Women in Cannabis: Margaret Mead

Influential Women in Cannabis: Margaret Mead  

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 Continuing our series on influential women in cannabis, where we take a look back at some of the women throughout history that informed cannabis culture through the arts, science, politics and activism. These are but a few examples of trailblazing women whose influence reverberates through canna-culture today.

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Today we are highlighting the life and work of the influential Margaret Mead.  

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Margaret Mead

 

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Margaret Mead was an American anthropologist born in 1901. Her publication, Coming of Age in Samoa, is often cited as a big influence during the sexual revolution of the 1960's. She taught Anthropology at numerous institutions during her day, and was an author or co-author on 40 books. Coming of Age in Samoa, since publication, has been met with some controversy. The anthropology community remains split as to whether Mead's descriptions of Samoan culture were accurate or not.

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In the 50's she became president of the American Anthropological Association. During the 60's she led the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

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Margaret Mead

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Mead's 1935 book, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, described how the sex/power dynamic of tribes indigenous to Papua New Guinea rested on the women of the tribe instead of the men. This publication proved highly influential to the feminist movements in the west after release. 

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So, what does all of this have to do with cannabis? Though Mead admitted to trying pot in a Newsweek article in 1970, she was by no means a regular smoker... The reason why Mead remains an influential figure in cannabis culture is due to the nature of her testimony before congress in 1969, when she advocated for cannabis legalization.

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The hearing concerned the drug industry, and when the subject of cannabis law came up, Mead raised a few eyebrows!

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Quote by Margaret Mead

 

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She stated that cannabis use did not harm society, that cannabis was not known to be addictive, nor a gateway drug and the criminalization of cannabis is more damaging to society than legalization. Mead argued that cannabis could prove to be a useful therapeutic drug in medicine. She also made a comparison to adults when discussing teenage cannabis use. She deemed it an untenable position for older generations with their vices of alcohol and cigarettes to outlaw cannabis due to the fear of the unknown across a generational divide.  

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Women in Cannabis

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The testimony received derision from her detractors. She was labelled a dirty old lady by the Florida Governor and mocked in cartoon strips. Mead's mother-like appearance contrasted perceptions of long-haired hippie pot activists, challenging the stereotypes of the time!

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After her death in 1978, Mead was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

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Margaret Mead in the Chicago Tribune

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Her testimony is remembered for her progressive stance on cannabis legalization, the advocation of cannabis medical applications and her courage to challenge the societal conventions of her generation. We have women like Mead to thank for the eventual legalization of cannabis and medical marijuana in parts of the US, Canada, and across the world. 

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In tribute to Mead's testimony, we thought it fitting she have the last word. The following quotes have been taken from transcripts of Mead's testimony: 
  

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“It is my considered opinion at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.” 

 

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“We occasionally find a society that will reject anything that leads to any kind of ecstatic state or of people ever getting outside of themselves, but in general man has sought for ways of changing his moods, of making it possible for him to work longer than he could, to stay up longer than he could, to get through a meeting or a tremendous bout of work better than he could have otherwise….In the West Indies, people smoke marihuana to get through a hard day’s work and after they have done the hard day’s work they smoke another bit of marihuana to relax and enjoy the evening.”

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  • Mar 16, 2022
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