Puff Puff Yass: Here’s How 5 Queer Personalities are Revolutionizing the Cannabis Industry

Despite the queer origins of the cannabis movement, the industry has for the most part been regarded as a straight man's game — until recently that is. Queer folks of all genders and sexual orientations are not only breaking into the market, but we’re also revolutionizing it. We’re addressing what more traditional brands run by heterosexuals seldom address: the specific needs of queers and otherwise marginalized communities. We’re changing the industry from the inside out. We’re destigmatizing cannabis with activism, advocating for incarcerated queer and POC folks imprisoned for cannabis offenses, fostering a community of creatives, and developing some bomb-ass products.  

That’s why for this week’s Puff Puff YASS column, we’re going to shed a spotlight on 5 prominent queer personalities drastically transforming how we grow, market, consume, and conceptualize cannabis. (Spoiler: Next PPY, we’re going to feature 5 queer industry pioneers.) 

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Jay Jackson aka Laganja Estranja

Occupation: Choreographer/Female Impersonator

Age:30

Queer identity: Gay, non-binary 

Website: www.laganjaestranja.com

How did you initially get involved in the cannabis industry?

I initially got involved with cannabis by choosing "Laganja Estranja" aka "The Strange Weed" as my drag character. But it wasn't until I made a splash on RuPaul's Drag Race that I was able to cross over into the cannabis world.

What do you do now within the cannabis industry? 

I am currently working in several different arenas in the cannabis industry right now. I am always working on new products and just released my own edible with Fruit Slabs that celebrates pride year round. I am also constantly working as an influencer, as well as brand ambassador for brands such as PuffCo and Daily High Club.  

Where do you think the cannabis industry does a good job of promoting diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ folks? Where do you think it's lacking? 

I think the industry does well when it comes to Pride month. We saw many rainbows added to our favorites products this year, and I think that’s a great start. But as far as I know, Fruit Slabs is the only company dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community year round. Most companies collaborated with someone who was LGBTQ+ themselves for the month of Pride, and then dropped the product. And that's where the industry is lacking. I'm gay 24/7 and I need a safe space to express that always. 

How can the canna community better support the queer community?

The canna community can come out of the closet, HELLO! There are so many directors, executives, and people in charge who remain closeted out of fear for what it might do to their company or reputation as a brand. We need more people to come forward and represent. 

Did you see all the canna companies doing Pride things this year? What were your thoughts on it? Did it feel authentic to you? 

As I said before, I try to see the bigger picture. Do I think the LGBTQ+ community got completely used this year? I do. But at least our community was acknowledged and our history was celebrated. This year we took small baby rainbow steps in the right direction, and I honestly believe companies are going to do better next year. They just need to hire me next, OKURRR! 

What do you think draws LGBTQ folks to cannabis? 

I think PTSD draws LGBTQ+ folks to cannabis. Our community is typically ostracized at a young age or at the first signs of being different, and sometimes the only way to ease that childhood trauma is to medicate. 

What do you think is the future of queer cannabis? 

I believe the future of queer cannabis is companies being run fully by the LGBTQ+ community with proceeds going directly back into our community. We are seeing that with companies like Sonder, and I can only hope this wave continues to grow. 

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Sophie St. Thomas

Occupation: Author and columnist

Age: 31

Queer Identity: Bisexual and Queer

Website: www.sophiesaintthomas.com 

How did you initially get involved in the cannabis industry?

Ganja culture has always been important to me as I grew up in the Caribbean. In 2013, after a sexual assault, I began using cannabis for my PTSD. I investigated the topic in what became the cover story for a High Times Pot & Sex issue. I've been reporting on cannabis ever since. 

Do you think the cannabis industry is diverse and inclusive of LGBTQ folks? 

Due to LGBTQ+'s history of cannabis activism, such as during the AIDS crisis, I think queer and cannabis culture and inherently linked. However, as happens with capitalism, I do think there is a disproportionate number of cishet white men profiting off legal weed. This is disappointing as marginalized communities such as POC and LGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately charged with drug crimes and at a higher risk for sexual assault and other unfortunately experiences that lead to PTSD and other conditions cannabis treats. We can work to make the cannabis industry more diverse and much queerer.   

What do you think is the future of queer cannabis? 

I want the cannabis industry to become so queer-inclusive that we don't even have to point out which companies are queer anymore because it's just inherently gay. The only people who should feel isolated are those who spread hateful and homophobic beliefs. 

