Cannabis & Main: 'Cannabis [is] Being Normalized in the Mainstream through the Runway, High Fashion, and Haute Couture'

In the latest episode of 'Cannabis & Main,' host Ricardo Baca is joined by Ann Skalski, chief brand officer for Los Angeles-based vapor brand Double Barrel. In a discussion on high fashion, Ricardo and Ann cover how cannabis and style intersect, and the up-and-coming scene around luxury cannabis fashion. 

This season 'Cannabis & Main' is brought to you in part by Fluent Cannabis.

You can check out the latest episode of 'Cannabis & Main' below or download it for free from podcast providers like iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.

Ricardo Baca: Hello, hello, and welcome to Cannabis & Main, a Civilized podcast where we extract one element from today's cannabis scape and go deep. I'm your host, Ricardo Baca, founder of Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded PR Agency. It is so great to be with you all today. You can learn more about this show alongside the marijuana news and cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave from Civilized, found on the worldwide web at Civilized.life.

Now this week we're going to dive deep into cannabis and fashion with a guest who is chief brand officer for a prominent wearable cannabis device that values both form and function. I will be the first to admit that you don't often hear the words cannabis and fashion used together, but that's also starting to change. As we discussed with Forbes journalist Katie Shapiro earlier this season, there is a luxury market emerging within the marijuana and hemp product spaces, and some of that is legitimate fashion. Some of that is decor and some of that's actual weed that doubles as either fashion or decor. I'm not talking about HUF socks and weed leaf teas, I am talking about a vaporizer that fits on your ring finger, doubling as an intoxicating fashion statement and an intoxicating device. It's fun, it's unexpected, it's bold, it's flirty. It comes in matte black, rose gold, and other sheens, and it's part of a revolution that demands that our cannabis technology also please us aesthetically.

Whitney Beatty: I think what we take from fashion and bring into the space is that we're talking lifestyle, we're talking broader context, in the same way that in fashion, Forever 21 is talking to somebody and H&M is talking to somebody. Target in on a demo as a business, urban professionals, females who are between 30 and 60 who are making $75,000 a year or more, that's my target. It's no longer I can just put out cannabis and people are just going to run just because it's there.

Ricardo Baca: Cannabis and fashion. Let's talk about it right here on Cannabis & Main.

Ann Skalski is the chief brand officer for LA-based vaporizer brand Double Barrel. Welcome to Cannabis & Main. It's so good to see you, my friend.

Ann Skalski: Thank you so much for having me.

Ricardo Baca: I love it. It's become a tradition, every time I'm in Los Angeles, we connect.

Ann Skalski: I'm honored, truly.

Ricardo Baca: Let's talk about how we got to this place where these words, cannabis and fashion, once disparate bedfellows that rarely existed in the same sentence, how we got to this place where suddenly it makes sense that there is a legitimate cannabis fashion scene now.

Ann Skalski: It's cool. It's new.

Ricardo Baca: It is new.

Ann Skalski: For me, this idea of rebellion and being true to who you are, and I mean rebellion in the sense of that you rebel against what people are telling you to do, I feel that carves out this space for, it in a way, this moment for consumers, patients, people who love cannabis, people who've never tried cannabis, to kind of delve into this world that the media is super hot for. Fashion, for me, has always been status. It's a way to identify yourself to the world. Cannabis has always been something for me personally that I identify with it. Here I am, a fashion person, a retail person, a consumer goods person, a wellness person, and cannabis and fashion are my two favorite things. For me, it's so natural for this phenomenon to be happening. I get it, I understand it, because I've been thinking about it since I've been 16 years old.

Ricardo Baca: Right.

Ann Skalski: If you are attracted to something, one hopes it's because there's something interesting about it, there's something pure about it, there's something authentic about it, there's something distinctive about it. For me, cannabis has that. It's contagious what's happening right now around cannabis and style in fashion. I struggled with this this morning a little bit, thinking about what I wanted to say to you, in the sense of that we have style which attracts people and also distracts people from the pure reason why I love cannabis so much is that it enhances my life. It saved my life. It's done wonderful things for me. I know that it's done that for other people as well, but for other people, if they want to wear a shirt with a flower on it or carry a device that they identify with because it makes them feel like it's their status symbol of that I'm different, or I believe in this, or the world is changing, this is something good. I'm just really proud to be a part of all of that, but it's something I've acknowledged for 30 plus years. This is inside of me.

