Cheri Sicard is a Jack-of-all-trades—or, well, a Jill.
An international circus performer-turned-travel-writer-turned-novelist, she’s penned such books as U.S. Citizenship for Dummies and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Freezer Meals. For her next trick, she’s teaching women to be cannabis connoisseurs—even if they don’t smoke.
Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women is Sicard’s prettiest work to date—a sort of Martha Stewart meets Goop with a side of Pot for Dummies. In the 225-paged mint green and pink text, she gently coaxes females to come out of the “pot closet” and step into the light.
Her goal is simple—to strip away the masculine stereotypes and social stigma that inform other pot books and handle weed in a way that is distinctly feminine. Why? Science. “The plant itself is matriarchal,” she writes in the intro. “After all, it's only the prized flowers from female marijuana plants that we smoke, vaporize, or turn into concentrates or edibles.”
Sicard qualifies herself with a confession early on: she was once one of the pot-averse females she’s now aiming to educate. Save for “the occasional toke” at a party, she hardly touched weed before the age of 40. But when a doctor recommended she try cannabis as a last-ditch effort to cure her chronic nausea, everything changed.
Woven in between long-winded explanations are Pinterest-worthy quotables from strong females who have come out in support of the drug. "It's ridiculous that we continue to incarcerate anyone for using a substance that actually causes far less damage than alcohol," reads one quip from Susan Sarandon. "No one should be jailed for possessing marijuana."
Now a full-on proponent of legalization, Sicard writes intelligently about everything from the 60 cannabinoids that make up cannabis to the tumultuous road that led to prohibition. The 17 chapters offer practical, albeit a bit silly, tips that range from “Yoganja! Healthy Living With Cannabis” to “The Canna Sutra: Buds in the Bedroom.”
Full of “hey little buds!” and cannabis glamour shots, its glossy pages turn what can sometimes be a daunting topic into a fun one. A few chapters in and it’s easy to forget that the drug is still considered by the federal government to be one of the deadliest substances in the world.
Therein lies the point. For Sicard, marijuana isn’t a scary foreign substance; it’s an important part of daily living. “I hear the criticism from people who say it’s not a single issue,” she tells me. “But it touches so many things from the environment to health benefits to civil liberties and racism.”
As far as the Martha Stewart reference? Sicard isn’t opposed.
"I do everything with it," she says of cannabis, mentioning a soap-making party she recently hosted. Hands-on projects in her book range from a "baked" mac-and-cheese recipe to 420-themed yoga class. “I cook with it and use it for health and wellness; I teach about it; I even craft with marijuana. We were making soup with friends—it’s really an amazing plant, there’s so much that it can do.”
But the book has a serious side too, delving into both the history of prohibition and pot's legal status today. One particular chapter, "Weed the people," walks readers through a potential run-in with the cops, offering specific advice on language. “Do not wait to be dismissed,” she writes. “Exercise your rights and say: ‘Officer, are you detaining me, or am I free to go?’”
The legal, more serious aspects are the ones that Sicard is most passionate about. Her own experience with marijuana has propelled her into working with numerous reform organizations, as well as speaking at council meetings and teaching classes about the drug.
Particularly dear to her heart is seeking clemency for prisoners serving life sentences for selling pot.
The book, while at times campy and slightly over-the-top, could prove a much-needed entry for women still wrestling with mixed views on pot. If recent statistics are any indication, the number of women on the fence may be growing. According to December research from the Global Drug Policy Observatory, which studied 2012 ballot initiatives and exit polls, 30-to-50-year-old women were integral to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington. “Research shows that women were the key demographic in these historic marijuana campaigns,” writes co-author of the paper Dave Bewley-Taylor.
“Just as they did when ending alcohol Prohibition, women are repeating history,” says Sicard. “[We’re] making significant contributions to end marijuana prohibition.” Pot may be a woman’s game after all.