How does your queer identity intersect with your cannabis identity? 

 When I write I make an effort to include queer subjects and their perspective. As a bisexual woman, I'm at higher risk for sexual assault, an experience which first lead me to medical marijuana, so while I love my medicine, I have not forgotten the violence that lead to it. Cannabis is also a big part of the underground communities I associate with. The fear of prosecution for both identities intertwine. 

What cool upcoming cannabis projects are you working on? 

I have a book coming out this winter with Simon & Schuster called Finding Your Higher Self: Your Guide to Cannabis for Self Care

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Buck Angel

Occupation: Activist, Entrepreneur, and Influencer

Age: 57

Sexual Identity: Bisexual, trans man

Website: https://pridewellness.net/

How did you initially get involved in the cannabis industry?

CBD! That led me to contact [his now business partner] Leon Mostovoy because my dog was having seizures. Leon told me about CBD, and how it helped his dog with seizures. It was like a miracle. I am also sober from drugs and alcohol and was using a sleeping pill because of my insomnia. I decided to try cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. It changed my life. This is how I became a believer in plant medicine. Leon and I saw the future of what is happening and we saw that our LGBTQ community would be left off of the equation on some level. Leon and I have been activists in our community for 30 plus years and we were around during the AIDS epidemic and the legalization through the pharmaceutical drug called Marinol. Our people lost their lives and because of this, we got cannabis legalized through the hard work of activists like Dennis Peron. We believe that this historical information is important and something the world should be aware of.

Where does it do a good job? Where do you think it's lacking? 

Within visibility of LGBTQ people? I think it's lacking in that department just as it's lacking in the POC department. Like I said above, I see more representation of LGBTQ [folks] but most of it coming from bigger corporate run companies because they see the power of the pink dollar. I do not know their intentions and I could be wrong, but most of them are only doing it for Pride and then you never hear a peep after until the next Pride. PW is [queer] 365 days a year. 

How can the canna community better support the queer community? 

Discussion, visibility, and giving more opportunities to the marginalized communities that had a hand in the legalization. It is so important that we address the war on drugs and who got hit the hardest from that. And now, with the same drug being legal, there are still communities being hit hard and will not get to participate in this new frontier. The canna community can start to vocalize on a more national level about how the early LGBTQ movement helped to get us here and that many POC are still suffering with zero opportunity to have a piece of a growing industry. 

How does your queer identity intersect with your cannabis identity? 

My identity is very important to me. It has given me space to walk the world free, whereas before I transitioned to a man and was living as a woman, I was not free. I felt angry and disconnected. Cannabis at that time helped me get out of that negative space. Being a sober person who only uses plant medicine, it is important for me to be visible to other LGBTQ people, so they can not feel alone when wanting to use cannabis as a medicine. We have a lot of drug addiction in our community and so Pride Wellness wants to address this and give people the knowledge so that can make informed choices. Sobriety is a very personal thing and everyone should be able to make a healthy choice about how they live sober.

What cool upcoming cannabis projects are you working on? 

We have been so blessed by the overwhelming support of everyone in the cannabis sector. We have finally become fully compliant in California and working with Greenstone Distribution has been amazing! We created a line of Pride Wellness Pre-Rolls and 1/8 jars that are now in eight dispensaries in SoCal. We have created a sexual enhancement drink called BuckShot that is the first in the cannabis market. Fully natural with CBD. This is something we also wanted to create was a link between cannabis and sex. My background is in the sex industry and sexual wellness. So bringing these types of sexual wellness products to a new market is exciting! 

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Arend Richard aka The Gay Stoner 

Occupation: Co-Founder & CEO of TheWeedTube

Age: 29

Sexual Identity: Gay Man

Website: https://www.theweedtube.com/user/ArendRichard

How did you initially get involved in the cannabis industry? 

It was sort of an accident. I was creating YouTube videos that were comedy-based and decided to make a tutorial on how to smoke weed from a pipe. The first time I smoked with friends, I had no idea how to use the pipe, but I was too embarrassed to really ask for help in that moment. So I figured I couldn't be the only person who had questions like that, and I decided to make a video tutorial! That video ended up being more popular than anything I had posted in a year, so I ran with it. 

Where do you think the cannabis industry does a good job of promoting diversity and including LGBTQ folks? Where do you think it's lacking? 

