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Art sparks conversation and much-needed social change. And with Miss Grass leading the charge, we’re using art to turn the tides on some painful and deeply-held misconceptions about cannabis consumers.

Held Dec. 6th-20th at our old space in Union Square, the Faces of Cannabis exhibit features 15 New Yorkers who struck a pose and shared their thoughts about cannabis on video. The two-week pop-up harnessed participants’ stories to challenge what others may think of when cannabis comes into the picture. We sat down with Miss Grass founder Kate Miller to learn about the meaning behind the project and what she hopes to achieve by changing people’s hearts and minds, one image at a time.

Setting the stage

The concept behind Faces of Cannabis has been brewing for quite some time, but New York’s move to legalize adult-use cannabis set the exhibit into motion. Noting the size and diversity of New York City’s cannabis community, Miller shared that the Big Apple set the stage to showcase a wide range of who enjoy cannabis and why.

Miller shared the intricate journey of its inception — and why New York City was the right place to launch such an important project.

“The intention was to really spotlight the myriad and diverse faces of cannabis – the people who love and have a relationship with the plant,” Miller said. “We wanted to highlight stories of why and how they’re enjoying cannabis while destigmatizing the plant, by showing that people who use cannabis don’t all look like the stereotypical stoner that’s been portrayed in media and pop culture.”

Creating the gallery

Putting together the Faces of Cannabis exhibit was a true community effort. Miller said Miss Grass put out a call to the community to participate in the project and received more than 500 responses. Fifteen individuals were chosen from those applications, each with a unique story about how the impact cannabis had, and continues to have, on their life. Their images and quotes were featured in the interactive, immersive photo gallery, along with quotes and video clips from their interviews.

Stories featured in the exhibit included everything from older individuals turning to cannabis to build connections with loved ones to mothers addressing postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms with cannabis. Participants were far from the lazy slackers, criminals, or dumbfounded, bleary-eyed twenty-somethings seen in so many stoner movies. While that may be obvious to some, Miller reminds us that we’re combating close to 90 years of racist stereotypes in the media, kick-started by the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness.

“We wanted to make sure the individuals and their stories painted the holistic and multifaceted reasons people are consuming this plant,” Miller said. “Cannabis plays so many different roles in people’s lives, and we wanted to have Faces Of Cannabis rewrite the accurate narrative around what cannabis is.”

When it came time to bring the Faces Of Cannabis event to the public, Miller said The Travel Agency stood out as an ideal mission-driven partner.

“The Travel Agency really is a dispensary for the community,” she said. “The first time I went there, I stood outside for a second and just watched the people going into the dispensary. The diversity was so inspiring and exactly what we wanted this campaign to highlight.”

Unveiling Faces of Cannabis to the Community

Upon entering the gallery, visitors were greeted with portraits, the literal Faces of Cannabis, hanging from the ceiling. Each photo was accompanied by a compelling narrative that spoke to the healing and harmonious role the plant serves for exhibit participants and the greater cannabis community.

Attendees found themselves surrounded by a tapestry of stories brought to life through photos captured by photographer Matthew Yoscary and video interviews captured by Honeysuckle Magazine. Those who walked through the free exhibit had the opportunity to contribute their own stories as well.

“People not only went to get their photo taken and be a part of the gallery, but people took it all in,” Miller said. “They read all the stories and watched the video.”

Miller said the response from the community has been nothing short of inspiring.

“It was cool to see people really being drawn into the images and stories,” she noted. “Afterward and throughout, we’ve had consumers attend and reach out to our community manager, who were inspired by the stories and thanked us for highlighting them.”

A catalyst for change

As The Travel Agency bids farewell to the Faces Of Cannabis gallery, we recognize the ability of such campaigns to dismantle stereotypes, celebrate diversity, and ignite a broader conversation about the multifaceted roles cannabis plays in people’s lives. We eagerly anticipate a future where cannabis isn’t dogged by misconceptions driven by fear and racism. But until then, we’ll keep speaking up for cannabis and changing the narrative in impactful, creative ways.

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