[Canniseur: I love all the research coming out, but I’m a big fan of holistic medicine. It seems to me isolating carious cannabinoids and finding out their core value is a phase we must travel through. It’s like this is a necessary evil to get to the point where we determine, it’s the whole plant’s medicinal value that matters. Sure maybe we find the strains that are heavy in CBG, but ultimately they probably will work best when the whole plant is consumed.]
If you’ve never heard of cannabigerol, or CBG, you’re not alone. What exactly is this lesser-known cannabinoid, and what makes it special?
Today’s cannabis industry is bursting with acronyms and scientific shorthand that can leave consumers feeling confused. Common parlance allows us to shorten the name of specific cannabinoids, which is why we call tetrahydrocannabinol “THC” and cannabidiol “CBD”. This is definitely a convenient (and necessary) choice, but as the range of cannabinoids we understand continues to expand, it may be difficult to keep them all straight.
If you’ve never heard of cannabigerol or CBG, you’re not alone. CBG is a lesser-known cannabinoid, and any given cannabis plant will likely have far more THC and CBD than CBG in it. Ratios aside, we are beginning to understand what makes CBG special. Before we dive into what makes this type of cannabinoid special, let’s start with a quick science lesson.
What Is CBG? What Makes It Different From THC or CBD?
Despite the fact that CBG often accounts for less than 1% of a plant’s total cannabinoids, both THC and CBD begin as CBGA — the cannabigerolic acid that serves as a parent to a cannabis plant’s three primary cannabinoid lines (THCA, CBDA, and CBCA). As CBGA within the plant is exposed to light and heat, it eventually becomes the two star cannabinoids we know and love: CBD and THC.
Given the above process — in which CBGA is converted into CBD and THC — there is often not much CBG left. Naturally, clever growers and expert horticulturists are experimenting with ways to increase the threshold of CBGA in cannabis plants. As you’ve likely come to understand, each strain produces cannabinoids in different amounts, meaning the right plant paired with varied growing conditions (and a lot of patience) can eventually yield buds rich in CBG.
Some companies have already found success in replicating crops with consistently high yields of CBG. But why are they going to such effort? What’s the value of CBG?
Gallery — Weed Porn and Cannabis Up-Close:
What Are the Benefits of CBG?
OK, one more quick science point: all animals have what’s known as an endocannabinoid system. As MERRY JANE contributor Zoe Wilder put it, the endocannabinoid system is “one of the body’s regulatory mechanisms. It affects numerous biological processes, and is made up of both endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are named such because they are endogenous to our bodies.”
In other words, we are biologically endowed with a system that serves as the motherboard for how we process and experience cannabis.
The old joke used to be that if the cops caught you burning one, you told them you had glaucoma (a group of eye conditions that affect the optic nerve). That’s because glaucoma was one of the first conditions researchers were able to identify as something that could be treated, in part, with cannabis. Studies have found that CBG is especially helpful to glaucoma patients thanks to its status as a vasodilator (aka something that opens or dilates blood vessels).
CBG has also been found — in various stages of study — to provide potential benefit to those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s disease (in which the brain suffers nerve cell degeneration), and as a tool in the fight against cancer. For obvious reasons, CBG’s value as an anti-cancer agent — Italian researchers found promising data to suggest CBG may be able to block the receptors that lead to cancer cell growth — is likely its greatest attribute.
Fortunately, progress on the national reform front is continuing strong. In the interim, it will be up to researchers in the international community — Israel, Canada, Spain, and Uruguay are all doing amazing work — to pick up America’s slack until we can sort ourselves out. For now, there are CBG-rich strains and products in some legal marketplaces.
If all the research above proves true (and it should), we should also expect to be hearing a lot more about this “minor” cannabinoid in the months and years to come.
[Canniseur: Hash is…wonderful. There’s a significant difference between concentrates (hash) and extracts (shatter and oils). Concentrates are like hash; concentrated cannabis, done naturally. Extracts are anything that uses chemicals (other than water) to extract the essence of the cannabis.]
How do you make hash, where did it come from, and why is it popular? If you’ve ever asked yourself this — or attempted to use hot knives to smoke — you’ve come to the right place.
