SXSW screens “Kiss My Grass,” highlighting struggles of Black women in weed

Kiss My Grass documentary

Revered Austin festival South By Southwest (SXSW) added a cannabis track to its programming in 2018. This year marks the first since its inception without the weed track, instead, conversations about minor cannabinoids and documentaries are scheduled into regular programming.

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Cannabis screenings and sessions may make up a small portion of the event schedule, but selected topics serve to make a felt impact. For example, Kiss My Grass, produced by Kaepernick Media and Juxtapose Studio, shares the truth of industry inequity.

“Most Americans exploring cannabis for the first time today are eating 5mg THC fruit gummies or drinking 2mg THC beverages without any real awareness of who fought on the front lines to make it possible for these products to exist in the first place,” Luke Anderson, founding partner of Juxtapose Studio, said in a statement to GreenState.

Kiss My Grass: a documentary about weed, women, and equality

The documentary touches on exactly who is to thank for cannabis business and how the newly minted space is leaving those who built it behind. Kiss My Grass centers an ongoing issue in the weed: women of color are getting a minute percentage of venture capital funding. If funding is secured, it’s often at less advantageous terms compared to white male counterparts.

The true stories of cannabis entrepreneurs Whitney Beatty, Mary Pryor, Hope Wiseman, and Hilary Yu supported this narrative. Each woman also appeared in a panel at the SXSW screening. Rosario Dawson opened the session, speaking about unwarranted struggles people of color, specifically women, face in the space.

“In a world where people of color have routinely been racially profiled and unfairly punished for possession of cannabis, and even still imprisoned for selling or purchasing this plant medicine, shouldn’t there be hundreds of thriving Black and Brown-owned cannabis businesses,” Dawson questioned in her speech.

“You’ll probably not be surprised to hear that even though billions of dollars in capital have been deployed in the industry, less than 1% of it ever gets to the communities that truly owned it from day one and pushed for its legitimacy. A problematic and outdated story seems to be repeating itself before our eyes.”

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Dawson continued, giving due flowers to Cannaclusive founder and executive producer Mary Pryor, who continues pushing back against systems of oppression deployed against women of color in weed, fundraising, business, and more. Kiss My Grass is one of three cannabis-themed documentaries in the festival.

More cannabis documentaries at SXSW

Cheech & Chong also appeared in Austin this year in preparation for their screening of Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie. The documentary marks the first fully authorized telling of their story, a comedy duo that has stood the test of time since being launched into stoner fame in the 1970s.

Kiss My Grass documentary
Photo by Jason Paredes for Cann Studio

The third and final cannabis documentary screening at SXSW this year is a darker tale. Dickweed tells the story of a Southern California dispensary owner who was wrongly kidnapped and murdered for a million dollars that he never had. While each documentary has its draw, Kiss My Grass producers hope to start a conversation that grows far beyond SXSW.

“Institutional racism and sexism pervade all industries, but they’re far more acute in this niche space where we should be looking at recent history and acknowledging our failures to enable outsized ownership for the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. If we can’t get diversity, equity, and inclusion right in weed, then how the h*ll are we supposed to get it right anywhere,” Anderson probed.

While messages around the plant were more sparing compared to previous years at SXSW, those who made the cut have the potential to make an impact, especially Kiss My Grass. The schedule hosted conversations and highlighted documentaries with the potential to make a change. Now, filmmakers wait with bated breath to see who listens.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.