“The vaporizer is ready. It’s green, it’s good to go,” Coral Reefer says. She’s a 28-year-old woman from Santa Cruz, California, with delicate features and dyed platinum-blond hair; between her gray burnout tank top and tousled hair, she looks like a more laid-back Anna Faris. Coral takes a deep, contemplative hit off her vaporizer, which has a purple base and looks very expensive. She coyly looks into her webcam. “I just love how this thing hits. It’s so smooth,” she says before erupting into a brief fit of coughs. For the next six or seven minutes, Coral sits in her hotel room and talks about her new YouTube video and a cannabis-legalization rally she’s set to attend in Boston. She dabs, which involves vaporizing concentrated marijuana. At one point, she shows us a bag of free toiletries she got from CVS. Like much of the streaming content on Periscope, the broadcast is fairly mundane. But in online cannabis culture, Coral is considered a pretty prominent celebrity: In addition to her popular Periscope streams, she has 175,000 Instagram followers and 117,000 subscribers on YouTube, where she regularly posts footage of herself commenting on cannabis-themed news stories and answering user-submitted questions. Coral is what’s known as a WeedTuber, or a YouTube personality who extolls the virtues of cannabis on YouTube. She’s also one of a growing number of female WeedTubers who stream live on Periscope, which they call #Perismoking. Most of these women are like Coral: in their 20s or 30s, conventionally attractive, and passionate about the therapeutic uses of cannabis. Culturally speaking, the trope of the female pot smoker is a relatively new one, which highlights a disparity between male and female cannabis consumers: According to a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adult men were 50% more likely to have smoked marijuana in the past month than women. Thanks to shows like Broad City and celebrities like Rihanna, however, the image of the laid-back, sexy female stoner is rapidly gaining prominence — not just in stoner culture, but in popular culture in general. Women like Coral who smoke weed on Periscope are attempting to revitalize the image of the traditional pot smoker, from the slovenly hippie to the cute girl next door, who can speak just as eloquently and passionately about state marijuana legislation as about her favorite hybrid strains. Within the cannabis industry, the image of women who regularly smoke weed is fairly one-dimensional: Thanks to Instagram accounts for apparel companies like Bong Beauties and scantily clad models on the covers of publications like High Times, women within the marijuana industry have traditionally been heavily sexualized, relegated to the role of short-skirted “dabtender” at cannabis expos. At first glance, it appears that Coral and her ilk are following in that same tradition: After all, most popular female WeedTubers are, like Coral, young, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive. Additionally, many have been known to post photos of themselves in weed-printed bikinis or booty shorts, or doing bong rips naked, further contributing to the stereotypes associated with women smoking weed.
But women like Coral say that women in the cannabis industry have more of a voice and agency than ever before, and are taking control of their own images. The fact that they have such huge audiences, she says, signals that women’s roles in the industry are rapidly changing. When she started her channel seven years ago, women “weren’t finding networks of women who looked like us and talked like us,” she says. “I think women are [now] standing up for themselves.” Coral lives in California, where medicinal use of marijuana is legal. While no one Refinery29 spoke with for this article had ever heard of someone being banned from Periscope for streaming from a state where recreational marijuana use was illegal, there can be consequences. Earlier this year, suspended Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith was investigated by the NFL for allegedly posting a video of himself smoking weed on Periscope. (While declining to formally comment for this article, a Periscope spokesperson directed Refinery29 to its terms of service, which prohibits users from publishing “media that is intended to incite violent, illegal, or dangerous activities.”) It’s also relatively common for social media platforms like Instagram to remove users’ accounts for posting marijuana-related content, resulting in a fine or even jail time in states with anti-marijuana laws. WeedTuber Ganjalina (who recently rebranded as @ModestMaryJane, but is perhaps better known by her original username), 28, who has almost 100,000 followers on Periscope, says that before she moved to Washington, where recreational marijuana use is legal, she was hesitant to launch her channel because she lived in Alabama, where it is not. Ganjalina, whose real first name is Lina, started smoking marijuana regularly in 2012, when she was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression after being discharged from the army. To hear her tell it, cannabis “opened up a new life for me.” “I wanted to educate myself about it,” she says. “Why was this plant so heavily fought against? What was the motive?” She decided to start streaming on Periscope to connect with other enthusiasts, as well as to speak openly about the positive effects marijuana had on her life. “It’s like having a bunch of smoking buddies online,” she says. Even for those with legitimate medical-marijuana prescriptions in states where such use is legal, there are risks associated with women smoking weed online, particularly mothers. Before she started making videos of herself smoking weed, Kandie, 36, a divorced mother of two who Periscopes as @KandiesKind, started smoking weed regularly in her mid-20s, after she was diagnosed with ADHD and sciatica. Doctors prescribed her pain-relief medications and Adderall, which she said made her into “a zombie.” “I had no control over my emotions. I couldn’t think for myself,” she says. “With marijuana, I’m focused enough to relax, calm down, and do what I gotta do.”