Most tokers are familiar with kief — you know, the stuff that’s collected from cannabis flower once it’s been torn up in a grinder. What you might not know is that kief contains trichomes, or potent crystals, that coat the bud. Trichomes are made of oils and natural plant chemicals that can be compressed and made into something called hashish. This variant of concentrate, which likely originated in Central Asia, is extremely potent because trichomes are loaded with more intoxicating cannabinoids than any other part of the plant.
A Brief History of Hash
Historians believe hash has been around since 900 AD, inarguably making it the concentrate of antiquity. Made by hand, it was — and still is — the modality in which people from India, Morocco, Persia, Lebanon, and Afghanistan tend to favor.
Traditional hash-makers usually rubbed mature buds in their hands until the kief and other natural oils separated from the nugs. The hash-maker’s hands would then be covered in sticky brown puddy made of plant matter and oil. This is when they’d mold the hash together into consumable (read: sellable) amounts. It was most often molded into balls or flat hash coins, in which people would break apart and then smoke.
But the size, shape, and color of hash really depended on where it came from. For instance, in a story MERRY JANE wrote about the history of hashish, writer Randy Robinson explains that “Lebanese-style hashish comes in two forms: red and yellow. Yellow hash is made from plants cultivated at early maturation, when the buds mainly contain THC. Red hash is made from plants harvested later in the grow-cycle, where much of the THC has converted to CBN, which likely contributed to Lebanese red’s sedative effects.”
And the technique used to make this fine Lebanese hash is unique to the area, too. Robinson explains that for red and yellow Lebanese hash, cannabis buds are rubbed over fine screens to separate and collect kief. From there, the kief is stored where it settles and transforms into a sticky, dark chunk of delectable hash.
In India, on the other hand, hash balls known as charas reign supreme. Nicknamed “Temple balls,” this form of hash parallels Lebonese hash. The difference is that Indians only use live plants to run through screens instead of dried plants.
Fast forward several centuries, and weed technology has grown exponentially. Today, new machines allow cultivators to create ultra-concentrates such as waxes, shatters, oils, and rosins. Do people still smoke hash in 2019? Sure. But it is no longer the beloved delicacy it once was.
Why Do People Like Hash?
Compared to shatter that’s been blasted with butane, or wax cartridges made with CO2, hash is a chemical-free, natural concentrate made by the hands of someone who probably loves weed as much as you. Old-school stoners who grew up on smoking straight plant matter love hash. Why? Because they are the purists who believe in the naturalness of marijuana, making them hesitant to delve into the complicated (often chemical-ridden) waxy concentrates sold at modern dispensaries.
Tradition aside, the main appeal of hash is that it produces a vigorously intense high. And what weed lover wouldn’t be down with that? While every hash consumption experience is unique, most people report experiencing a hazier, longer, more drastic high from smoking hash as compared to smoking regular flower. Some even claim that visual and audio perceptionsare skewed after using hash!
Similar to flower, an indica hash high versus a sativa high are drastically different. Usually, when one smokes an indica-dominant hash, you’ll experience a strong couch-lock effect in your body, as well as cerebral effects. Sativa hash will stimulate your creativity, making you feel more euphoric than ever. Regardless of sativa or indica, though, you’re going to be high as hell.
How Is Hash Made? Continued…
When hash is made, the oils and trichomes are separated from the bud, leaving behind a brown-green, sticky substance. Depending on the method used to make the hash, the concentrate’s final form can vary from a powder to a rock-like slab.
The different types of hash are each made in a unique way. For example, making a dry, sifted hash is an easy process that most cannabis consumers can do. All it requires is some bud, a few screens to sift the bud, and something to catch the falling trichomes. This is a quick way of making hash at home. Here are more detailed instructions if you’re so inclined.
Another option is making bubble hash. This process is significantly more complex, but can produce some of the highest-quality hash around. In fact, most of the hash in America (if you can find it!) is bubble hash. If you’re interested in a step-by-step walk-through on doing it at home, you can find that here.
Beyond what you can do yourself, other types of hash take significantly more time and experience to create. Royal Afghani Hash, for example, is made with water or tea, and is typically molded into slabs. Lebanese Hash is even more difficult to make, as its creation process takes several seasons. These other variations of hash are sometimes difficult to find, but if you’re lucky, you can purchase a slab at your favorite licensed dispensary.
How Do You Smoke Hash?
