Why the Movement to Sanitize Weed Is a Big Problem

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We launched Miss Grass in January of 2018, just as recreational cannabis was passed in California. It was the right moment. It was an opportunity that was equal parts planned and lucky, but there we were with our big idea and some great expectations. We had just shy of 7,000 Instagram followers, 100 people on our email list (all family), and a plan to build a brand that represented all the ways weed fit into our lives—all the ways that flew in the face of a zeitgeist that had us “weed kids” all wrong.

In just under two years of Miss Grass, we’ve seen regulations come and go and then turn back around. We’ve ridden the ups and fallen flat on our faces on the downs, and we continue to build a business with very little certainty around the five-year forecast—federally, state by state, and around the world. But even with the mystery (and exposure) that comes with working in an explosive industry that is simultaneously working through legislative growing pains, there remain a few things about which we are very clear at Miss Grass.

We are advocates of the whole plant and of every cannabis consumer. To build an inclusive brand for Miss Grass means embracing the full spectrum of the plant and the full spectrum of its consumers. Which is to say, whether you’re a CBD-only consumer or you love to get high (bless), Miss Grass loves and serves you. It’s that mission that makes us excited about Miss Grass—and it’s what we hope makes this brand a safe and welcoming place around which people can gather and learn more about the plant.

But this mission, while articulated here, isn’t new.

It’s where this industry started. What’s new is a different and problematic narrative that’s taken hold of the majority of emerging brands lately—and media mindshare—and has reached a fever pitch during the past year: that THC and its proponents are bad and that CBD and its proponents are good. (THC, by the way, is the cannabinoid known for making you high, while CBD is the cannabinoid known to have therapeutic properties without the high.)

This narrative is very much antithetical to our philosophy at Miss Grass. To experience the full benefit of cannabis, you owe it to yourself to be open (at least) to exploring the full power of the plant because, for certain circumstances, CBD-only treatments won't yield the best results.

But our issue with the CBD-only narrative goes much deeper than that.

The danger around a movement to sanitize weed beyond recognition doesn’t just leverage basic shame tactics to keep people from accessing medicine and exploring the magic of this plant. It reverses so much of the work that’s been done to affect social justice reform and shift the cannabis narrative more broadly. And with more than 700,000 people (mostly people of color) arrested for cannabis crimes in this country just last year, this matters a lot.

We write about social equity in the cannabis industry all the time at Miss Grass. We are a cannabis brand, sure, but it’s our belief that to be part of the cannabis conversation is to be implicated in the politics too. Brands that refuse to participate in that political conversation are a disappointment. But unacceptable are the brands that actively wash their stories and products of any relationship to a deeply complex and racist history by further perpetuating a myth that THC is bad.

Over and over, we see up-and-coming brands working hard to carve out a marketable niche—that caters to the noob consumer in a very specific way: by parceling out weed for good people (CBD) and weed for bad people (THC). The suggestion being that THC is somehow less chic, less desirable, less marketable. This approach, while reductive, is probably better labeled reckless and short-sighted. It will only lead to more stigma, hurting the industry as a whole.

But what really worries us is how tone-deaf this industry has become to what’s at stake—and how we got here. When a brand is built on a selective and sanitized narrative, the suggestion is that the people behind the brand are still gripped by the spell of the War on Drugs. Which just goes to show how powerful that campaign really was and continues to be; even the so-called advocates have missed the point.

The reality is that it would be just as easy to do the work to overthrow societal misconceptions about weed as a whole, as it would be to try to convince society that an isolated compound like CBD is worthy of acceptance, while the rest of the plant remains an imminent threat. For whatever reason, and despite what we know about consumers in other categories—that they're motivated by brands they trust, that speak truth, and that have a conscience—most CBD-only brands maintain the position that THC is to be avoided.

To be clear, our issue is not with brands that exclusively play in the CBD or federally legal hemp market. We love a lot of those brands. We are friends with the founders of a lot of these brands. And Miss Grass, at this juncture, is an exclusively hemp-derived e-commerce destination, so depending on your vantage point, we represent one of these brands. But there is a major distinction between what we do at Miss Grass, from a storytelling and positioning perspective, and the way this industry is trending.

Our job as leaders in the cannabis industry is to educate the masses on a topic for which there hasn’t been access to information before. It’s to overturn the reductive tropes that have misunderstood people who like weed, in whatever form, for all these years. It’s to show the world the way of the plant, sure, but it’s also to show everybody how powerful their dollars can be in affecting real change.

Removing the stigma around cannabis isn’t just about making CBD accessible to people who need it. It’s about shifting the social and political fabric of this country through a much bigger conversation about the whole plant. It’s about making sure that while a privileged few capitalize on the cannabis opportunity, those who built this industry do not remain behind bars.

Since we started working in this industry, we’ve seen a lot change. We’ve loved this journey and are proud to be part of this industry. But we’re also very worried about our collective acceptance—nay, reverence—for brands that shame the people and the lifestyles who put this plant on the map to start.

It’s okay if you don’t want to get high, but it is not okay to pick and choose the parts of the plant you advocate for. If you love this plant, then love it completely. If you don’t consume it for all it has to offer, then respect the value that someone else sees in doing so. And after all that, remember that each of us are shaping this conversation. We have a responsibility to steer it right.

With love + bud,
Kate Miller and Anna Duckworth