What Does a Woman Pothead Look Like?

Onscreen portrayals of weed-smoking women are changing fast, but they still need to catch up to reality

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are breaking down stoner stereotypes on 'Broad City.' Credit: Comedy Central

Don't get Jane West started on Seth Rogen. West – the co-founder of Women Grow, a professional network for female cannabis entrepreneurs – is no fan of the monopoly that stoner bros seem to have on pop culture. You know the type: Cheech and Chong, The Dude, the guys from Friday and Mall Rats and Half Baked, and, of course, Rogen, the current cinematic standard-bearer of the bong-hitting, heavy-lidded, very male tribe. "Seth Rogen makes millions of dollars propagating the entire image of what a stoner is," West says. The problem with that image is that it happens to ignore the wide world of female potheads.

Women like West have been delighted by the success of Comedy Central's Broad City, starring comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. "I love that Abbi and Ilana are the counterparts to the bromance that's happening in current cannabis media," West says. Jacobson and Glazer's on-screen alter egos are aimless, harebrained heroines – and proud stoners – in a fantastical version of New York. Awkward, weird and pleasantly crude, they are the inverse of dainty Sex and the City types. Abbi and Ilana hide weed like drug mules (see Season 1's "Pu$$y Weed"). They vape in coatrooms. They put pot in chocolate graham cracker sandwiches. They get stoned in NYC's parks and on its street corners. In one uncomfortably hilarious Season 2 episode, Abbi actually smokes weed with Seth Rogen himself, and then unwittingly date-rapes him.

Like all stoners, Abbi and Ilana live in a state of hazy, suspended disbelief. While women everywhere else are working for equal pay, breaking glass ceilings and leaning in, Abbi and Ilana somehow find the time and money to lean back, inhale, exhale and get super-high. It's a beautiful gift to the comedic genre – even if most people who get stoned in the real world don't have the luxury of becoming full-time stoners.

Broad City is the boldest rebuttal yet to a decades-long tradition of men, and only men, getting high on screen. Smoking weed was an activity relegated to dark, dingy living rooms with sunken-cushioned couches, hazy lighting, greasy old pizza boxes and half-dressed dudes taking bong rips. It was a world where women were either unwanted interlopers or juicy stoner-chick accessories, passively scoring weed from the guys who allowed them to be present. If a woman ever was portrayed smoking pot in the media, she was all thighs and cleavage, lips and lacy lingerie – think High Times cover girls or pouty-mouthed, midriff-baring Milla Jovovich in Dazed and Confused.

There were exceptions that let women have moments of blazing glory. The ladies of the First Wives Club smoked up while they talked shit about their exes. Brenda Blethyn grew weed to dig herself out of a debt hole in Saving Grace. Anna Faris ate too many cupcakes in Smiley Face. Even on Sex and the City, Kim Catrall's Samantha sparked the occasional pre-coital joint in satin underthings. Perhaps most heroically, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin shared a very memorable revenge joint as they planned their boss's demise in 9 to 5.

Today, with marijuana legalization slowly becoming a reality in the United States, a new demographic of cannabis consumers is coming into focus. It's people with chronic pain. It's adults with anxiety. It's mothers with children. It's girlfriends going out to dinner on the weekend. It's anyone who needs to unwind at the end of the day. It's everyone but stoners as we traditionally imagine them. Maybe that's the bigger issue with the way we depict marijuana users on TV and in movies – stoner burnouts of any gender are an outdated stereotype.

Jane West's businesses represent a whole sector of weed-smoking women who don't rock pot-leaf T-shirts, light up three-foot bongs or celebrate 4/20 as a national holiday. "It's not a culture I relate to," she says of these hokey institutions. "There's something about the whole look and feel of what they are presenting as cannabis culture that is not helping."

At some point, most potheads grow up, get jobs, find our own dealers, and get high at night before waking up for work the next morning. We can't all be Abbis and Ilanas for the rest of our lives. If West is the new face of cannabis consumers, the onscreen representation of her client base is going to need a serious facelift.