Most tokers enjoy adding little pieces of hash directly to their bowls or joints, creating an all-encompassing high. Hash can also be dabbed, but it can seriously taint your rig: hash usually leaves a chunky, sticky residue on dab nails due to its plant components — mainly waxes and leafy particles.
Gallery — The Stoners of Antiquity:
Hash is a potent, OG form of cannabis concentrate that’s less and less common at a time when dabs, waxes, budders, and shatters are omnipresent. But the cannabis of antiquity won’t be forgotten by veteran weed lovers, especially those who appreciate artisanal, craft cannabis. Sure, the days of hot knives are well behind us — but hash will never be forgotten!
[Canniseur: I’m very happy to see this story. This is normalizing. Parents drink alcohol and society doesn’t say a thing. Cannabis is less debilitating than alcohol, yet when a parent is consuming cannabis legally and it’s discovered, it’s all over the news. An anxious parent is probably not a good parent. If cannabis can relieve anxiety and help moms and dads be better parents, it’s a good thing. In my day, we quit consuming when the kids arrived. i now see it was a mistake and we probably shouldn’t have, but the times they are a changin’. Thankfully.]
Parenting is stressful, obviously. That’s why every parent has different methods of coping to deal with the pressures of childrearing. While some parents choose to pop a Xanax after finishing a bottle of wine, others prefer an alternative route to relaxation — one that (likely) doesn’t turn you into a zombie: cannabis. And since the onset of legalization, a movement of parents have opened up about their consumption.
These canna-moms and dads find that ingesting cannabis — either by smoking, vaping, edibles, oils, or fast-acting sublinguals — allows them to be a better parent because it helps alleviate the anxiety and stress that inherently comes with having a kid.
“I started using cannabis medicinally two years ago after I was diagnosed with anxiety and found that opioids were not working effectively,” says Corey Herscu, founder of RNMKR Agency, a PR firm that works with lifestyle and cannabis brands. He has two daughters under four-years-old, too. Herscu believes using herb has been key in improving his performance as both a parent and an entrepreneur.
“It was the only medicinal solution that helped me see the positive in the obstacles I faced,” Herscu told MERRY JANE. He started using cannabis after discontinuing prescription medications due to their adverse side-effects — around seven months after his first daughter was born.
“Using [cannabis] helps me be more rational with how I evaluate obstacles,” he said. “It’s helped me slow down and reflect on situations. And, most of all, it has helped me be less emotionally-driven with day-to-day tasks.”
Unequivocally, Herscu believes using cannabis also makes him a husband. “Cannabis not only allows me to be in the moment with my children and embrace the positivity that is childhood, but it also allows me to be less emotional about the obstacles that all marriages face.”
Rosi Mason reports never experiencing anxiety until she became a single mom. Mason quit smoking marijuana prior to her son’s birth. But after a year, she began smoking once to twice a day. Her son is now in 4th grade.
“I have a very hard time sleeping and [struggled with] anxiety from being a full-time, working single mom,” she said. “I don’t take medications like Ambien or Xanax, and have no interest in getting a prescription for either of them.”
Mason said that when she skips vaping before bed, she doesn’t get a full night’s rest, which ultimately triggers more anxiety and propels her further into sleeplessness. However, using cannabis prevents that vicious cycle from happening.
“When I wake up anxious, it’s also something my son can feel,” she explained.
As a result, she does not worry about her cannabis consumption. “I don’t smoke while I drive with him in the car [or] when his friends are at my house,” she said. “I limit my smoking to when he’s not home or asleep. I only drink wine when I have friends over, too, but [also] have so many mom friends that drink a bottle a night… Cannabis, on the other hand, is healthier and less dangerous than drinking myself to sleep.”
Like many people, Tommy Stephenson previously did drink himself to sleep every night. The current CTO of TruTrace Technologies is the father of three kids, ages 16, 12, and 9.
“I used to drink a lot of alcohol,” Stephenson confessed, “but around five years ago, I was introduced to dabs and [that’s when] cannabis became more available, and I actually stopped drinking alcohol entirely.”
Stephenson said it’s impossible to feel like himself when he drinks. With cannabis, however, he never has to manage headaches and can just be himself without needing the crutch of alcohol to take the edge off.
