HIGH FASH­ION Mar­i­juana is no longer as­so­ci­ated with just ston­ers and munchies – it’s a big hit with the fash­ion pack

Mar­i­juana has had a very fash­ion­able makeover. Richard God­win re­ports from Cal­i­for­nia, where the green shoots of the new weed move­ment have in­fil­trated the diet, wardrobe and dat­ing lives of its most well-heeled res­i­dents

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It’s a sum­mer evening in Venice, Cal­i­for­nia, and 27-year-old Jes­sica As­saf’s cannabis Tup­per­ware party is get­ting all fuzzy and amus­ing. The set­ting is a fra­grant apart­ment just off Venice Boule­vard, dec­o­rated with vapes, buds and tinc­tures, as well as some sil­ver bal­loons spell­ing ‘weed’. The snacks in­clude sugar-snap peas with a mar­i­juana-miso dip­ping sauce. And draped around the room are four bright, young en­trepreneurs who are keen to tell me why cannabis is a woman’s best friend.

‘Across all in­dus­tries, the high­est pro­por­tion of fe­male ex­ec­u­tives [is] in cannabis,’ says Laura Al­bers, 37, head of re­search at Cannabis Fem­i­nist, the Tup­per­ware-party group of ganja-smok­ing women who aim to dis­rupt the tra­di­tional cannabis dis­tri­bu­tion model and bring it into homes, a bit like Avon cos­met­ics. ‘It’s an op­por­tu­nity to build an in­dus­try from scratch, up from the ground, to our stan­dards.’ Laura is on to some­thing about the num­ber of women hold­ing the most se­nior po­si­tions in the cannabis in­dus­try, which is at 36% com­pared to the US av­er­age of 22% across all in­dus­tries*.

‘We are not your stereo­typ­i­cal lazy ston­ers,’ adds Molly Peck­ler, 32, founder of Highly De­voted, a cannabis match­mak­ing ser­vice that of­fers weed-dat­ing nights. ‘We’re smart and driven, mo­ti­vated and pas­sion­ate.’

Emily O’Brien, 27, the in­ven­tor of Mondo, a co­conut oil and ca­caobased cannabis ed­i­ble, ex­plains that the cannabis plants they use are fe­male: ‘You don’t want the male plants to come into con­tact with the fe­male plants, oth­er­wise they pol­li­nate and stop pro­duc­ing the flow­ers.’

‘Re­ally, at the core of this com­mu­nity is a shared love of cannabis, which is why we’ve all dropped ev­ery­thing to pur­sue this,’ adds Cannabis Fem­i­nist founder Jes­sica, who has been pre­sid­ing over meet­ings like this one for a few months now. ‘The power is so pal­pa­ble. It’s high-vi­bra­tional. I don’t even know if I’ve smoked some­times, I’m so high on the vibes…’

‘It res­onates,’ says Emily. ‘It’s mag­netic!’ adds Laura. Ev­ery­one col­lapses laugh­ing. ‘Sorry,’ says Laura. ‘I hit a bong right be­fore you walked in…’

Many peo­ple have long smoked cannabis for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons: recre­ational, cre­ative, medic­i­nal, and a mix­ture of all three. How­ever, it’s only re­cently that cannabis has lost its as­so­ci­a­tions with low as­pi­ra­tion and a high ca­pac­ity to eat an en­tire box of ce­real, in­stead be­com­ing an ac­cou­trement to a suc­cess­ful and chic life­style. As Los Angeles’ cannabis en­trepreneurs at­test, it is not merely a means of get­ting high (al­though they do cel­e­brate that as­pect): it’s a gourmet in­gre­di­ent, a mir­a­cle beauty prod­uct, a sex aid, a bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and ap­par­ently a rem­edy for ev­ery­thing from in­flam­ma­tion to de­pres­sion, glau­coma to men­strual cramps.

The fash­ion world has been go­ing through some­thing of a love af­fair with it, too. Ganja fea­tured in Alexan­der Wang’s AW16 col­lec­tion; Jeremy Scott green-washed the adi­das logo in 2012 (rap­per A$AP Rocky and singer Sky Fer­reira were pic­tured wear­ing the cult jumper); de­signer Mara Hoff­man used the leaf as a print for her SS15 show, while jeweller Jacquie Aiche cre­ated a bud-em­bla­zoned col­lec­tion (mod­els Ken­dall Jen­ner and Gigi Ha­did went to the launch party). ‘Peo­ple are less afraid to wear my col­lec­tion,’ says Jacquie. ‘The more nor­malised cannabis be­comes, the more lux­ury prod­ucts [that] are emerg­ing for this com­mu­nity of pro­fes­sional ston­ers.’ It was only a matter of time be­fore Vete­ments cre­ated a weed-grinder neck­lace.

