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Three Women-led Brands and Initiatives Who are Reinventing Cannabis Culture
Three Women-led Brands and Initiatives Who are Reinventing Cannabis Culture
by Anicée Gaddis
These women are rethinking how we see and consume cannabis culture, elevating it with fresh, design-savvy vision.
Over the past decade, the stigma attached to marijuana – that pretty green plant some say is a cure-all for mood enhancement, general aches and pains, and just plain recreational fun – is lifting. As that stigmatization is gradually going away, Cannabis branding is pivoting toward a highly curated aesthetic.
What was once illustrated by cheesy paraphernalia has quickly become a chic, celebrated, and elevated way of good living for all. Nature’s cherished plant is being transformed into a vehicle guiding us toward mindfulness, well-being, and artistic creativity and messaging.
Often misconstrued as a male-dominated culture, we spoke with three women owned and operated organizations whose founders’ big thinking, diverse pedigrees, and commitment to change show how cannabis culture is evolving into a stylish frontier with endless possibilities.
From imaginative interpretations and museum-quality smoking accessories to social justice initiatives, the emerging weed aesthetic shows a positive understanding of the herb's infinite possibilities.
Who are the women behind this quiet storm of a revolution? We selected three mindful contenders and asked them to tell us why, how, and what they seek to accomplish as weed becomes legalized around the world. These women describe the hopes and hurdles we face in this growing green era, all fueled by great branding, refined design, and personal joy in the process.
Monica Khemsurov / Tetra Accessories
Founded in 2015 by Monica Khemsurov and her two former business partners, Tetra is a retail shop and accessories brand offering beautifully designed smoking objects for aesthetically minded people. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Monica began her career working at New York Magazine writing about music, but eventually found her way to design writing. She served as Senior Editor at I.D. magazine, and then left to co-found the online design magazine Sight Unseen.
The idea for the Tetra accessories line came about in 2015, when she was enjoying time at the beach in L.A. with two fellow art/design/fashion writers who happened to be smoking — Eviana Hartman and Su Wu. She asked where they went to buy their ‘cool’ smoking gear. “They both laughed and said there was no such place,” Monica recalled. She immediately started trying to convince them to create that place with her, combining her experience running an online shop (for Sight Unseen) with their collective knowledge of design and style.
Monica Khemsurov photographed by Sean Santiago
That very same day Monica, Eviana, and Su mapped out a game plan for Tetra, and launched it to the public only about six months later. Tetra benefitted from their relationships with designers and artists, from whom they commissioned unique smoking objects — including Jamie Wolfond, the industrial designer who created their first in-house pipe, the Balance Pipe.
Monica felt that bringing great contemporary design to a space in which it had been largely absent presented a fascinating challenge. As she explained, “At the time, there was no one else in the industry focused on developing products with an elevated sensibility, aimed at a more mainstream audience (though that has since changed, and now we’re part of a really fun network of stylish smoking brands; we all trade intel and help each other out).” She was aware at the time of founding Tetra that Ben Medansky, the L.A. ceramicist, had started making beautiful smoking pipes, so that factored into her motivation and inspiration to start the brand.
These days, Monica runsTetra on her own – her co-workers have both moved on to other places and projects (including motherhood.) “Of course I’m also running Sight Unseen, so I have a lot on my plate! But it’s all tied together by my love of great design,” said Monica. “Regarding the link between cannabis culture and high design, I would say we all see an inverse relationship between destigmatization and criminalization, meaning that the more cannabis use becomes mainstream and accepted and unintimidating, the fewer people will have to go to — or stay in — jail because of it, and the more freedom we will all have to use this plant both therapeutically and recreationally.”
Tetra seeks to revive that tradition of beautiful and useful objects in a contemporary way, celebrating the new rituals of smoking through a lens of great design. Accessories include pipes, ashtrays, storage jars, and fragrances as well as unique home fragrances.