“Although I think I was already a great father, [substituting my drinking use with cannabis] really helped me to show my kids that not all parents need to drink, and it’s allowed me to be more present. Where I was once anxious all the time, I am now able to relax, focus, and enjoy our creative time.”
An important factor of being a canna-parent is the way in which a parent speaks to their children about the plant. While some interviewees said they won’t discuss consumption with their kids until they’re in their teens, others are teaching their little ones about cannabis from as young as five or six-years-old.
Cara Luhring, founder of Femme Nuri, an online club that connects women to cannabis, has four children. Two are in their early twenties, and the youngest are five and six-years-old. With the older pair, Luhring and her husband remained completely in the closet until their oldest was 16-years-old. “We would hide in the bathroom with air fresheners, and then shower and [use] cologne before presenting ourselves to the world, including our kids.”
But times have changed, especially since she lives in a state with legal cannabis. “For the second two [children], we have been open, educating them on what cannabis is and why mom uses it,” Luhring said. “They know it is not for kids, just like Tylenol and Advil.”
“We have taught them a reverence for the plant and [have] shown them how it grows from seedlings to sticky buds, as we have other fruits and vegetables in our garden,” she added. “Cannabis has been normalized for them in a way it wasn’t for our older children.”
Still, Luhring is worried about Child Protective Services — or, as she called it, the “Gestapo of the government” — taking away her kids. She stresses about family members finding out and judging her or mistreating her children.
“I don’t want to be labeled as a druggie,” she said, indicating that even though she openly discusses cannabis with her youngest two children, the stigma surrounding the plant still persists, even in states where cannabis is legal.
Shira Adler is a mother doing everything in her power to dissolve the stigma surrounding parents who use cannabis.
“The catalyst was when my son was in residential treatment and was misinformed that all cannabinoids are equally bad — THC is as bad as CBD — that I got fed up,” she said. “That’s when I wrote The ABCs of CBD, which explained why pot is not what we were taught.”
Adler believes we’ve done a disservice to our children by lying to them. “We told them in programs like D.A.R.E. that all drugs are equally bad. No, pot is not as bad as heroin.”
That’s why she believes it’s OK to say to your children something along the lines of, “Mama uses a little bit of this plant to relax, or calm down, or manage physical pain.”
She clarified that it’s also important to tell your children that “it’s not OK for you to use [cannabis] when you’re young because it works differently in the developing brains of children. It is okay to be responsible and use it to help yourself — under proper care — for your anxiety, PTSD, pain, and depression when you’re older.’”
“They listen,” Adler made clear. “They respect you more as a parent. They form a more authentic adult bond with you, and this helps them to make healthier choices for themselves.”
Even though we’ve come a long way since the stringent Reefer Madness-era, a lingering stigma persists for many who use cannabis. And this stigma is amplified for parents. While many parents — the ones uneducated about the plant — may wrongfully believe these canna-moms and dads are unfit to raise kids, these canna-parents have made it clear that, when used appropriately, it makes them superior caregivers.
[Canniseur: OK, I’ve seen every one of these films at least once. Some only once. But all were funny and all of them are a hoot to watch while high. All of these films are classic, OK maybe not, but all are very funny.]
When we think of classic ‘80s teen comedies, various scenes of chaos likely come to mind that involve boobs, beer blasts, and epic pranks pulled off by anarchic adolescents out to score.
With the exception of Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High — who reigns as cinema’s ultimate stoner archetype that’s not named Cheech or Chong — we don’t really think of drugs when with think of vintage campus comedies. Though, we certainly should.
Not only are drugs ingested on-camera in Caddyshack, Valley Girl, and Weird Science, but getting high just to watch these films was — and still is — a typical prerequisite among audiences.
Porky’s, Joysticks, and Risky Business were certainly cosmic hits on the big screen. But they didn’t become classics until teens caught them on cable and/or VHS — over and over again — while puffing bowls around crowded couches and hoping the host’s parents would stay asleep upstairs.
But now there’s no need to stay quiet. That’s why we’re celebrating these ten scenes of drug-centric debauchery from nostalgic high school and college comedies: because the connection between getting high and all-out hilarity is eternal.
“Revenge of the Cheerleaders” (1976) Director: Richard Lerner Cast: David Hasselhoff, Rainbeaux Smith, Patrice Rohmer
David Hasselhoff co-stars in Revenge of the Cheerleaders as a jock named “Boner.” That revelation alone might make you feel like you’ve been dosed, but this low-budget pom-pom blowout is a riot from frame one.
