cannabis industry?

Shiva: Whoopi Goldberg. She’s launched a small range of cannabis products with another woman, Maya, and they’re working with a female herbalist. Miley Cyrus, she did a great show in Amsterdam that I went to. She was onstage with a metre-long joint and a person in a weed leaf costume dancing behind her.

Shanti: My friends are my role models. Good friends can also be good role models; my friends inspire me. Inside the industry? Yes, Whoopi and Miley are good role models.

Shiva: They inspire large groups of people, that also makes them good role models.

SP: Women hold a greater share of executive positions in the cannabis industry than all other U.S. industries as a whole. Why do you think this is?

Shiva: They know what they’re getting behind. The minute you know you’re right, you’ll fight for it. To help sick children, help sick people. Women know how to formulate a new movement. They have passion.

SP: Do you think we would see a similar situation in the Netherlands, given a similar legal framework?

Shanti: Yes, probably. Since the mid-90s, there hasn’t been as much pride in the industry. The way it was promoted, with women in underwear, in bikinis. A lot of women were put off by the way men tried to make it seem like porn.

Shiva: It’s passion again. Here, you mainly see more guys in the industry, because it’s about money.

SP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the cannabis industry?

Shanti: It’s in my genes. I can’t help it (laughing).

Shiva: There’s a freedom in it. If you’re a woman and you use cannabis and you’re a teacher, or a medical specialist, something like that, you have to hide it. Some people will still judge people negatively for it. If you’re a woman in the cannabis industry, you have more freedom. You can use cannabis and talk about it; you can be out of the closet about it.

Shanti: If you’re a woman in any other industry, a mainstream business, you have to work three times as hard to prove yourself.

Shiva: Really? Just because you’re a woman?`

Shanti (laughing): You’ve only worked in the cannabis industry.

SP: Shiva and Shanti, thank you so much. I’ll see you at the opening!

Whom do you consider to be the outstanding women in the world of cannabis? Do you have female role models? And do you think that there is more freedom and more opportunity for women in the cannabis industry, or do you think there is more stigma for female cannabis users than for male? Let us know in the comments!

The exhibition We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis runs from June 8th to September 23rd 2018. Entrance to the exhibition is included in the purchase of a museum ticket.


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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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