Dissertation Title:

Cannabis, Women, and the Body: The Lived Experience of Long-Term Use


Shelby A. Messenger

Date, Time & Place:

June 5, 2023 at 2:00 pm


The current body of cannabis literature is predominately rooted in the Western medical model and based in ideas of pathology and medicalization. A negative bias permeates the literature and use that falls outside the bounds of Western medicine remains poorly understood, yet some emerging and qualitative research suggests that there are reasons for use and outcomes of use that evade clinical understanding. Women’s cannabis use is on the rise, but women are scarcely reflected in the literature. Utilizing interpretative phenomenological analysis, this research sought to describe and understand the lived experience of women’s cannabis use from a holistic and embodied perspective. Findings detail the experience of five Humboldt County women who report good physical and psychological health and a positive relationship with their near-daily, long-term cannabis use. Although this research is embedded in a somatic and depth psychological framework, it also draws from the fields of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, molecular biology, and others to position and examine research data. Findings reveal that near-daily use supports physiological, psychological, spiritual, and relational well-being for this study’s population of consumers. The broader social context is also examined, and participants shed light on the unfolding crisis within California’s legal cannabis industry. Our public institutions continue to rely on biased, inaccurate, and outdated research with significant limitations, which has contributed to the formation and upholding of drug policy that disproportionately harms people of color, women, and resource-poor individuals. Federal legalization is on the horizon, and it is imperative that the academic literature reflect the depth and breadth of the experience of cannabis use.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology with Specialization Somatic Studies, S, 2016
  • Chair: Dr. Jonathan Erickson
  • Reader: Dr. Danielle Wise
  • External Reader: Dr. Amanda Reiman
  • Keywords: Cannabis, Women And Cannabis, Cannabis Effects, Embodiment, Interoception, Consciousness, Sun Grown Cannabis, Outdoor Cannabis, California Cannabis, Humboldt County