To hear her tell it, cannabis 'opened up a new life for me.'
At first, Kandie was terrified of having any online presence whatsoever, because she thought her ex-husband would use her channel as grounds to get custody of her children. “I thought people would judge me like I was a bad mother,” she says. (In fact, it’s not unheard of for child protective services to take away the children of women who openly smoke weed, even in states where marijuana use is legal.) Eventually, however, after she moved to another state, away from her ex-husband, she decided to launch her YouTube channel and then her Periscope channel. “I just got to the point where I was like, There’s a part of me I’ve been hiding from people, and I want to be open with the world,” she says. “The fact that others were doing it made me not afraid that I would lose my children. I wanted to tell others about the amazing properties of cannabis.” In addition to the potential legal complications of smoking weed on the internet, women also have to contend with comments from trolls. While this is standard for most women on the internet who do pretty much anything, the online hate is compounded by the fact that it’s not uncommon for women who smoke weed on Periscope to show a lot of skin, ostensibly as a way to get more views. (Although XXX platforms like MyFreeCams and Chaturbate prohibit marijuana use on camera, cam girls have also noticed the benefits of adopting a stoner-girl persona: “Guys love big booties and big, smoky hits,” cam girl Goddess GreenEyed, who regularly smokes in her clips, tells Refinery29.) It’s not uncommon to see women on Periscope taking naked bong hits or showing extensive cleavage, presumably as a way to cater to their predominantly male audience. Some, like Kandie, whose most popular YouTube video features her smoking weed in a bikini, have no problem with it. “There are more men out there who want to see women. They want to see what they’re willing to show,” she says. “It’s still a little sexist, but at the same time, in a way, it’s empowering to women because they’re feeling confident enough to put themselves out there.”
Others, like Lina, report feeling immense pressure to cater to male viewers’ conceptions of what a female stoner looks like. Although she started out showing her breasts on livestreams as a way to build her audience, Lina says she later decided to dress more modestly after seeing the types of comments she would get from viewers, asking her to get naked, do private-cam sessions, or even, in some cases, death threats. “Think, ‘Grab 'em by the pussy,’ but worse,” she says of the types of comments she used to receive. While her fan base dwindled, she doesn’t regret it at all. “There are a lot of women getting naked on Periscope, but they should be doing it on proper applications,” such as XXX cam sites, she says. “I’m not hating on whatever lifestyle you choose to lead, but it kinda has built up this expectation that all women are gonna get naked. But when you don’t, or you show someone you have a little bit of intelligence and you’re not just boobs and a pretty face, you get a lot of ugly remarks.” Some of this criticism is from female members of the cannabis community. Coral, who has posted a number of photos on Instagram of herself displaying cleavage or doing bong rips in a bikini, says she’s received a great deal of comments from other women telling her to put her clothes on, or saying that she was perpetuating negative stereotypes about female cannabis enthusiasts. “I have no problem with women sexualizing their own image and taking ownership over it… You can sexualize yourself and share your content without it being a negative for cannabis,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a negative that women are sexual with cannabis. I think it’s only negative if they feel that’s the only way they can represent themselves.” Regardless of the debate over the sexualization of women in the cannabis community, Coral intends to continue running her channel and spreading the gospel of pot as not only a therapeutic tool, but also a tool to enhance general wellness. And if more women are joining her in the fight to normalize cannabis use, more power to them. “Women have been hired to be booth babes and sell bongs for decades,” she says. “But we’re at a point where women can reach a point where they say that’s not what they want to do.” Lina cautions that those who watch certain Perismokers’ livestreams shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the average female stoner. “That’s only a small portion of what the women in the cannabis industry look like,” she says. “But it’s wildly popular, because sex sells.”
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.