STORIES

Filmmaker Windy Borman Discusses Women in Cannabis

By David Jenison on September 15, 2017

Windy Borman knows how to make an entrance. Her debut film The Eyes of Thailand won 10 festival awards and countless accolades profiling Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE), a 200-acre hospital in Thailand that builds prosthetics for elephants injured by landmines. Borman then produced the award-winning The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia that took on the myths and stigma associated with the widespread learning disorder. “Throughout all of my work,” says the filmmaker, “constant themes of education, empowerment, social justice and sustainability are always important, and because I'm a woman, my point of view on the world is female.” 

This perspective inspired Borman’s latest film, Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, which explores female entrepreneurs in the rapidly growing cannabis market. The feature-length documentary, which Borman produced and directed, includes more than 40 female leaders in the cannabis field interviewed in places like dispensaries, bakeries, medical facilities and hemp fields. Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon and Melissa Etheridge support the project, and the latter artist appears in the film. Mary Janes will have its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in San Rafael, California on October 8, followed by its east coast premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival the following week. Check out a trailer for the film here

PRØHBTD spoke with Borman (on the left in the image below) about Mary Janes, gender disparity and how female leadership can positively impact the cannabis movement. She also unloaded a big surprise about her first cannabis experience. 

How do you see the role of women in the cannabis industry right now? 

The documentary was inspired by a statistic that said 36 percent of senior leadership in the cannabis industry is made up of women. Compare that to the national average of 22 percent. The [disparity] is even more disappointing in the financial industry with 12 percent and the film industry with around 10 percent. I knew there had to be a reason why women were leaving careers in other sectors to join the cannabis market. After speaking with more than 40 women from 10 different states over the past year, I learned that these women saw an opportunity to build an industry from the ground up and to do it right. This has never been done before. Women have an opportunity to instill corporate social responsibility into the ground floor of all of their businesses, which is fabulous because cannabis started as a movement. I think businesses need to keep the heart of the movement alive and to respect the social activism that brought us to the point we are at now. 

What are tangible benefits of having women in senior leadership roles?

One of the benefits is the corporate culture they create. Instead of installing a pyramid where the CEO at the top makes a hundred percent more money than everybody else, women tend to take a collective or committee mindset on the businesses. I also saw a lot of support and teamwork between businesses that would be considered competitors on paper. Maybe they both sell concentrates or edibles, but there's this agreement among the leaders that a rising tide lifts all boats. So if my competitors succeed, we all succeed because we created more jobs and more patients are getting medicine. When we see these successes, the national conversation starts to change as people focus on the positive aspect of the industry instead of the negative stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood. 

What is a belief you held before talking to these women that changed after speaking with them?

Well, I'm finally curious to try cannabis after hearing all this research. 

What?

I've actually never tried cannabis. I grew up in the D.A.R.E. generation, and we were told cannabis is a gateway drug that causes addiction. Now I've seen this can really be a health and wellness product, even if you are just using it for relaxation instead of drinking wine or taking Ambien. I plan to have my first experience with a group of cannabis godmothers and then include it in my own routine. 

Did you say cannabis godmothers?

Yes, cannabis godmothers are women who can help guide me in that first experience to ensure it is safe and positive. 

Who are some of the women you speak with in the documentary?

We took an analytical view, not just a political view, as to which women would make up aninteresting cross section of the industry. We interviewed lawyers who helped write the ballot initiatives in states like California and Massachusetts. We spoke with Jane West and Jazmin Hupp, the co-founders of Women Grow. We spoke to women doctors prescribing cannabis to their patients. We talked to cannabis industry advocates and organizations like NCIA, the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. One of our main characters is Betty Aldworth, who was part of the team that helped pass Amendment 64 in Colorado. She’s now the Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. She's taking activism to a new level by educating and empowering the next generation. We wrapped production with an amazing interview with Melissa Etheridge. I had always looked up to her as an artist, advocate and activist, and it was fabulous to hear how cannabis helped her overcome breast cancer. It really enlightened her about the benefits and possibilities of plant medicine. 

Among your many credits, you produced and directed a stage version of The Vagina Monologues.

Yes, I produced and directed The Vagina Monologues at the University of Oregon. Women who saw it probably walked out inspired and happy that they were women, and if you were a male ally who happened to be at the play, you were probably very grateful to have women in your life. That play is an example of the types of projects I've done in the past that highlight women's perspectives. It was also inspiring because it raised money to end violence against women in the community.

You also taught in the South Bronx for a couple of years. How did that experience shape your worldview?

After teaching middle school in the South Bronx, my definition of chaos is a little bitdifferent. I'm pretty unflappable on a film set now. I had visions of going to film school to get a master's degree, but I was told they don't take you seriously until you're at least 25, so I decided to do something else first. Using my social justice and gender-parity background, I joined Teach for America, and they placed me in the South Bronx where I taught middle school drama and dance for two years. It was amazing. There's something about going to work every day knowing that today's the day you could make a difference in someone's life. I like to think that my films carry some of those same goals to educate and empower people to think about the world differently.

Anything else you to want to add?

One of my goals is to recognize that the cannabis industry started as a movement, and I would hate to see the industry lose its heart along the way because everyone is now focused on profits. I don't see a need for people to have half a million dollars in the bank or to pay professional lobbyists in order to get licenses. That prohibits people from underprivileged and under-resourced communities from entering the industry. I would hate to see this movement go back to putting more money in the pockets of rich white men. This industry was built by activists and on the backs of people of color who went to jail at higher rates than their white counterparts. The plant is a female plant, so we should have female leadership involved in the creation and the shaping of where this industry goes.

David Jenison (david@prohbtd.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Images provided by (c) Green Mile Pictures, LLC.


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