It’s time to rethink cannabis culture. For those of us who grew up in the “just say no” generation, it’s pretty trippy that medicinal weed is now legal in 33 states, and recreational in 10. As the laws have changed, so has our perception of a product we previously associated with the burnouts from high school who played hacky sack. Is it possible to bring class to grass? Could weed be the new wine? We sat down with green queen, Sarah-Jane (SJ) Gray, co-founder of The New Smoker magazine/review site and author of Green Flower Faeries to see what the world of weed has to offer women.
What initially drew you to cannabis culture? What do you love about it, and what inspired you to start The New Smoker?
Sarah-Jane: Cannabis has been in and out of my life since high school and my first experimental days as a teen. It was never a big deal for me, just something I smoked at a party now and then. When I met my husband, Soren Gray (Editor-in-chief of The New Smoker), he worked managing a dispensary in Silver Lake. As a musician, bud-tending gave him more open hours than bartending. That was the first time I really learned about dispensaries, the variety of ways one could consume cannabis, and how it could really medically help people. My husband had surgery before we met due to intestinal issues and, on occasion, has a flare up which causes intense sharp pain. He found cannabis helped alleviate that pain, and it got him through future flare ups without having to rely on stronger prescription drugs.
Soren’s passion for cannabis, bringing it out of the shadows and into mainstream life, led him to create a blog called The New Smoker. The main emphasis was how the cannabis industry really needed to move away from the stigma and clichés of pot heads; cannabis smokers as slackers, hippies, and thugs if they wished to bring it into mainstream consciousness and eventually make cannabis fully legal. He was struggling to keep up the blog, so I suggested he create a lifestyle magazine that could be an example of what he was trying to do by “Bringing Class to Grass”, integrating cannabis into our culture. It was the first magazine to do so!
I ended up designing the magazine’s layout, while he provided the content. We have kept it up as a periodical ever since the first issue came out in 2012, and just recently released issue No. 9. Since then, many similar new stylish cannabis magazines have hit the scene, some are doing well, others faded away. We’ve stayed steady and relevant by additionally creating The New Smoker Review website which has daily posts highlighting new quality cannabis products with our tongue-in-cheek, wit, wisdom, and humor. We’ve also hosted events that show the classy side of what a cannabis event can be; a dress up cannabis cocktail party with live jazz band, art shows, comedy shows, a life drawing class, weed and wine pairings... with even more different and exciting events to come. To stay up to date with us, you can join The New Smoker mailing list.
Who is the “New Smoker” woman? Tell us about her.
Sarah-Jane: The New Smoker woman has a busy lifestyle. She is interested in music, art culture, business, design, and style. She wants her cannabis brands to fit with her lifestyle seamlessly, to be as classy as she is herself.
She is confident and likes to add a touch of the leaf to her style with brands like Blunted Objects, Barrineau, INDA , or Solstice Intimates. She knows what she needs and when she needs it, including a little something extra in the bedroom, like Foria Pleasure. Before her meditation and yoga practice she likes to smoke her favorite strain with a pipe from Elevate Jane. She loves a little magic in her life and has a copy of Green Flower Faeries on her coffee table.
She wants brands that just don’t look beautiful, but are of the highest quality. Her strains must be organic and sourced from the highest quality plants with brands like Lowell Farm, Henrys, Flow Kana, Humboldt Farm, Bloom Farms or Jetty. She likes to be educated on what she consumes, learning all about terpenes, CBD, THC, strains, and becoming a real Cannasseur... that’s why she reads The New Smoker.
What role do you see women playing in the world of weed?
Sarah-Jane: The New Smoker (TNS) has alway believed in the power of the feminine, especially since the female cannabis plant is the source of the magical flower (bud). TNS was one of the first cannabis magazines to do an issue on women working within the cannabis industry (TNS issue No.7) and has promoted and highlighted women within the field ever since. When the cannabis industry was just starting to boom, around 36% of CEOs were women. That number dropped as tighter regulations were put in place and corporate companies became the only ones with the money to face the rising regulation costs needed to establish a cannabis business. Despite this, women are still on the front lines, making great changes within the industry.