Revenge hits peak raucousness when the pep squad spikes the school cafeteria’s spaghetti sauce with weed, speed, acid, and mystery pills just to make the afternoon’s classes more interesting. After the entire student body and faculty get apocalyptically wasted, topless disco dancing erupts in the locker room and a soapsud orgy breaks out in the football team’s shower.
“Animal House” (1978) Director: John Landis Cast: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Donald Sutherland
Set in 1962, Animal House takes place a few years before drugs positively transformed both college campuses and society itself, back when marijuana still seemed like a terrifying zombie narcotic to mainstream America.
That’s why it’s such a bold leap when clean-cut sorority lads Boone (Peter Riegert) and Pinto (Tom Hulce), along with curious coed Katie (Karen Allen), take up the offer when English teacher Dave Jennings (Donald Sutherland) asks, “Do you want to smoke some pot?”
The puffing professor proceeds to blow Pinto’s mind by telling him to contemplate the possibility that an entire micro-universe might exist inside one atom on his fingernail. We’ve all been there, and every pothead can relate to Pinto’s reaction when he inquires, “Can I buy some pot from you?”
“King Frat” (1979) Director: Ken Wiederhorn Cast: John DiSanti, Charles Pitt, Dan Chandler
King Frat is an explosive Animal House rip-off that aims to outdo all other college comedies in terms of berserk behavior. And, in many ways, it does just that. Case in point: the plot hinges on — not one, but two — “big fart contests” that the movie’s hero, J.J. “Grossout” Gromboski (John DiSanti), trains for like the Rocky Balboa of gas-blasting.
The mayhem takes flight immediately in King Frat, with Grossout and his Pi Kappa Delta bros tooling around the campus of Yellowstream University in their broken-down hearse. These beasts howl, belch, toss empty beer cans out of windows, and repeatedly drop their drawers to moon all passersby — including the school’s dean while he’s out for his afternoon jog.
Once the dean catches site of these goons aiming their bare butts at them, he has a heart attack and drops dead on the spot. At the dean’s funeral service, the Pi Kappa Deltas sneak into church and pump weed smoke through the ventilation system, getting the mourners so loaded that all they can do is crack up when the dean’s body tumbles out of the casket.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) Director: Amy Heckerling Cast: Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh
When it comes to perma-zonked, party-hearty, surf-dude ganja-lords, all contenders — both on-screen and off — must answer to Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. From the moment somebody describes him as being “stoned since the third grade” Spicoli is pure marijuana movie magic.
Spicoli’s peak puffery occurs while he’s on the phone with Eric Stoltz, whose character is simply called “Stoner Bud.” To prove the potency of a bong-load he inhaled, Spicoli slams himself repeatedly in the head with a brand new Vans slip-on and happily declares, “That was my skull!”
“The Last American Virgin” (1982) Director: Boaz Davidson Cast: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Joe Rubbo
Before it’s a shock, The Last American Virgin uproariously chronicles an endless quest for kicks pursued by three high school horndogs: studly Rick (Steve Antin), plus-size party animal David (Joe Rubbo), and the unsexed protagonist, Gary (Lawrence Monoson).
After taking home a trio of girls with the promise of drugs they don’t have, the would-be Romeos improvise by passing around a plate of Sweet’N Low chopped into lines. Everybody snorts up the fake sugar and pretends to be really, really into it.
“Zapped!” (1982) Director: Robert J. Rosenthal Cast: Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Scatman Crothers
When people ask if teen movies from the ’80s could be made in the woke atmosphere of 2019 — the answer is fuck no. Just consider Zapped!, a spoof of the telekinetic teen horror classic Carrie (1976), wherein Scott Baio plays a high school science nerd who accidentally develops a power to pop the tops off of passing females with his mind.
Willie Aames co-stars as Baio’s best friend, an enterprising weed dealer who grows hyper-potent pot in the campus chemistry lab. At one point, the entire crop gets tossed into the school furnace. That’s when Scatman Crothers, as a lovabe crusty gym teacher, inadvertently inhales the inferno’s smoke and hallucinates about riding bikes with Albert Einstein and his angry wife bombarding him with salamis.