I think all the smaller startups in the industry are doing a fantastic job of showing diversity and support. It's the larger brands that we are seeing now who are attempting to dominate the space that are the problem. I've always said there's the "Cannabis Community" and the "Cannabis Industry". The community is a wonderful grouping that I am proud to call myself a member of. Small businesses and entrepreneurs who are just trying to run a company with integrity and grow. The industry is this newer entity that seemingly ignores the cannabis community and all their efforts. It’s filled with big money, political sway, and a blatant disregard for the community that built the framework they are using for success. 

How can the canna community better address where it's not supporting the queer community?

Forget about June being the only month you have to be inclusive. Work with queer influencers year-round. Have queer faces in your branding. Donate to queer organizations. Use your platform to spread awareness about the issues that face the queer community. 

I would also say that it doesn't necessarily have to be support for the queer community. It can be any marginalized community. Being a gay man, my first choice is always to help the queer community because it's close to my own heart. If you are a black business owner, support initiatives for that community. If you are a woman who owns a business in the industry, support women's rights and help women excel in the industry. Of course, you don't have to stick to ONLY what you are, but my point is the cannabis industry as a whole is large enough to make a true impact on the world with our money, time, and efforts. 

Did you see all the canna companies doing Pride things this year? Did it feel authentic to you?

Every single year right before June comes around, I have a litany of companies reach out to me for sponsorship because I am known as "The Gay Stoner". These are companies that not only didn't work with me prior, some of them wouldn't even respond to my emails until pride season came around. Short answer to your question? No, it doesn't feel authentic as a whole. Still, I’m not trying to detract from the companies who do mean it authentically. My company also celebrated pride heavily. If you want to know if a company is doing something for the right reasons look beyond a rainbow logo. Is there anything else they did? For example, TheWeedTube had a goal to raise $10,000 for The Trevor Project for the month of June. If it's just a rainbow logo, it's probably not for the right reasons. 

What do you think is the future of queer cannabis? 

I think the queer community and other minorities with the industry will be the ones to keep us honest as a whole. As we continue to grow in this industry, more and more people are doing things for the wrong reasons. Our minority communities will be the ones that keep integrity flowing throughout this industry. 

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Jamie Lee McCormick a.k.a. The Flower Daddy

Occupation: Flowery Daddy Owner 

Age: 34

Queer Identity: Pansexual male

Website: www.theflowerdaddy.com

How did you initially get involved in the cannabis industry?

I’ve always used Cannabis for anxiety and whatnot. I always felt and knew that Cannabis helped me in several ways, and wanted to prove that to my family and friends growing up. I became an activist for cannabis. Joined Arizona NORML when I moved out west 12 years ago. 

I came to California and started working at a local dispensary in Long Beach called High Quiggle until [the town] ran all the dispensaries out of the city. After that, I kind of hopped around to different companies and titles. Worked for an edibles magazine, distribution, sales, and brand ambassador. 

What do you do now within the cannabis industry?

I’m a huge activist for cannabis. I do cannabis events and weddings along with adding fresh hemp and cannabis into my floral arrangements and bouquets. I’m all about killing the stigma that surrounds cannabis.

How can the canna community better address and support the LGBTQ community?  

I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s worth a shot. I think everyone in California are just trying to stay afloat and stay in business.

Did you see all the canna companies doing Pride things this year? What are your thoughts on it? 

I notice more and more every year! I love seeing the rainbow; it’s beautiful. But we need more than rainbows! It honestly didn’t feel authentic to me except for a few brands. There are definitely more brands this year that gave back to the community. Take Kush Queen as an example. She has a Pride collection every year. This year 20 percent of all sales will directly benefit Trans Lifeline; a national trans-led 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to critical needs with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Their vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid. We need more of this, we need more giving back to the community that helped pave legal cannabis during the HIV/AIDS crisis. The LGBTQ community fought for legal cannabis.

What cool upcoming cannabis projects are you working on? 

I’m working on curating some really dope queer cannabis parties. I think it’s super important to bridge the two [communities] together.  



 

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California may have been the first in the country to pioneer cannabis law reform, but the Golden State is still struggling to eliminate the black market and sell affordable, legal pot. In 1996, California voters passed Prop 215 to legalize medical marijuana. In the years immediately following its passage, medical cannabis was a small and largely unregulated affair.

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