These Women of Color Are Bringing Diversity to the Cannabis Industry
From business owners to cannabis yoga instructors to ganja rappers, these ladies are carving out a space for POCs in the overwhelmingly white and male-dominated cannabis industry.
Photo of Lizzy Jeff via CarolineGodwin
This is the second of a two-part series looking at the women of color revolutionizing the cannabis industry.
Representation matters, and not just in Hollywood. In the cannabis industry, there’s a new crop of black women on Instagram and beyond who are shamelessly open about their use and support of cannabis. These ladies are putting their foot down so that they can have a seat at the table and be represented in this new frontier of legal weed. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational weed is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.
From business owners to cannabis yoga instructors to ganja rappers, these ladies are carving out a space for women of color in the overwhelming white and male-dominated cannabis industry. Just by existing in this space, these ganja queens are tackling the stigmas and breaking down barriers so that the face of the new wave of mainstream legal weed entrepreneurs is changing.
Joy Clarke, Founder of Mahogany Mary --@MahoganyMary
Joy Clarke has been working in the cannabis industry for a little over one year. She hosts bespoke cannabis events that aim to educate and elevate those who are cannabis consumers or who are interested in learning more about the plant. The Chicago native told VICE Impact that cannabis has always been “part of my lifestyle.” It’s one of the reasons why she created her cannabis event company, Mahogany Mary.
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“When it comes to people of color, we aren’t highlighted,” she said of the cannabis industry’s lack of diversity. “We’re there. There’s a nice amount of us but we’re not highlighted.”
For her, the goal of Mahogany Mary is to remedy that lack of diversity by helping people to understand via her events that “weed is only the beginning of plant-based medicine.”
“I talk about cannabis very openly to erase the faux pas."
She credits her move to Los Angeles about three years ago as one of the catalysts for starting her business, calling cannabis something she didn’t see as a business but rather “communal” before starting Mahogany Mary.
“The way that [cannabis] was told in school was to stay away, stay away, it’s a gateway drug – lies,” she said. In college, she admits that she used to talk down to people who smoked weed because she wasn’t exposed to seeing young professionals or people who just use weed for ailments. People, she explained, were “in the closet” about their cannabis use. But, now, her perspective on cannabis is very different.
“I talk about cannabis very openly to erase the faux pas,” she explained. “I tell everybody I smoke weed. I make it so that it’s common.”
For now, she’s focused on her latest venture, High Tide tours, which is a tourism company aimed at giving people the “Southern California experience from a stoner perspective.” She’s launching the endeavor with her business partner, DeJanae Evins, this Memorial Day.
Lizzy Jeff, Rapper, Founder of Zen and Kush -- @ZenandKush
“We’re redefining cannabis.” That’s how Lizzy Jeff feels about herself and other women of color in the cannabis industry.
The rapper has been in the cannabis industry for about three years, and she started out as a “budtender” in a Los Angeles, California, dispensary. During her time in the role, her work consisted of educating and assisting dispensary patients. But while working there she noticed something: She was one of the only black employees.
“When it comes to people of color, we aren’t highlighted."
It was also during her time as a budtender that she had the opportunity to meet “hundreds,” she told VICE Impact, of people who shared with her their life-changing stories about cannabis.
“I’ve seen people come in that were on 18 prescription pills a day, which I can’t even fathom,” the Los Angeles native said. “Seeing them, over time, over months taking one [pill] or none and [I was able] to be there for that journey.”
Working in the dispensary inspired her and “fueled her ambition,” which she says can be seen in her music, in the events she produces through Zen and Kush, and the education she provides at her events.
Recognizing her natural love for cannabis and her talent as a rapper, she decided to infuse the two together to spread her knowledge about the plant. Her plate is quite full, too, as she just released her first EP, titled “West Coast Enchanted.” She’s also hosting a healing event on May 5 through Zen and Kush.
The event company, whose name was inspired by Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” infuses wellness, cannabis education, art and “all things fly” in its monthly events that vary in theme.
“Build a community, elevate consciousness – this is where you want to be,” she said of her Zen and Kush events. “It’s a very sacred container and it’s available to everyone.”
Minelli Eustacio-Costa , Cannabis Yoga Instructor -- @yogawithminelli
For Minelli Eustacio-Costa, smoking weed before going to a yoga class was something she did because it felt good. It never occurred to her that it could grow into a weekly class with several students in a yoga studio.
The London native has been a yoga instructor for over three years but she told VICE Impact that she was growing weary of teaching vinyasa yoga. After a bit of research, in January 2017, Eustacio-Costa decided that she was ready to break from the norm and lead cannabis enhanced yoga classes where students would be able to smoke weed and use CBD oils or tinctures.
“I wasn’t enjoying the kind of yoga I was teaching anymore,” she said. “Then I was just like, ‘Why don’t I start teaching classes that I actually enjoy?’ I started thinking about teaching classes in my home with weed.”
But Eustacio-Costa, who has been living in Los Angeles for 14 years, admits that it wasn’t without challenges as she began to outgrow teaching in her home and started looking for venues to use for her yoga classes.
She emailed at least 30 people on Craigslist, yoga studios, and other places she thought would work for her cannabis yoga classes. She would either never hear back from the venues, or she would be told smoking wasn’t allowed on the premises.
“It’s really hard to find places, especially yoga studios and places that are appropriate to do yoga, that allow you to smoke there,” she explained.
Prior to becoming a full-time cannabis yoga instructor, she worked in a hospital as a nurse assistant. The “bureaucracy” of the healthcare system left her feeling like she wasn’t really helping people in a real way. Additionally, she felt like she was living a double life because she would “never talk about” the fact that she smoked weed out of fear of being fired. Eustacio-Costa’s cannabis enhanced yoga classes now happen weekly in Los Angeles.
“Right now, I am helping on the spiritual level and wellbeing level and self-care – which to me I feel like is a little bit deeper,” she said of her classes.
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