What do you think of when you hear the word "cannabis"? A vape, a tincture, an edible? The eight states (and counting) that have already legalized recreational marijuana? Cannabis culture is in the midst of a major transformation, and the "green wave" is fast becoming part of mainstream America. Jessica Assaf, a Harvard Business School grad, entrepreneur and cannabis activist, knows it and wants to help empower women to capitalize on and benefit from the trend.
That's why Assaf launched an organization called Cannabis Feminist, which aims to create a community for women to safely explore cannabis and its benefits. Fittingly, today, on 4/20, Assaf is also launching a new line of wellness products, Magu, which according to the tagline offers "cannabis-infused elixirs for the female mind, body and soul."
"I want to reach women who haven’t yet considered that cannabis could help them, who still think it’s a drug and not a health product," says Assaf. "We need to cross the barrier of judgment and bring people together in a safe space where we can have an honest, open discussion about cannabis. With Magu, I want to make cannabis a part of women's wellness, spiritual and relaxation rituals."
Intrigued? Still skeptical? Assaf gets it. And she's here to explain why she believes that cannabis will soon be an integral part of women's lives, whether it's as a physical healer, mood booster or a business opportunity.
SheKnows: How and why did you get into the cannabis and wellness industry?
Jessica Assaf: I've been a clean beauty advocate since I started wearing makeup and reading product labels at age 12. After graduating from business school last year, I realized that clean beauty as a trend is already thriving, but cannabis in terms of wellness isn't, so I had the chance to get involved while the industry is underdeveloped.
A lot of people at business school didn’t take me seriously, categorizing me as the biggest stoner there. I remember giving a presentation to a room of people, and one man said, "Your body language is too girly; you should practice in front of a mirror." I want to show women that you don’t have to fit into a certain mold to create something new; nor do you have to go by the way things have traditionally been done.
SK: What do you hope to accomplish through Cannabis Feminist?
JA: I want to bring women together in a space where we get high together and have an honest, open and responsible discussion about our lives, businesses and health. I created cannabis networking events for people to connect on a comfortable, safe spiritual level. As women in the space, we have the opportunity to change the conversation around cannabis. There’s all this confusion and concern about what’s OK, but at the end of the day, it’s about your well-being, and I think it's ours to define how we use it.
One of the biggest misconceptions I'd like to change is that you can’t generalize how cannabis affects you. Anyone who says it makes them feel lazy or anxious or tired is talking about a specific strain of cannabis, not the plant as a whole. I get frustrated hearing from people who say they don't like it, and instead use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate — I want to give them the opportunity to try more products before writing it off.
Either way, you have to give it a few tries before making any judgment about your experience. Whether you use sativa or indica or something else, it can function as a thousand different medicines that you have to wiggle through to figure out what works best. Many people who use cannabis safely and in moderation argue that it helps you get a bird's-eye perspective on any situation, giving you some healthy distance and empathy at the same time. In my opinion, it's like a little confidence boost — like having your best friend with you.
SK: What's your vision for Magu, your cannabis beauty line that launches today?
JA: I've been wanting to launch a cannabis-derived beauty line for the last five years, but there were limits on what I could do legally. I moved to California and was doing all this research and came across this character called Magu, who's the goddess of cannabis in Chinese mythology. She's the symbolic protector of women and life, associated with transcendence and mortality. I decided to name my beauty line after her to bring that idea and positive perception back to life.
Magu Beauty is a line of organic products activated with CBD, aka cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that has anti-inflammatory and other medical benefits, but doesn't get you high. We're designing the entire supply chain so that every piece is controlled by women, from the farmers to the lawyers, so that female consumers will have more trust in what they're using. I believe that women should be the ones creating products for women, as well as the standards we uphold.
While most of the evidence for CBD's health benefits is anecdotal rather than research-based, it's said to help with pain, sleep, anxiety and even antiaging. Magu will offer topical herbal sprays, single-ingredient facial oils infused with CBD flower, facial moisturizers and body butters, lip treatments and more. Women will be able to customize and control how many milligrams they get per use, so they can start slow.
SK: For a woman who wants to exploring cannabis as a wellness aid, where would you tell her to start?
JA: Right now, Magu products feature cannabis-derived CBD oil — rather than hemp CBD — so we can’t sell products online yet, only at select locations in California. We want to better understand the benefits of cannabis using real insights from women, so we launched a cannabis survey to begin aggregating data about how people are using cannabis, and we'd love to hear from you. Our goal is to turn personal anecdotes into meaningful statistics since there are so few clinical trials out there right now.
We created a welcome kit — which anyone in the U.S. can buy since it features hemp products, rather than cannabidiol — so we can match people with the best products for their needs and follow up with a survey so we can evaluate product efficacy and improve our recommendations. Even if you live somewhere where recreational cannabis use isn't legal yet, you can join the Cannabis Feminist movement and community, give and get feedback, and find out if you're eligible to test products with us.
We're also bringing back the Tupperware Party concept in which women will come together to sample and buy products directly from female producers rather than everyone buying from just one brand. We're calling it The Bake Sale, and think it will help better position women to lead this industry.
While legal and social standards are still catching up, I hope and believe that one day soon women — and the rest of the world — will think of cannabis more like a cup of coffee than a glass of wine and use it as the incredible and powerful healing tool that it is.