An Unapologetic Black Woman Who Is Bringing Art & Sisterhood To The Cannabis Industry
In talking about health and wellness we very rarely speak about the cannabis industry when in fact we should! Cannabis is a natural drug that has been healing properties for medical and recreational world. However, often times women (especially WOC) are left out of the conversation and man Black and POC in general are criminalize for its use (See our feature on racism and inclusion)
So we interviewed Maya Shaw who is the founder of SHAW. BK - an online lifestyle shop for women cannabis enthusiasts. All of the items sold in my shop are hand crafted by women artisans to help destigmatize the female identity in the cannabis industry.
CHECK OUT THIS INTERVIEW:
When and why did you start SHAW BK?
I started SHAW. BK a few months ago (the shop launched May 26th to be exact) but, I have been working on the concept of SHAW. BK for 1 year. I have always indulged in the usage of cannabis… mainly smoking weed, and I couldn’t find a place in the culture where I felt comfortable. Everything I saw was either inauthentic (you expect me to smoke out of that?!) or too headshop-y for me - I love art and beautiful things and I wanted the items I used during a smoke session to match that. So I had this idea and I shared it with a friend who told me to just make my own thing… so I did! I’m a huge believer in the idea that if you see a gap you fill it!
From your vantage point, how do you see the evolution of the cannabis industry?
In just the one year SHAW. BK has been alive I have seen such a dynamic shift! It’s everywhere which is great… and also comes with it’s lows. It is great that cannabis is a topic people are comfortable openly discussing. I love talking about cannabis and I love creating a comfortable space for people to do so. But, then you see Vogue writing articles featuring thin white, blonde women saying that cannabis is the new trend… or you see magazine covers talking about cannabis and the people they interview are rich, well connected white men and women. It gets a little messy. Especially when the war on drugs has destroyed (and continues to destroy) so many communities of color who are not being interviewed and are not getting the press they deserve. It is a shitty feeling. My intention with SHAW. BK is to bridge both the necessary groundwork with beautiful art to help destigmatize the plant and who the cannabis consumer is… especially for women users who are stereotyped as either a sex object, a marketing tool or a joke.
With that said we still have a long way to go. Canada’s push to country wide legalization has been an amazing achievement and gives hope to all. We will be watching them closely to see how things go: are they fair and just? Are they keeping it small or are big corporate companies coming in just to make a profit off of this wonderful healing plant? So much is up in the air. It is up to the consumer and the small business owners to stay on top of it and stay alert, educated and vocal.
Why is it important for you have a space featuring only women owned products?
I recently saw a tote bag that said something around the lines of “Men have made a lot of bad art” and, oh wow, I died laughing. It is so true! There is so much shit out there that men have made and profited off of just because they can. They hold “power” (or some concept of it) and spaces are always open to them. If a woman makes art or anything honestly it has to be out of this world to get the same recognition that a man would get.
So, I decided that with my shop I would only have things created by women because I want to be that open space for women to support each other and to share what they are up to. I’m down for anything too - not just smoking accessories. I’m here for the art, furniture, crafts, candles… anything! In the cannabis world it is important to me because, once again, I see companies using women for their branding just to get the woman dollar. There is a company that makes pipes that is owned by a man, but, only uses women in his marketing and photoshoots - it feels fake, it feels as if the woman is as equal a prop as the pipe. That is not okay, I don’t want to buy from brands like that and I know I’m not alone. I’m a sister and I support my sisters, point blank.
Does being a Woman of Color influence your brand? If so how?
Being a woman of color influences everything - especially as a black woman. I hardly see someone who looks like me in a lot of the things I love, especially in the cannabis and art world. It still cracks me up when I enter meetings and I can see in their faces that they are shocked I’m a black women because the expectation isn’t so. The general stereotype for black women is that we can’t free, choice making individuals with voices or ideas, we know this isn’t true! I want my brand to be a huge stand for that, I want to be the proof of that.
The main way it influences my brand is through the artists I collaborate with who are mainly women of color - it just happens naturally. That inclusion is a huge part of sisterhood.
Where do you see the future of the cannabis industry?
I see weed legal for recreational use in New York in about 4 years or less. I see the rest of the country catching up slowly. What I hope is that states can recognize that the legalization of this plant means tax money that can solve issues. I’m from Richmond, VA where the public school system is failing. Legalization could mean better schools… I want people to see the bigger picture and I want people to think for themselves and not what they have been conditioned to think. I have powerful hopes for the future and it is up to us- the consumers, the growers, the business owners to fight and to continue to be a stand for what we believe is right.