She­herazade Gold­smith, 43, co-founder of the jew­ellery brand Lo­quet London, is an­other de­signer in­flu­enced by the mar­i­juana leaf. ‘To me, it’s a sym­bol of revolution and change. Never have we needed that more than now,’ she says, al­though she is keen to stress the drug’s po­ten­tial dan­gers when it is il­le­gally pro­duced.

Over in New York, ‘ed­i­bles’ – food with weed added – have be­come a fix­ture on the art party cir­cuit. April Hunt, who works in art PR, has been to events ini­ti­ated by the artist and mu­si­cian Ben­jamin Bronf­man, a big ad­vo­cate of cannabis le­gal­i­sa­tion, where ‘in­fused foods’ are served to a cre­ative set: ‘The en­ergy at th­ese events is so good; it’s such a dif­fer­ent vibe to what you would get at a nor­mal party. It’s very in­ti­mate, ev­ery­one’s hav­ing great con­ver­sa­tions.’ The weed-in­fused food, metic­u­lously pre­pared by big-name chefs, is pre­sented in a so­phis­ti­cated way so guests don’t wolf it down for a quick high: ‘At the last event, the chef served oys­ters with a mignonette sauce that was in­fused with cannabis, and pros­ecco cock­tails in­fused with [the] herb.’

You can pon­tif­i­cate on why cannabis is the right drug for this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment: it’s green (like kale!), it helps you re­lax (we all need a bit of that). But, re­ally, there is a sim­ple driver be­hind all this: the be­gin­ning of the end of mar­i­juana pro­hi­bi­tion in the US, and no­tably in Cal­i­for­nia, which is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a ‘green rush’ as the state pre­pares for full le­gal­i­sa­tion and reg­u­la­tion of cannabis. In June 2017, Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Trav­eller re­ported that Los Angeles is now the cen­tre of an in­dus­try that’s ex­pected to be worth £17bn by 2020. In Fe­bru­ary 2017, Forbes said the le­gal cannabis mar­ket will cre­ate more than a quar­ter of a mil­lion jobs by this time. Other re­search sug­gests a grow­ing mar­ket of con­sumers, too: a re­cent study showed that be­tween 2002 and 2014, the per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans who said they smoked mar­i­juana at least once in the pre­vi­ous year grew from 21.9 mil­lion to 31.9 mil­lion, while the num­ber of peo­ple who used it on a daily or near­daily ba­sis more than dou­bled, from 3.9 mil­lion to 8.4 mil­lion**.

Medic­i­nal mar­i­juana is now le­gal (with var­i­ous re­stric­tions) in 29 US states. In Novem­ber 2016, Cal­i­for­nia voted to le­galise recre­ational mar­i­juana, too, join­ing eight states where you can smoke weed just for fun. Colorado was the trail­blazer here: in 2014, it li­censed recre­ational cannabis stores, reg­u­lat­ing the drug ‘from seed to sale’ and show­ing the world what the end of mar­i­juana pro­hi­bi­tion might look like.

Cal­i­for­nia is on a dif­fer­ent scale. It has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 39 mil­lion peo­ple. It’s the cen­tre of the tech­nol­ogy and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries, and it’s in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an im­por­tant fash­ion cap­i­tal in its own right. And its in­hab­i­tants are good at mar­ket­ing them­selves as the well­spring of all as­pi­ra­tional life­styles and well­ness trends; re­mem­ber, peo­ple once thought that yoga, home com­put­ers, green juice and psy­chother­apy were strange, Cal­i­for­nian fads, too.