Tahira Rehmatullah / Commons
Co-founder of Commons, Tahira Rehmatullah is dedicated to maintaining the mindful and elegant brand shift in the cannabis industry. Commons, which launched in early 2021, is “a natural wellness brand that exists at the unique intersection of wellness, cannabinoids and peer-to-peer sales.” By offering beautifully designed products, education, and a community of ambassadors, the brand helps people live their healthiest, safest, and most enriching lives.
In Tahira’s words, “Commons started with simple ideas: everyone deserves to feel their best and when you find something that helps you, you want to share it with others. We want to democratize access to health and wellness products and share the cannabis and hemp opportunity through a peer-to-peer model so more people can participate in the industry. After all, “cannabis is one of the oldest peer-to-peer transactions in history!”
Tahira, who hails from Pakistani lineage, was drawn to cannabis after watching her grandfather’s battle with cancer and her mother’s quest to find alternative treatments to ease his suffering. “In my mother’s search for treatments, she kept coming across cannabis, and turned to me and my younger sister to ask if we knew how to get it,” Tahira explained. “We did, but I realized how inaccessible cannabis was for those who were suffering, and how conflicting it is that we’ll dole out opioids, alcohol, and tobacco, but cannabis was somehow considered worse than all of them. I know not everyone agrees, but my ‘Just Say No’ t-shirt was officially retired.”
After going down a research rabbit hole, Tahira jumped into the cannabis industry in 2014 with a goal to close the gaps in access, education, and opportunity, and a belief that cannabis can have a positive impact on society. “Although I wasn’t looking at cannabis as a career path (who knew it was a legal career path then?), I was hopeful of its medicinal uses and fascinated and frustrated by its history (hey, racism). When a cannabis job opportunity came my way, there was no way I could say no.”
Since entering the industry, Tahira has previously held positions at MTech Acquisition Corp, Hypur Ventures, Marley Natural, and Privateer Holdings. She serves on the board of directors for the Last Prisoner Project and has focused on leading campaigns of compassion and creativity in the cannabis space. She is a strong advocate of women and minorities and has dedicated a lot of time to mentoring and guiding, the same as has been done for her. Tahira currently is CEO & Co-founder of Commons, Partner at Highlands Venture Partners, and a member of the board of directors for Akerna Corp, Ceres Acquisition Corp, and Superette.
Anja Charbonneau / Broccoli Magazine
Founder and Editor in Chief of Broccoli Magazine (and former Creative Director of Kinfolk,) Anja turned her love of cannabis into a luxurious and widely read magazine. Launching in November, 2017 and based in Portland Oregon, it focuses on women artists, musicians, sculptors, and creative’s who artfully, and soulfully express their views on the plant's power and pure beauty. As she describes, “We started Broccoli as a way to show that cannabis is so much more than just the plant itself; it connects to creativity, spirituality, science, art, music, and so many other fascinating parts of life.”
What began as a small passion project evolved into a weed ‘style bible’ among novices and aficionados alike. “Broccoli is the international magazine for cannabis lovers. Presenting a new perspective on cannabis culture, Broccoli is playful, informed, eclectic, and thoughtful: it encourages the discovery and intelligent appreciation of cannabis through explorations of art, culture, and fashion,” according to the magazine’s mission statement.
Broccoli Magazine founder Anja Charbonneau (courtesy of Anja Charbonneau)
Anja’s love of print magazines and books, and making a magazine about weed was a way to merge these interests. “I love reading. A magazine is a physical, tactile experience, one that you can't have online,” she explains. “It suits cannabis, in the way that weed can help you feel more connected to your surroundings away from a screen.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anicée Gaddis is a New York-city based writer. During her 20-year career, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Big, Interview, Rolling Stone, Victory, Vogue, V, and Condé Nast Traveler’s Concierge. She was the Executive Editor of Trace magazine, Editorial Director of Big magazine, and Senior Writer at Cornerstone / The FADER. She has authored two books "I & I" with an in-depth focus on Jamaican music culture, and "Small Kings," with creative partner Alessandro Simonetti.