Women and the weed stigma

Three women break down stereotypes often associated with cannabis consumption in their creative fields

Makeup artist Ari Dee paints model Nicole Nygaard in front of Temple Coffee Roasters on K Street.

Makeup artist Ari Dee paints model Nicole Nygaard in front of Temple Coffee Roasters on K Street.

Photo by J.M. Knudsen

There is still a stigma tied to smoking weed. As a Latinx, a mother and a freelance writer, that stigma often attaches to my identity in others’ view.

Cannabis is for more than “getting high.” Cannabis is a practice in self-care, a moment in time to breathe and center. In those moments I have unlocked a multitude of benefits directly tied to the effects of cannabis. It has quelled my anxiety and helps me stay present for my children. It has helped me get to know myself better through deeper thinking, and it’s part of my daily creative process.

With recreational legalization, canna-culture is now primed for an unpacking of the previously held stigmas of laziness, lesser intelligence, and in black and brown communities especially, cannabis use being deemed as “ghetto.” To explore how cannabis has helped others, I asked three women who use their creativity in various ways in Sacramento. They are healers, givers, guides, artists and consummate professionals—they just happen to smoke weed in the process.

Meet Ari Dee

An extremely talented freelance makeup artist and curator, Dee often travels between Los Angeles and the Bay Area for gigs. She also works on a pop-up gallery show with Love Is A Verb, an all Latinx-based arts collective.

Over blunts and blush brushes, Dee expertly smoothed and shellacked my face into the chola goddess I had envisioned for a photo shoot. She talked about her career, her use of cannabis and how she found the courage to step into her purpose.

“There is nothing more difficult than having to turn someone’s idea into a full-fledged, walking, talking version,” Dee says of transforming clients’ looks as a makeup artist.

Cannabis gives her that extra push of inspiration. “You take a hit, you inhale and you start to like … feel the blood flowing to different parts of your brain,” Dee says. “All of a sudden, that Alice-in-Wonderland-Lost-in-Space inspiration your client wants doesn’t feel so crazy. I think weed gives you a superpower … the power to see the forest for the trees.”

That superpower extended well beyond the mental for Dee, as her voice drops when she begins to describe her seizures caused by epilepsy.

“They had gotten bad, and were frequent you know? They used to affect me a lot more … but I started noticing that once I started smoking weed, especially indicas, things really changed for me,” she says. “I don’t think I would be able to get done half of what I do now.”

In fact, Dee was home smoking a blunt when she decided to take the first steps as a makeup artist all those years ago.

“I was at home smoking, and I noticed folks kept tagging me on this local makeup artist’s page … I wanted to get into makeup, but I couldn’t get the courage,” Dee says. “… All of a sudden, that day, in that moment, I was like fuck it. I messaged her and have been doing make up ever since.”

Yoga instructor Katy Karns lights up in her environment.

Photo courtesy of katy karns

Meet Katy Karns

Karns is a performer, comedienne, neuromuscular therapist, photographer and creator of SYoga. Syoga is a biweekly class dedicated to deep breaths and a deeper understanding of the benefits of cannabis. It meets at Hot Pot Studios on 16th street. The studio is also a private residence, allowing Karns the freedom to infuse her classes in a way that most cannot—with THC.

Over breakfast and blunts, Karns spoke about the first time she smoked weed and how the experience opened her up to a new perspective.

“I had basically lied my way into this Girl Scout troop on campus because they were going to Europe. Most of the girls were pretty straight-laced, but there was this one, the rebel. We got along really well,” Karns recalls. “We were at her house the night before some fundraiser … and her friend calls and invites us all to some party. We get there and her friends pull out this huge bong … I took this huge hit and it was like my entire body started moving and adjusting. I remember saying, ‘Oh, OK. I get it now.'”

It was through marijuana and her yoga practice that Karns found her true calling.

“The ‘S’ stands for slowly stretching and strengthening while stoned. I love it because the classes tend to be made up of yoga practitioners who want to be stoned, or stoner practitioners who want to do yoga,” Karns says. “Both are trying to find the balance to heal. My purpose is to be able to guide both sides.”

“This is it you know?” Karns says excitedly, “This is what I want. I love everything that I am involved in … but this is what I want to do with my life.”

Meet April Walker

April Walker aka SpaceWalker just returned from the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, where she freestyled on <i>Sway in the Morning.</i>

Photo by Karlos Rene Ayala

Walker is a Sacramento-based singer, writer, producer, painter and healer. Over some stories and spliffs on a porch in Oak Park, Walked shared how cannabis helps her through the journey of self-discovery, the calming of her mind and the opening of the third eye.

“Weed, just like with every other kind of medicine, I had to figure out the levels you know? But I used to be on hella anti-depressants and … this is honestly the most healthy and grounded that I have ever felt,” Walker says. “The meds used to really fuck with my creativity. It blocked up my neural pathways like some crazy traffic jam, and it kept me from being able to move ideas forward. Now… those channels are unblocked you know? The weed really helped that process for me. It helped me come out of my shell so I could get the courage to jump on stage and perform. It’s really guided me through a lot of personal growth.”

Walker just returned from SXSW, where she appeared on Sway in the Morning. She’s also in talks to produce a tarot card deck, all while working on curating new shows and performance pieces for the future.

“Do you ever stop and think about where you are? Like, where you are right now … for 5-year-old April?” she asked. “This is all I ever wanted … To be able to look back and go ‘Oh, I’ve already made it. I made it all along.’ It’s so important to be able stop, take a hit and just see that in the moment.”

An established blogger in canna-culture, Lindsay Maharry broke down the stigma in one simple form. When conducting a survey of readers in late 2018, most women admitted they still felt “shame” while smoking because of public perception.

“The relationship between women and weed is a complex one, where an inherent symbiosis between the medicinal power of cannabis and health issues specific to women has been overshadowed by fear of judgment from society …” Maharry wrote in an article for MerryJane.com in March 2018. “… However, the Green Rush is transforming a once socially contentious relationship.”

For many women, cannabis and creativity seem to go hand-in-hand. It has the ability to heal, to enhance creativity and to ground people. All it takes is a little love, a little knowledge and maybe a little Sour D.