All the women at the Cannabis Fem­i­nist party ac­knowl­edge that they are in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion as white fe­male mar­i­juana users in one of the US’s most lib­eral states. ‘We’ve been so lucky be­cause of who we are. We have to make this an is­sue,’ says Laura. They all be­lieve the al­co­hol, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and pri­vate-prison in­dus­tries are op­posed to cannabis for cyn­i­cal rea­sons. And there are more ev­i­dent con­tra­dic­tions: banks fre­quently refuse to give credit to mar­i­juana star­tups; medic­i­nal dis­pen­saries (the some­times-le­gal weed ‘phar­ma­cies’ that can openly sell mar­i­juana, de­pen­dent on the state they’re in, to ID-car­ry­ing mem­bers of the public) deal in cash, which means they’re of­ten held up. The dis­pen­saries I’ve vis­ited in Cal­i­for­nia are of­ten quite sad and in­tim­i­dat­ing places – some­where be­tween le­git­i­mate doc­tors’ surg­eries and haunted houses. The creepi­ness of the dis­pen­sary ex­pe­ri­ence is one of the rea­sons that Jes­sica says she wants to change how and where peo­ple use mar­i­juana.

In the UK, cannabis is a class-B sub­stance and possession can get you up to five years in prison and an un­lim­ited fine. Jeremy Cor­byn is in favour of al­low­ing it for medic­i­nal use, but only the Lib­eral Democrats and the Green Party be­lieve in full le­gal­i­sa­tion. Still, on the London fash­ion cir­cuit, peo­ple are drink­ing less and choos­ing to smoke mar­i­juana in­stead as a way of re­lease. Ac­cord­ing to one London-based stylist: ‘I have friends who would say, “I’m on a detox from al­co­hol, but we’ll get stoned in­stead.”’ Sim­i­larly, a well-known fash­ion-set de­signer who lives and works in the cap­i­tal tells me, ‘I used to smoke it on and off until re­cently dis­cov­er­ing hash oil. Some­one was talk­ing about it on a pho­to­shoot and sug­gested I give it a go. A cou­ple of drops in a warm drink is very re­lax­ing and can be a lot of fun in so­cial sit­u­a­tions. For me, it of­fers a great al­ter­na­tive to the slur­ring, booze-fu­elled nights of drink­ing al­co­hol.’

Be­boe is a Los Angeles-based startup that aims to be­come the ‘Her­mès of mar­i­juana’ with its sativa (part of the cannabis genus) pastilles and its gold, £47 va­por­iser pen. It was co-founded by Clement Kwan, whose CV in­cludes spells at Dolce & Gab­bana in Milan and a pres­i­den­tial role at on­line re­tailer YOOX. Clement learned how to grow mar­i­juana while he was study­ing cor­po­rate fi­nance at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley; at the height of his ac­tiv­i­ties, he was har­vest­ing 20lb per month.

‘It killed me when I had to give it up when I be­came a banker,’ he says. But af­ter years in the cor­po­rate world, he de­cided to re­turn to his first love. Clement’s busi­ness part­ner and chief de­signer is Scott Camp­bell, the tat­too artist (and hus­band of ac­tor Lake Bell). ‘He’s pretty much tat­tooed the whole of Hol­ly­wood, plus he’s col­lab­o­rated with Louis Vuit­ton and Marc Ja­cobs,’ adds Clement. ‘The plan was to build some­thing beau­ti­ful, be­cause if we build some­thing beau­ti­ful and make it a rel­a­tively low dose, we’ll at­tract a much more so­phis­ti­cated con­sumer. Once we have that so­phis­ti­cated con­sumer, we can use that as a plat­form for ad­vo­cacy.’ By ad­vo­cacy, he means peo­ple who talk about cannabis in a way that might shift public opin­ion in favour of more free­dom: ‘We had Sharon Stone, Or­lando Bloom and Justin Th­er­oux at our launch party.’ Ri­hanna has never been shy about her fond­ness for weed, and named her lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tion with Manolo Blahnik ‘So Stoned’ – which no doubt works on a num­ber of lev­els! Snoop Dogg has, how­ever, launched his own line of prod­ucts, Leafs by Snoop.

Still, it’s early days. To get a sense of how far all this has come, you just need to spend some time mar­vel­ling at Ch­eryl Shu­man, the supremely glam­orous and well-con­nected founder of the Bev­erly Hills Cannabis Club, which has seen Whoopi Gold­berg, Drew Bar­ry­more and Cameron Diaz pass through be­fore now.