“The Party Animal” (1984) Director: David Beaird Cast: Matthew Causey, Timothy Carhart, Suzanne Ashley
The Party Animal may be the most full-blown teen comedy of the ’80s—which, yes, is saying something. Look no further than the sequence in which local yokel Pondo Sinatra (Matthew Causey) attempts to impress pogo-dancing punks at a campus party with his ability to ingest drugs in quantities that could supply entire cartels.
Pondo wanders into the proceedings with a six-foot bong and a duffel bag packed with treats. He dumps about five pounds of pot on a table, rolls a joint the size of a hoagie, and inhales hard. He then swallows an industrial-sized tub of pills and consumes a foot-long sheet of acid before whiffing up massive heaps of cocaine that would give even Tony Montana a nosebleed. When Pondo’s crash comes — oh, yes — it comes hard.
“Better Off Dead” (1985) Director: Savage Steve Holland Cast: John Cusack, Diane Franklin, Curtis Armstrong
The cleverly cartoonish Better Off Dead stars John Cusack as Lane Meyer, a lovelorn high school skier, and Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) as Charles De Mar, his perpetually scheming, coke-happy best pal.
Charles De Mar, in fact, joneses so severely for nose candy that at one point he snorts Jello in the school cafeteria and then later loses his mind attempting to inhale all the literal snow on a mountain at the local ski lodge.
“The Breakfast Club” (1985) Director: John Hughes Cast: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson
As the defining milestone by quintessential ’80s teen filmmaker John Hughes, The Breakfast Club is beloved by multiple generations for its heartfelt comedy, dramatic candor, and enjoyably silly moments.
This character study of five high school “types” trapped in all-day detention also represents a revolutionary moment in Hollywood’s depiction of cannabis consumption on screen.
After tormenting one another for hours, the Breakfast Club teens spark up a joint and pass it around. In short order, they let loose, open up, laugh, cry, and connect with one another in ways that were previously impossible. It’s a powerful cinematic salute to how getting high can bring humanity together.
“Teen Wolf” (1985) Director: Rod Daniel Cast: Michael J. Fox, Jerry Levine, Lorie Griffin
Before it was an angsty horror MTV series, Teen Wolf began as one of the ’80s great goofball comedies. Michael J. Fox stars as Scott Howard, a high school basketball star who occasionally sprouts fur and goes howling.
One afternoon, while his friend Stiles (Jerry Levine) is searching for a weed stash buried somewhere in his garage, Scott transforms into his teenage werewolf persona and uses his heightened canine sense of smell to sniff out where the pot’s been placed.
“Dazed and Confused” (1993) Director: Richard Linklatter Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochrane, Parker Posey
Set on the last day of high school in 1976, Dazed and Confused is like a long, strange dope high, loaded with characters who start the movie by getting buzzed and only up-the-ante from there.
Eventually, stoner supreme Rod Slater (Rory Cochrane) enthralls his puffing-and-passing pals with an amazing marijuana monologue about how America’s founding fathers belonged to a UFO cult, George Washington farmed (and smoked) massive fields of marijuana all over the 13 colonies, and Martha Washington (that “real hip lady”) always had a “fat bowl” ready for her husband upon his arrival home every night.
[Editor’s Note: The women of cannabis lean towards social equity being supported by businesses, as cannabis marketing products furthers its normalization.]
Are cannabis companies genuinely concerned with self-care and wellness? Or is this just another consumerist marketing tool that preys on women’s insecurities?
A new type of weed marketing is emerging as legal cannabis barrels into the mainstream. You could call it the Goop effect: appealing to wealthy women, it is centered around the oh-so-trendy concept of “wellness.” Spend some time lurking around the corners of Instagram dominated by female-oriented weed companies, and you’ll immediately get the vibe: the products range from essential oils to crystal pipes to CBD tinctures (…so many CBD tinctures!); color tones are muted, feminine pastels and Millennial pink; and the attitude is relentlessly cheerful positivity.
The wellness market is booming: according to Fast Company, in the last two years, it’s grown 12.8% to become a $4.2 billion industry that includes everything from organic beauty products to yoga retreats in exotic locations. While the term “wellness” is so broad that it can be kind of an ambiguous catch-all, Merriam-Webster defines it as a state of well-being achieved through deliberate action, rather than just surviving. In other words, a wellness-oriented lifestyle is about proactively practicing good habits, not just for physical health, but for spiritual and mental reasons, too.
