Coco Chanel, a smoker, made pockets popular in women’s clothing last century. She created the compartments for her cigarettes.
In 2014, a similar thought process led Jeanine Moss to create accessories company AnnaBis, offering handbags with secret aroma-blocking compartments—perfect for carrying marijuana. Moss, 61, grew up in California and moved to New York in her twenties to work in advertising on Madison Avenue. She did that for decades but in recent years thought a lot about women, marijuana, and secret compartments.
Ladies have special needs when it comes to weed. ”Whether they’re in prohibition states like Texas, or legalization states like California, women value privacy, security, and modesty. They have to be more discreet than men because the stigma surrounding marijuana use is disproportionately leveled at women,” Moss says.
Her customers routinely share horror stories about private items—including but not limited to cannabis and paraphernalia—tumbling out of purses or emitting scents, causing consternation and leading to the purchase of a bag with secret compartments that also blocks smells.
That’s exactly what Moss was counting on when she got into the market. “There’s a $12 billion luxury bag business, and I knew women would like style combined with discretion,” she says.
This isn’t the first time Moss has seen a need and acted. In the 1980s, she began writing a newsletter called Women’s Travel Connections when she realized almost every hotel she visited on her business trips had bad lighting that felt dangerous and “a shoeshine machine for men but no skirt hangers.”
A few years ago, she realized that although marijuana was becoming increasingly legalized, few cannabis businesses were catering to female consumers. So, in 2014, Moss hired a designer who makes baby bags for Coach (and prefers not to share her name), and a manufacturer in China, where the machines and skills to make complex compartments are common.
AnnaBis began selling in November 2015. The bags range in size and price, from small cosmetics containers and clutches at around $70-$100 to purses and cross-body bags at $150-$250. There are leather and vegan options.
Last year, Moss moved back to her home state, marketing accessories with covert spaces to cannabis consuming fashionistas nationally. She also took her previous experience in advertising and new product development and applied it to conducting “nationwide non-scientific but comprehensive mom-and-pop research” on women and weed.
Moss attended conventions, asked questions of consumers and sellers, and surveyed and visited hundreds of head shops and dispensaries. Just two years ago, most were still “sketchy” places that women might avoid, with bulletproof windows, often in dangerous neighborhoods. (Indeed, that’s why another California company, Octavia Wellness, started marketing pot to the elderly in nursing homes.)
Last year, however, many businesses remodeled ahead of the “greenrush“ projected as marijuana goes mainstream, and, Moss argues, women are now visiting dispensaries more. In 2015, only about 25% of dispensary visitors were women, but by 2016 that already rose, consistently, to 40%, based on her informal survey.
Still, that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. “I’ve been around since the sixties. Believe me, women have always been consuming cannabis, all along, with men. We just used to send men out to get it. We didn’t go to the park to buy pot. Old habits die hard,” Moss says.
Her customers are not exactly classic potheads, she points out. Nor are they necessarily ladies known to party. They are mothers taking marijuana for anxiety or carrying it for epileptic children, and professionals—lawyers and doctors who fear losing their licenses, Moss says. The aroma-blocking bags with secret pockets make it easy for these once-unlikely-seeming cannabis consumers to stay organized and discreet.
Plus, they appreciate all the thought she puts into compartments. “It’s not just marijuana,” Moss says. “Women are multi-taskers. We are always juggling and carrying a lot of stuff.”