Ch­eryl, also known as ‘mar­i­juana mom’, has the sort of tra­jec­tory Meryl Streep ought to play on film some day. She spent the Eight­ies and Nineties as ‘op­ti­cian to the stars’, at­tend­ing the oc­u­lar needs of Tom Cruise and Ju­lia Roberts on set, while hawk­ing di­a­mond-en­crusted eye­wear on QVC. In 1995, she suf­fered an as­sault that left her trau­ma­tised, de­pressed and tak­ing eight pills a day, in­clud­ing Xanax and Prozac. Af­ter months of fruit­less coun­selling, her ther­a­pist fi­nally said to her: ‘Lady, I don’t know how you’re go­ing to take this, but you need to smoke a joint.’

He took her to his gar­den and she had an epiphany. ‘I laughed and laughed for the first time in I don’t know how long,’ she says. And when she told her high-pow­ered friends back in Bev­erly Hills, they all wanted some of what she was smok­ing, too. Be­fore long, she was run­ning a 2,000-strong gar­den­ing and pa­tient col­lec­tive where peo­ple could legally ex­change medic­i­nal mar­i­juana, over­see­ing a 68-acre mar­i­juana farm in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and cam­paign­ing for the end of pro­hi­bi­tion. ‘[Mar­i­juana] got a bad rep­u­ta­tion among some pow­er­ful peo­ple at about the same time as al­co­hol was be­ing pro­hib­ited,’ she ex­plains. ‘It’s re­ally a cute plant that can heal a mul­ti­tude of ill­nesses.’

Ch­eryl, who has been in­volved in the launch of more than 1,700 cannabis prod­ucts, had a num­ber of key in­sights. The first was that she could make it an as­pi­ra­tional prod­uct: ‘Cannabis today is very sim­i­lar to fine wine. You can buy $3.99 store-brand cham­pagne, or you can buy Cristal. They’re both wines, but there’s a huge dif­fer­ence.’

And the sec­ond was that the fu­ture of cannabis was fe­male: ‘I re­alised women are the key to this whole thing. Women take care of most of the fam­ily’s pur­chas­ing and med­i­cal decisions. If we can get women on board, we can start a revolution.’

The women in the Cannabis Fem­i­nist cir­cle all agree that the im­age of the stoner ‘bro’ sur­rounded by pizza boxes and Xbox games is out­moded (even if there are twice as many male smok­ers as there are fe­male ones in the US*). Founder Jes­sica main­tains that women have al­ways smoked weed, they just need to come out of the closet: ‘Women have been scared to be open about their love for it. It’s like your naughty lit­tle se­cret.’

Jes­sica pitches cannabis in a light that’s more than just a way of get­ting high. Cannabis, as they see it, is a well­ness prod­uct ideally suited to women (not least be­cause it’s ex­cel­lent for PMT). They’re not par­tic­u­larly down with ‘green crack’, the su­per-strength skunk that’s grown hy­dro­pon­i­cally (with­out soil) in ware­houses down­town. Their vibe is more ‘sun-grown cannabis’ from the farm­ers’ mar­kets in Mal­ibu, where there’s a lot of wine-like talk of ‘ter­roir’ and ‘va­ri­etals’. The uses are in­ven­tive: Cannabis Fem­i­nist’s Jes­sica, who used to work in the beauty in­dus­try, is de­vel­op­ing a fa­cial oil. Then there’s the ar­ray of ed­i­bles: Emily’s Mondo pow­der comes in a chic lit­tle jar with gold let­ter­ing. It ac­tu­ally makes a virtue of the taste of cannabis, it’s easy to use – ‘Add to yo­ghurt par­faits’ sug­gests the la­bel – and it gives you a gen­tle and con­trol­lable high. In ad­di­tion to Molly’s match­mak­ing nights, she’s mov­ing into prod­ucts: ‘I’m do­ing this cannabis ex­pe­ri­ence in a box for cou­ples to share over sex. Hope­fully it will ex­pand into a whole range of things.’ Among the items is Fo­ria, a cannabis lu­bri­cant for women.

‘It’s not a psy­chotropic prod­uct,’ says Jes­sica. ‘It lit­er­ally just gets your vagina high. It’s more in­tense – I feel like it makes it eas­ier to have an or­gasm.’ Ev­ery­one laughs (again), but they’re also deadly se­ri­ous. ‘This helps so many peo­ple. In mar­kets where they have a ro­bust med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­gramme, opi­oid over­doses go down. Car ac­ci­dents go down as fewer peo­ple drink. Tax rev­enues go up. This plant was made for us. We should be con­sum­ing it,’ says Molly. ‘We’re on the right side of his­tory here.’

Visit Talk­tofrank.com for con­fi­den­tial drugs ad­vice

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