Women, Cannabis and REMA REMA's representative, Patty Amiguet, talks about the situation of women who use cannabis and other drugs in Spain, and how they are getting organized to change things.
It is not new that the discussion on gender perspective extends to the use of cannabis and other substances. More and more women are getting organized to denounce their invisibility and marginalization in this area. REMA is a network of anti-prohibitionist women from Spain. We spoke with one of its spokespersons, Patty Amiguet, about the cannabis sector, its demands and its initiatives for equality.
Patty Amiguet has already been mentioned in one of our recent articles. In addition to being president of the Pachamama cannabis association and the CATFAC federation, she is one of the most active REMA members.
Question: Where and when did REMA first appear?
Answer: REMA was officially born in early 2016, although it really started when some members from CATFAC (Federation of Cannabis Association of Catalonia) held several meetings with the purpose of creating an independent group in which women could express themselves on issues related to drugs.
A strong group was then formed where many of us already knew each other for working together in the field of drug policy. There were people from all backgrounds, activists, businesswomen, scientists. We decided to make a call at the state level to ask women if the feeling of being there but ignored, of being relegated to a second category, was real.
At the end of 2015, at Christmas, we appealed to a group of women from the cannabis sector whom we did not know. We decided to get organized and promote among us a women’s meeting. We did it in record time, because Spannabis 2016 was only three months away and the first meeting took place there.
We initially referred to the group as cannabis women, but then the concept of REMA appeared, the idea of calling ourselves “anti-prohibitionist women” was more precise since not all of us identified with cannabis.
Q.: And how do you operate?
A.: As there were already expenses to organize the meeting, it was decided to create an association that would be the umbrella of the Cannabis Women project, based on what we call the Motor Group. As an association, there is a president, a secretary and a treasurer, but we don’t even really mention this, because we are a horizontal platform and it is the Motor Group that is responsible for carrying all the tasks.
The reason for this is that even though we focused on cannabis at the time, the group could take care of different projects later on. The first meeting in Spannabis was a success, with more than 100 women participating throughout the day. There were people from many countries and in fact our master of ceremonies was Lisa Campbell, from Women Grow.
Q.: What are REMA’s lines of work?
A.: In that day three areas of work of Cannabis Women were defined:
– Reproductive health. Our role as cannabis moms with all that this entails, our work as caregivers, the question of sexuality and its relationship to cannabis use.
– Woman’s image in the cannabis sector and the struggle against reification. There was obvious discomfort for how woman’s image has been used to sell. We also saw that there were many women growers who remain under the shadow of men who consider themselves breeders, when in fact the breeders are them.
– The incidence of drug policies that introduce gender perspective. We wanted to look at things from a different angle when it comes to ask for policy changes. In addition, the studies on the average cannabis consumer are based on white men aged 30-40 years. What we have seen is that the effects of the plant are different in men and women, and that there are varieties with incredible effects in women that are hardly ever spoken of.
Q.: And what is the relationship between Cannabis Women and REMA?
A.: For more than a year we attended talks and events to which we were invited. Throughout 2016 until mid-2017 we all realized that REMA and Cannabis Women were actually the same, because we were a little confused…
Q.: I agree; I am not sure I understand
A.: It does not surprise me, because I myself, who was there, was also confused. The meetings took place via Skype, we were mostly people from Catalonia, but also from the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Madrid, Castilla, etc. Cannabis Women was mostly an initiative of Catalan women but then, as other initiatives and groups of women joined, we realized that REMA should be the mother association and that within it could fit all the projects we wanted.
We also resolved the issue of whether men should be allowed to participate. The inclusion of men was something about which we were asked a lot, and there were disparate opinions within the assembly. Since REMA is a non-hierarchical association with self-managed and self-financing projects, they could decide this in each project. In this way, after the November 2017 assembly, we were able to have a common understanding of the organization which ended up taking shape.
Q.: What projects are you currently working on?
A.: Right now, we can say that REMA is three projects: Cannabis Women, which is more focused on the academic side and usually participates in many talks, conferences, etc.; Muyeres and Cannabis, which are a bit like Cannabis Women, a gathering of women (now they are around 120) that organizes days and works with associations especially in the Northwest area (Castilla and Leon, Asturias, Cantabria, …); and Metzineres, which is an alternative shelter for women who have been victims of violence and use drugs. (Note: we will soon interview someone from Metzineres to talk about this interesting project).
Q.: Has anything changed in the cannabis industry since your appearance?
A.: The cannabis sector evolves little by little. I can’t tell if it is because of us, I do not want to think that it has only been us because there are other groups and women who are also active, but we observe that most of the commercial sector has changed, particularly in the area of marketing.
It is true that new companies continue to arrive, especially from the United States, which go to fairs using women as bait, but if you consider Spannabis four or five years ago, when Cannabis Women issued a statement denouncing the passivity of the fair in the face of such a thing, there has been change and they treat us differently.
It also seems that the most established companies in the sector already know us and when they see us coming, they say, “Oops, let’s see what they’re going to ask for!” (Laughter). I am not sure if some of them fear reprisals because we don’t let one go. Whenever we see a company posting something we don’t like on social media, such as some kind of absurd initiative, we denounce it.