Are there any women in the forefront of the industry that are inspiring you?
Sarah-Jane: There are so many wonderful women within the cannabis industry, like Whitney Beatty CEO of Apothecarry, Ophelia Chong CEO of StockPot Images, Mama Sailene Founder of Glowing Goddess Getaway, Erin Gore Founder and President of Garden Society, Zoe Wilder, Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald CEO InnDica, Janet Schriever CEO of Code of Harmony in Long Beach, Emily O’Brien CEO Mondo, Elizabeth Ashford Communications Director at Eaze, Yvonne DelaRosa Green CEO and founder of 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu, and Ariel Clark an attorney who specializes in cannabis law at Green Frontier.
All these women are very proactive within the cannabis space and work on various projects to help others and the industry grow. All have their own amazing and unique reasons why cannabis has become a large part of their lives. They are just a small selection of the many wonderful women of weed.
What trends are you noticing within the industry? What things are you excited about?
Sarah-Jane: The most recent trend in the industry is CBD. It has become extremely popular and is mostly legal nationally. This means lots of new brands, as well as established ones, are all stepping into the wide world of cannabis and hemp. Whatever some might feel about the efficacy of hemp CBD vs. Cannabis CBD, it all helps to make these plants more socially acceptable.
It’s very exciting to see how far the industry has come in such a short period of time, with the rapid change in the perception of cannabis, new laws, and businesses. Legislation is still very important, and we can’t stop working until we can ensure that everyone has safe access to the medicine they need. One key issue that needs a lot of attention is how many lives have been deeply affected by cannabis convictions over the years during the failed “War on Drugs”. Families and communities were, and still are, ripped apart. The convicted face hardships and struggles trying to put their lives back together in the aftermath. The majority of those most affected by cannabis convictions over the years have been people of color. They are the people we as an industry need to embrace and help to thrive within this new cannabis age. If it’s benefiting the billionaires currently engaged in the industry, it should somehow benefit those who were previously punished. There are socially conscious companies actively working to ensure legislation changes, like Ben and Jerry’s who are running a “Let’s Be Blunt About Justice” campaign that’s worth supporting.
What advice would you give to a woman curious about getting into this world (for a beginner and an intermediate user)? Maybe like a start-up smoking shopping guide?
Sarah-Jane: In early issues of The New Smoker magazine, we focused on etiquette and education. The key is to always take one hit and sit with it. Whether using a joint, pipe, or vape, my husband is fond of saying, “You can always take more, you can never take less”. Try small amounts, or micro-dosing, before going full on. Kiva has great mints and chocolates with low dosages that are great for micro-dosing.
We all know someone who has said, "I hate tequila, it makes me sick, I had a bad experience.” Sure, you may have been in college and drank some low-grade, nasty tequila until you vomited, and now hate it. However, if you ever get to taste a high quality 7 year aged tequila that you sip like a fine cognac, your perception can change. We’ve all had a bad edibles experience through inexperience, but as we’ve grown up and become more sophisticated, so has cannabis.
There are so many ways to consume, and many reasons to do so. A good dispensary will have knowledgeable staff that can walk you through the process. You can also look to earlier issues of TNS for tips for novices (TNS issues No.1 and No. 2).
Finding the right dispensary or delivery service is key to feeling comfortable when purchasing cannabis products. Check out TNS Dispensary Guide for some really great places within California.
What misconceptions would you like to dispel about the community?
Sarah-Jane: The cannabis community has had 90 years of bad press and propaganda thrown its way, seeded in racism, fear, and political control. Mainstream perceptions of pot were built on the lazy hippie smokers of the 1960s. The false “gateway drug” narrative stuck during the 1980s “Just Say No” era. By the 1990s stoner college kids, rastas, and “gangstas” were projected as the face of cannabis.
In truth, this plant has been within doctors’ medicine kits all the way back to ancient China. Even Queen Victoria smoked weed when she had bad menstrual cramps! The main reason most of the world went anti-cannabis in the second half of the 20th century was because America led the way, and wouldn’t trade with those who didn’t go along.