Cannabis and fashion, even if I think back to Woodstock and I think where I grew up, actually, the original Woodstock, into the 70s and how influential that era is with what we see today in terms of products and garments and accessories and lifestyle. It's been sort of there, it just hasn't been what it is right now.

Ricardo Baca: It has been and it's evolved, of course, tremendously. One of my favorite things about our conversations together is that you do love fashion, you do love cannabis. I'm curious, we're going to talk about this device, Double Barrel the brand, but before we do, I mean, 30 years ago when you first started thinking about this and consuming, did you wish that there was a more fashion or style conscious way of consuming? Did you ever find yourself thinking about that, back when cannabis was very illegal and a regulated marketplace was very far away?

Ann Skalski: Well, I mean, okay, so you had flower and you had rolling papers. Back then, smoking cigarettes, this whole thing, Hollywood, vogue, models, Europe, Paris, so smoking was cool. It was super chic. I'd throw some red lipstick on, put a beret on, get close up to the mirror and smoke away. I mean, I was in this film noir world, vogue world. It was my world, and my world was beauty and style and cannabis, and I liked it. To answer your question specifically, I did always think like, "This is smelly. I don't like the smell or it doesn't .... It leaves my fingers smelling odd," or something like that. I did think that I wish I had a more proper or a more civilized way of consuming this flower, something that lived up to the other things that I would have in my room on my dresser.

I didn't know what that should be. I would like something that was a little bit cleaner or an alternative to rolling something up in a piece of paper and smoking it. Even though I enjoyed doing the vanity part of it, the reality was that I didn't really want to smoke a joint in my car.

Ricardo Baca: Sure.

Ann Skalski: I would've preferred a way that was more discreet and innovative and different, because I'm not the norm.

Ricardo Baca: Well, let's go back. That was 30 years ago. Let's go back six years now, because by that point, cannabis oil was a relatively increasingly common phenomena. Of course, e-cigarette technology had already been adopted by the developing cannabis market so that 510 thread vaporizers were becoming increasingly more visible and common and prominent. Suddenly, you had this very convenient delivery method, out of the box, the battery's already charged, connect the cart and there you go, you're off to the races. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing way of consuming, but that was kind of miraculous and game changing for the reasons that you've already discussed. Did that inspire you to start thinking, "Hey, how can we take this experience to the next level?"

Ann Skalski: Sure. You're so well-spoken, Ricardo. Each word you choose has such great intention. For me, what you just said, I hear the word common, right? That's a word I don't like. I mean, I like it when I think, "Oh, we're going ... We all have a common intention. We all have a common goodness or something that connects us, that unifies us." I'm all for that, but when it comes to the things that I purchase in my life that bring me joy, that are stylish, I'm not looking for common. I want something that no one else has.

Ricardo Baca: Yes.

Ann Skalski: That's just in me. It doesn't mean that it's right. It doesn't mean it's the only way. That's just who I am as a person, and I've always sort of brought this vibe, for lack of a better word, to my workplace. My workplace has always been my home. I'm another one of those, I really enjoy creating something. I have to believe in it, and it sort of has to tap a few things inside of me for me to really give it my all. This idea of having something that is new and actually shifts the marketplace, or the way people think, or the way people talk about something, that's the ultimate situation for me to be in. Yes, always thinking about it. I just didn't think about it when I was 16, because well, I was thinking about how I looked in the mirror-

Ricardo Baca: With the lipstick and the beret.

Ann Skalski: ... and the lipstick and the beret.

Ricardo Baca: I want to dive into the human psychology of what is common and what is uncommon, because I'm like you, I don't want what everybody else has. When I'm producing something, I'm developing my own brand at Grasslands, even as we're putting ourselves out into the world and creating a brand new website that we just rolled out, new branding, even merchandise, sure, we'll do the tee shirts and the lighters, but we're also hand screen-printing incense packaging and filling it with Palo Santo and hand numbering it.

Ann Skalski: Oh, beautiful.

Ricardo Baca: Every single piece was folded and glued and cut by my wife and I. To me, that's such a more memorable leave behind then, "Oh, here's a lighter," and we'll do that too, but I really seek out what is uncommon too. What do you think it is inside you that seeks that out? Why do you think that makes for a good brand strategist?

Ann Skalski: First I just want to say I want the incense already. See? That's the power of the style is that you just described that to me in the most authentic, heartfelt way.

Ricardo Baca: I can show you some.

Ann Skalski: I mean, yes, I love incense, but there's the delivery of it, there's the style around it. It's beautiful. I did see the website, I just had to say.