Q.: In 2007 I published an article where I denounced the reification of women in the cannabis sector, that was eleven years ago. Things now aren’t easy, are they?
A.: Yes, at the beginning we had to focus on denouncing, but then we understood that it was a bad idea to create enmity and bad vibes, after all what we are asking for is simply equality. Equality, of course, with the intrinsic differences between each of us and among women and men.
Equality in the case of having access to a product or being treated equally…it is unbelievable that when a woman who owns a grow-shop goes to talk to another business person, it is the man with her who is addressed instead, “hey, it’s my wife who owns the business and is responsible for selling, or growing”. This happens to us all the time. I think that we even have to re-educate ourselves, the prejudices around affect the way we think without us noticing it.
So yes, there is change, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The sector is still mostly male-dominated. In a small survey that we did last year to some ninety companies, we saw that there are some women in intermediate positions, but that the vast majority of managerial positions are held by men, although there are exceptions, with women leading companies. This has to change because there are women currently working in the industry who are equally capable.
Q.: And in the association movement?
A.: It is more or less the same. The association movement is mostly male-dominated, I see it in my day to day. You go to the CATFAC assembly and there are two other women and I. And there are very little women who are on the board of directors leading associative projects. There is a blatant discrepancy in the number of men and women involved. I also see that maternity generates prejudices and problems.
There are many women who when they become pregnant are forced to leave any managerial position in the association, because if you tell your doctor that you work in a cannabis association and that you do not smoke, you may get by fine, but if you tell him that you consume cannabis, they will surely send you to social services at the time of delivery to apply the protocols that exist in the Children Act. It is brutal here in Catalonia and we have many REMA colleagues who have had problems with this. You enter a dynamic of having to lie, of saying that you do not use cannabis, and end up moving away from the movement for fear of reprisals.
And in the end also for fear of your own people, if you go to work pregnant to Pachamana, although many colleagues are used to seeing that, there are others who are shocked. We have to change the mentality a lot, because that is how they have educated us, prohibitionism is based on deep-rooted lies, and changing that now is complicated. I don’t know whether it will be me or my son who will get to see it, but there is still a lot missing.
You go to the assemblies and you see it in the faces of some: “And what is this girl doing here?” It’s not like I have been mistreated, but I’ve seen a lot of prejudices and I have had to do much more to be in the same place as my male colleagues. You cannot let your guard down, and you have to be extremely efficient to prove you are worth of the same things as men who do not even do half your effort.
In that respect, the commercial and associative sectors are not different. And I do not blame only men, I think we also have embedded a lot of male-chauvinistic views that have done us a lot of damage.
Q.: And what do you expect from the men of both sectors?
A.: I expect them to be aware and awake. I would like that in the future, we can look back and say that we (REMA) are no longer needed. That the men can understand it, although that is very complicated and I would be satisfied if half of them could understand it. I would like everyone to be clear on the issue of equality, to have equal treatment in regards to making decisions, and to be respected when we speak in public…
I hope that men can be clear about these concepts as I am now, because if you would have asked me many years ago anything about this, I wouldn’t have known how to answer. But just as I have educated and instructed myself I hope that all men can realize the times they have acted in a macho way and try not to do it again. Now that I have a child inside me, these concepts are what I most want to convey to people.
Q.: And what did you think about the last March 8?
A.: The truth is that it was very special because women from the three projects got together in Barcelona. We took this opportunity to spend the day together and get to know one another. A feminine meal was prepared and there was also an event at the Hemp Museum where an enlightening manifesto about cannabis and other subjects was read.
March 8 has to happen every day. We noticed a feminist conscience, but we cannot be satisfied with what we observe in one single day.
Q.: There are similar organizations in other places, are your coordinated?
A.: Yes, there are other organizations, but we are not coordinated. I have had the opportunity to meet women and groups from many countries. There are cannabis women in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina… but they all have a lot of work in their own country and there is not much coordination, although there are links between all of us. Many of us do not know each other in person, but when we meet we notice that we have many things in common and it feels as though we have known each other for a very long time. Since the appearance of Cannabis Women I have made many friends on social media, people I do not know but with whom I talk about all this.
We are not coordinated yet, but I think it is a matter of time. There are many groups in South America. There is NORML in the United States, which has a more associative section of women, and also Women Grow, a group of women entrepreneurs.
There is the Cannafem Network in Germany, which we met two years ago in Spannabis at the meeting we organized. We have tried to get the groups to meet and get in touch. And we have seen projects arise as the result of that meeting. I was in Atlanta (USA) last October at the Drug Policy Alliance conference, and there were a lot of women from all over involved in drug policy. In Uruguay, they even have government subsidies.
Q.: And the future?
A.: Well, one of the most important projects is precisely to coordinate better. The basis will be to have a more resolutive Motor Group. You only have to pay the fee to participate, which is only a symbolic amount, € 12 per year. We also want supporters who can donate. In addition, we want to organize an annual meeting where men and women who support us can join forces. The project is increasingly defined, we just lack time and money.