Now, new types of cannabis users range from aging Baby Boomers who need it for pain, arthritis, and other ailments, to young professionals who prefer it to alcohol, and really everyone in between. People from all walks of life can enjoy cannabis, and The New Smoker is helping to shine light on that. Times have definitely changed.
The cannabis plant has many benefits for women, like getting a good night’s sleep, alleviating menstrual cycle pain, endometriosis, general pain relief, stress and anxiety, epilepsy, Crohn's disease, and even help with intercourse. It's true medicinal potential is only beginning to be tapped.
How did you come up with Green Flower Fairies? What inspired you to write your first book, and what can we expect in the future from the series?
Sarah-Jane: We were working on The New Smoker Grow Issue No. 8 and visited indoor and outdoor farms throughout California. I was taking photos of various crops when I noticed in one image what looked like the shape of faerie within the bud. I thought, “what if there were real strain faeries protecting their plants?” My imagination got the better of me and, by the time we got home from our farm tour, I had a whole faerie world created.
I grew up on stories of faeries, goblins, gnomes, and other forest creatures and loved books like “Gnomes” by Will Huygen and Rien Poortivliet, “Giants” by David Larkin, “Faeries” by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, and “Goblins” also by Brian Froud. I wanted to create something with a similar feel to the books I loved. Valentina Brostean was an artist who had provided the artwork for the album cover of my husband’s band So They Go, and we featured her in one of TNS’s High Art articles. I loved her style. I reached out to see if she would be interested in providing the illustrations, and she loved the idea and really helped bring my faeries to life.
The book is not aimed at children, it’s for an adult’s inner child who likes fantasy, comics, and cannabis. But if a child did accidentally pick it up, it is not a book that would encourage them to go out and smoke cannabis. It’s more educational, and is simply filled with beautiful faeries living within a plant kingdom. Besides, there are many children who use medical cannabis, and love faeries.
How do you like to incorporate cannabis into your own life?
Sarah-Jane: I use cannabis in a number of ways within my life. During my time of the month I use it for pain, either by vaping, smoking, or running a hot bath and soaking in it. There are some great cannabis and CBD bath salts and bath bombs available, like Flower of Life , Cannabombz, Kush Queen, or Whoopi & Maya. I like to watch Game Thrones on our projector screen, make fresh popcorn with coconut oil and a sprinkle of Mondo powder all over it (each scoop is 5mg so it’s easy to know and control the dosage). Sometimes I smoke or vape before doing yoga, I recommend learning how best to do this by reading “Ganja Yoga” by Dee Dussault. Finally, my husband and I go to a lot of rock shows, and often I want to enjoy the show a little high instead of drinking. The next day I always feel great with no hangover.
Um, final question...when are we invited over for Mondo popcorn, Game of Thrones, and Green Faerie book club? Sarah-Jane, you are truly a ganja goddess, we love that you’re working to make this world accessible, elegant and informative for the rest of us. Thank you so much for gifting us with your green wisdom.
About Sarah-Jane (SJ) Gray:
SJ Gray, lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of The New Smoker.
Born in New Zealand and educated in the United Kingdom, SJ is of New Zealand Māori decent (hapū Ngati Manu, iwi Ngāpuhi) and Pākehā.
SJ’s love for the arts, and a passion to travel led her to live throughout the world. From Greece to Norway, Australia to New York, SJ finally landed in L.A where she met her future husband, musician Soren Gray. Soren managed a cutting edge dispensary in Silver Lake at the time, where he had been developing his vision to “bring class to grass” and elevate the perception of cannabis culture. With this in mind, Soren and SJ created The New Smoker Magazine together in 2012.
SJ is passionate about cannabis becoming destigmatized within today's modern society. Green Flower Faeries was created to celebrate the magic infused into cannabis, and bring out the inherent beauty of the flower. Green Flower Faeries gives life to the spirits ever before hidden in the shadows, now finally free to come out and play in dawning light of this brave new world.