Ricardo Baca: There you go.

Ann Skalski: Now a moment about this. Let me smell it.

Ricardo Baca: Yeah, it's Palo Santo. Give it a sniff.

Ann Skalski: This is lovely.

Ricardo Baca: Isn't it pretty?

Ann Skalski: Yeah, it's beautiful. I love it.

Ricardo Baca: Yeah, it's really thick stock. The gold ink, it came out really nice.

Ann Skalski: Ricardo handed me this incense, and so now I feel special. There was seriously, like I have a chemical reaction, emotional reaction, where you just handed me something that's uncommon.

Ricardo Baca: It's handmade.

Ann Skalski: The result of that is that I feel special that I have this.

Ricardo Baca: I like that you say that this makes you feel special. By the way, I want you to have this.

Ann Skalski: Oh, it's mine.

Ricardo Baca: It's also the unexpected. It's like this element of spectacle that you don't see coming. Why would a PR agency make its own incense packets and distribute them to their clients and their friends?

Ann Skalski: Well, it's joyful.

Ricardo Baca: This leads perfectly into the conversation about Double Barrel, because I have a fun story to share with you.

Ann Skalski: Oh, go.

Ricardo Baca: I brought my rose gold Double Barrel back to Colorado with me after we last hung out, and I was at a party, industry party, packed room, big art gallery, consumption friendly. I just was like, oh, I remember ... I felt it in my pocket. I put it on my fingers and I just had it there holding my drink. It was on my drink hand and instantly one of the people I was in a circle with talking to, Kristi Kelly, who actually heads one of the largest trade organizations in Colorado, the Marijuana Industry Group, she saw it on my fingers and freaked out. She got excited. She literally grabbed the vaporizer off my hand, put it on her own, handed me her phone and she said, "Take a picture of me. This is beautiful." She was like admiring it.

It was really meaningful for me because I ... It's a beautiful device. I get that. I'm a fan and that's why we're talking, but especially because you're not yet in this market, you're not yet in Colorado, she was familiar with it. She wanted to put it on. She wanted to feel the weight. She wanted to experience it. She wanted to post that on Instagram. That's meaningful. That's unexpected. It made her feel special, all of these things that we're talking about. Before we get too much further, tell people what Double Barrel is, what it looks like and kind of where we came from.

Ann Skalski: Sure, of course. Thank you for that. Your story gave me goosebumps. I'm sort of a nerd but it really means a lot to me. Thank you for sharing that.

Ricardo Baca: Heck yeah.

Ann Skalski: Very sincere, I appreciate that. Just to talk about the product briefly, Double Barrel is a patented dual chamber vaporizer. When I say dual chamber, which is why we call it Double Barrel, it allows the patient consumer to mix and match different formulations because of the two chambers. The patented design of the device melds the two chambers, the two air flows, into one singular airflow. You can, of course, have two cartridges of the same formulation if you really love that gelato, that Sherbinski L'Orange, whatever it might be, my favorite, Mario, or you can mix and match and put a live resin cart in one and maybe a THC booster in the next if you really want to have a euphoric experience.

For me, the design of the device, without even talking about the internal configuration, the design of the device has removable knuckle rings, which I often wear on my neck as a necklace. I'll wear, I didn't wear jewelry today, sorry, but a necklace with the knuckle rings and then I actually put the device in my back pocket, sort of like a guy because I really ... One thing, I love men's wear. It's always been my little thing. Originally, we all felt it would skew male.

Ricardo Baca: Sure.

Ann Skalski: Our following does skew male, but I will tell you more women stop me than men about it. I think that just goes back to my understanding of women in general is that we're much more inquisitive and we are the purchasers, right?

Ricardo Baca: Of course.

Ann Skalski: We're on the hunt a little bit more than men, traditionally anyway.

Ricardo Baca: More trend savvy, fashion savvy, style savvy.

Ann Skalski: Well, yeah. I mean, look, men's wear is exploding, and accessories. Especially in Los Angeles, I seen many men that are way more quaffed than women. It's a different place over here on the best coast than where I'm from, the east coast, but the device itself was designed to be different and to be distinctive and to be disruptive. It's also beautiful.

Ricardo Baca: It is beautiful, but let's dive into that, because you mention the knuckles, these two rings that go around your two fingers. The vaporizer itself looks like almost the double barrel of a shotgun. When I first saw a picture of the device, I was conflicted.

Ann Skalski: Sure.