As nice as all of that sounds, wellness can also be seen as a consumerist marketing tool that preys on women’s insecurities, mainly by insinuating that there is always something wrong with us that we can fix — for a price. As The Atlantic’s James Hamblin wrote in an article titled “The Art of Woke Wellness,” “The implicit allure of such products was that we were not okay, or at least could be better.”
As the cannabis industry moves into the wellness industrial complex, it has picked up some of its most annoying traits: overusing buzzwords like “mindfulness,” “energy,” and “inflammation” — as well as making health claims based on dubious pseudoscience. It’s like cannabis brands are trying to have it both ways: claiming scientific-sounding health benefits whenever it’s profitable, while still positioning themselvesas a holistic alternative to traditional medicine.
Last month, I attended a panel called “Goop-ification: The Impact of Cannabis on the Wellness Industry,” which was part of a “Women in Cannabis” conference organized by feminist creative agency Limone Creative at LA’s Ace hotel. All five panelists were young female cannabis entrepreneurs operating in the wellness space, and I wanted to know what issues these industry insiders were concerned with in regards to this fast-growing marketing trend, and what unexpected challenges they might be facing.
The panel took place at the Ace Hotel, after several other talks and a mid-afternoon sound bath. The young, majority-female, and racially-diverse crowd was far more chic than the other suit-heavy, heavily-male cannabis conferences that I’ve been to this year; these were the types of women who paired tailored blazers with frayed denim and statement jewelry, and looked like they’d drink cocktails at the hotel’s rooftop bar. Moderated by Victoria Hoff, the Wellness Editor of beauty website Byrdie, the panelists included Charlotte Palermino, co-founder and editor of cannabis magazine Nice Paper; Beryl Solomon, who runs an online CBD emporium called Poplar; cannabis chef Andrea Drummer of Food Elevated; and Olivia Kenney and Marykate Schneider, who just launched a CBD vape company called Essential Pods.
To my surprise, the women’s conversation almost immediately turned to a reckoning with their own privilege. “We’re standing on their shoulders of hundreds of people who’ve been incarcerated and traumatized,” said Kenney. “We can’t be like, ‘this [product] is so cute!’” Palermino cited a piece of Mitch McConnell-spearheaded legislation that blocks people with cannabis felonies from growing hemp. “There are still people rotting in jail [for cannabis offenses] and that’s a really big problem,” she said. “It’s a responsibility for companies to pay it forward, because you’re going to make money off this. You can’t just be like, ‘this is a great wellness product!’ when it’s run by two dudes funded with investor money.”
Solomon nodded. “Cannabis is an industry that exceptionally needs to pay it forward,’ she agreed. “Being a white woman is an exceptional privilege, and sometimes we get caught up in our bubble.” Solomon confessed that she’s interested in bail reform and creating jobs for ex-felons — but getting nonprofits to respond to her emails has been a challenge. Turning to the audience, she earnestly pleaded with anyone with contacts to get in touch.
The conversation then shifted into how wellness marketing is helping to normalize weed, through appealing to a broader, more sophisticated audience. After all, cannabis’ move into wellness is particularly striking because it requires a paradigmatic shift away from thinking of weed not as a self-destructive, lazy, and escapist “drug,” and instead as a luxury product that belongs among the perfume bottles and expensive face creams on your dresser.
“I don’t feel relatable to these masculine weed products, with their aggressive lingo, and silver and black Monster Energy Drink [aesthetic],” said Kenney, praising the “classy, well-done typography” of the modernized and feminine weed aesthetic. Palermino chimed in, noting that their world also has its own set of cliches: “If I see another regram of a [cannabis] leaf against a Millennial pink background…,” she lamented, trailing off with a laugh.
Several panelists admitted that better science is needed to catch up to the hype around booming trends like CBD. “There’s an overwhelming distrust [of cannabis] within the medical community, but I think that will change because we’re having an open dialogue about its capacity to heal,” said Drummer. For now, she echoed a sentiment that I’ve heard repeated at other panels focused around women and weed: that the onus is on the consumer to educate themselves on the brands they choose to support. To borrow the industry’s choice lingo, perhaps it’s time to be more “mindful” about where you put your money.