Merry Jane — purveyor of online cannabis news and culture — have premiered their YouTube show Queens of the Stoned Age: a short-form talk-series featuring cannabis industry influencers, ganjapreneurs, and meducators of the female, femme, and otherwise lady-like persuasions. It’s also executive produced by Snoop Dogg.
I’m searching my brain for a time when I was disappointed to learn of Snoop Dogg’s involvement in something and coming up dry. A redefining parody of Ghost to promote the indispensable VH1 goody bag Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party? Yes, please. That short arc on The L Word wherein he samples Kit’s ditty and then mistakes Kit and Bette for sister sisters? Don’t mind if I do. But this next adventure is one in which I was especially excited to partake.
It’s been a minute since AS’s High Femme days so here’s a brief refresher course on the current status on cannabis in the U.S.: weed is legal for medicinal as well as adult recreational use in Washington, Alaska, California, Maine, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and D.C.; in various stages of decriminalization and/or only medicinally legal in 39 states; and completely prohibited in the remaining three. Marijuana is federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I drug — a drug perceived as having no medical application and high risk of abuse — along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote. As of April 2017, favor for legalized weed is at an all-time high (61%) in the U.S.
Enter Queens, one of multiple platforms from which this cast of trailblazers is advocating for national legalization. Singer Tiara Thomas ushers the show in with a royal reception worthy of the plushest red (green?) carpet by expressing her befuddlement that people experience the world not-stoned. “Wow, some people are experiencing life while they’re not high,” she says, “That’s crazy,” while the rest of the women laugh.
Mostly millennial and coming from different arenas, each ladybud brings something to the table: from a quick lesson on terpenes from Cannabis Feminist founder and conversation leader Jessica Assaf to testimonials regarding the medicinal function of cannabis from model and activist Michelle Zauzig and poet Mel Pierce. Mel also delivered a two-word mic-drop for why women use marijuana — “especially menstruation” is deserving of its own dedicated line of bumper stickers, patches, and pins. All of which I would proudly own. And I spent at least half of the show swooning over Emily O’Brien, founder of L.A.’s Mondo, a cannabis powder company, and scanning the rest of the cast for blips on the gaydar. (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Rovero and Mia Carucci, and you know what honestly, I’ve got my fingers crossed for the entire cast so let’s just go with that). On that note, the show seems to want to play to its built-in audience of sapphic stoners by describing covert pot fans as “closeted” and promoting the right to “come out.”
Another of the show’s strengths is that their format is poised to dish about weed at both the macro and micro levels. Weed’s changing status is exciting for myriad reasons, not the least of which is (re)introducing cannabis into the fray as a means of liberation (rather than a mechanism to fuel the school to prison pipeline) during the struggle to dismantle institutions of oppression such as white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, to name only a few. But even and especially in the midst of all the excitement surrounding the so-called Green Rush we’re experiencing in California, there’s cause for concern about how this new industry is being built, and upon whom.
As new infrastructure develops connoisseurs and appreciators are presented with an incredible opportunity to play any number of roles in shaping it. But we’re also being presented with some burning questions. Are we doing an adequate job demanding equity, awareness, and justice instead of perpetuating current models of success predicated upon subjugation and exploitation? Other privileged folks like myself should also be asking: are we doing enough in the way of educating ourselves and our communities about weed’s various origins, and how it has shaped and been shaped by its history in the states?
Culturally, Queens provides a refreshing contrast to Netflix’s egregiously whitewashed buzzkill Disjointed, the white supremacist likechild of Leave it to Beaver and That 70’s Show. Given the majority of white and white-passing ladies at the Queens‘ table to discuss a substance whose history is fraught with racism, mass incarceration, religious persecution and cultural appropriation, will the white feminist traps lingering just at and below the surface be avoided or embraced? One hopes that as the show progresses audiences see even more input from women of color industry leaders both in front of and behind the cameras.
One of the episode’s promising interventions: not glossing over weed as a drug too much. There’s a tendency for cannadvocates to play to conservative naysayers by emphasizing bud’s medicinal properties, a somewhat watered-down endorsement dutifully applied as a salve to any lingering Reefer Madness hangovers. Queens inches right up to a popular line that positions cannabis exclusively as a medicine and shirks marijuana’s association with unseemly drugs in the West, but avoids oversimplification by matter-of-factly locating it in the center of the medicine/drug spectrum. Encouraging potential critics to challenge preconceived notions of what constitutes medicine and how drugs function is crucial to expanding channels of healing and alternative ways of being in the world; part of what, on its best days, the project of legalization aims to do.
This is an undoubtedly interesting (and fraught) time and I’m not just talking about the recent national events. Understandably, the show seems to be trying to speak to multiple audiences simultaneously in what could be an attempt to coordinate cohesion and promote product. Perhaps a little tedious, the moments that feel like the cast is preaching to the converted belie the rapidly changing context in which the show unfolds. We’ll need to see more before we know whether this series will actively confront the difficult sociopolitical inheritance underwriting opposition to marijuana use in this country or just appeal to a wide audience. The show and its producers have adequate reason to push for the former.
In the meantime, I think it’s safe to say that a whole host of folks are learning a whole bunch of things from the ways in which cannabis is being considered differently and by a wider audience in the U.S. than ever before. Here’s hoping that we’ll communally craft new herstories with awareness, relentlessness, and fierceness befitting a queen.
Fire it up.
You can catch Queens of the Stoned Age on Merry Jane’s YouTube channel.