Ricardo Baca: The first time I put it on, I got it. I understood. I was also surprised that there is a remarkable aesthetic femininity to it. Of course I wanted the rose gold because that's who I am, but it's not off putting to women.

Ann Skalski: Right, right.

Ricardo Baca: Even though it is almost this aesthetic of putting a gun barrel in your mouth, you're inhaling beautiful cannabis oil. Somehow we're able to transcend that idea or that construct and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's one of my favorite devices. How did you develop that, you and your team?

Ann Skalski: Well, first I must say that the device itself, there's an aura around it. It's slightly mysterious. It was the rebellious design to it. For me, Double Barrel was just so different that I didn't worry or think about some of the characteristics that you just brought up, and nor were those characteristics part of the development of the device.

Ricardo Baca: Sure.

Ann Skalski: If you look at where cannabis is, as a marketer, you look for opportunity. There was just an opportunity and a hole to create something that was really wreck, really party, really decadent, and perhaps a little risque.

Ricardo Baca: Definitely belongs on a beautiful woman's hands at a party in the Hollywood hills where she's also probably holding a martini.

Ann Skalski: That's why women like it. It's a little dope. It's a little Rihanna. It's sort of like how do we deal with this, what's going on in our culture, and what we're trying to really message about? Sometimes you don't even ... I mean, this is not a Johnson & Johnson moment, meaning we did not, and I worked with them so this is why I'm using this example, where years and years go into, why are we going to develop this? How are we going to develop this? We're going to test it. Someone gets a super hot idea, they start sketching, they put their imagination into full throttle. They have the means to develop it, manufacture it, go back, fix it, manufacture, go back, fix it, manufacture it. Then what you have is a device that we can patent and that is beautiful that is a little fierce and also chic and also elegant.

Ricardo Baca: Where is Double Barrel available? Let's hear that.

Ann Skalski: Right. July of this year we are relaunching in California. We are launching for the first time in Illinois, Chicago specifically, with one of our wonderful partners, Verano, and we are also launching in Nevada.

Ricardo Baca: Oh, killer, yes.

Ann Skalski: Vegas, yes. Double Barrel Vegas, perfect match.

Ricardo Baca: Let's talk about that voice of fashion on the Paris runway or Miley Cyrus at New York fashion week collaborating with world renowned designers.

Ann Skalski: Love her.

Ricardo Baca: How is cannabis being normalized in the mainstream through these opportunities on the runway, through high fashion and haute couture?

Ann Skalski: Right. Alexander Wang has done this, of course... I think that Miley, whether or not she has short hair and she's twerking or she's now in her new current phase of Saint Laurent with all of her black lace and whatever it is, she just talks about what she believes in. That's what she does.

Ricardo Baca: Speaks her mind.

Ann Skalski: I'm a big fan of that. I really like her and I like what she has to say and I would love to do something with her. Miley, if you're listening ...

Ricardo Baca: Call me.

Ann Skalski: Of course, this just goes back to the attraction distraction. It attracts people. It doesn't distract from the real purpose of the ... how powerful this plant is and how it helps people with nausea and how it helps people with depression and how it helps people with PTSD and how it helps me. I don't know where we're going to be in 20 years, right? I don't have a crystal ball, but I think positive messaging only pushes our society towards normalization. When I say positive, what I mean is that I'm truly not interested in being dark, even though Double is dark and even though Double is mysterious, I don't want to be dark. I want to be provocative. I want to be memorable. I want to be mesmerizing. I want to be sensual. I want to be an outlet for people to just have a moment where maybe their mind shifts. I just really want to be a part of the positive side to it. That's every day, every day, pushing for good people to get good product and to have a good time in a safe way.

Ricardo Baca: Good things ahead. Ann with Double Barrel, thank you so much for joining us on Cannabis & Main.

Ann Skalski: Thank you, Ricardo. Thank you so much. It's truly my pleasure and you're an amazing person and I've learned so much from you. I'm privileged. Thank you.

Ricardo Baca: Thanks to our listeners and you know that you will be hearing more from us next week. We'll see you there.

Thank you for listening to Cannabis & Main. Please rate, review and subscribe on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your app of choice. For transcripts, show notes, and more of the cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave, go to Civilized.life. The voice you heard at the beginning of the podcast was Whitney Beatty, CEO, Apothecarry. This episode was edited and produced by Jeremiah Tittle of Native Creative Podcasts. Executive producers are Derek Riedle and Katie Labrie. Your host is Ricardo Baca.

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