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Queer-owned and operated brands are doing great work to help make our industry equitable, welcoming, and restorative to our communities. We at The Travel Agency are proud to showcase and uplift queer-owned brands creating opportunities to progress the cannabis industry — and their communities at large — in a positive direction for all of us.

Check out these inspiring stories.

 

Flamer, building a cannabis-centric community in New York

Flamer is a queer-owned cannabis brand that grew out of the activism world, where founders Wyatt Harms (he/him) and Matias Alvial (he/him) first met. Harms, CEO of Flamer, and Alvial, the company’s Chief Brand Officer, employed creativity in their activism to push for progress and equity for the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.

 

Harms brought Flamer’s third co-founder and Chief Cannabis Officer, cultivator Khalil Acevedo (he/him), into the fold. Harms introduced Acevedo and Alvial at a Black Lives Matter demonstration, and the idea for Flamer – and its bright red prerolls – was born.

 

Flamer also teamed up with Patrick Weinert (he/him), a cannabis farmer at Jane’s Garden, who grows “amazing weed,” according to Harms. But Flamer is about more than just the cannabis itself — it’s about bringing people together.

 

“Our idea is centered on how we create more community,” Harms said. “We obviously do the packaging, the branding, and the marketing, but it’s more about how we build partnerships with queer farmers or partnerships, like one that’s coming up with a trans pride music festival.”

 

Alvial and Harms say they sought to build a community around cannabis culture already thriving in the activism space. Flamer held their first picnic get-together on April 20th at Washington Square Park, drawing 250 people from an eclectic array of backgrounds to connect, socialize, and celebrate cannabis.

 

“It was all different kinds of people and that’s the ethos of our brand,” Harms said. “It’s like everyone is invited, you just got to be a little weird.”

 

Flamer is hoping to build on this progress because cannabis intersects with so many different groups and helps people find common ground. For Alvial and Harms, the New York cannabis market can be a way to create understanding and acceptance between a wide range of communities.

 

“Much of Flamer has been about bringing people together,” Alvial said. “There will be people from Goldman Sachs and then all these artists. There’s drag queens and there’s frat bros. That’s the thing that’s beautiful — people don’t judge, especially in New York.”

 

But part of building an equitable cannabis industry means challenging the status quo and continuing to push for progress, something Alvial and Harms are very accustomed to from their work in activist circles. For Alvial, prioritizing equity for queer people and BIPOC people comes before simply growing the business.

 

“We were in a meeting and there were a lot of white faces — I was the only brown one,” he said. “And I said, ‘Listen, I don’t care how many people you’re hiring that are brown below you if everyone in the decision-making process is white. I don’t know if I messed up that partnership, but that’s okay. I don’t want to be part of a room that kicks me out. That inclusion, to me, is the future of cannabis.”

 

Harms agreed, emphasizing the importance of starting that work in the local market and connecting with others to amplify those efforts and create a platform for marginalized voices.

 

“It starts at the beginning. We love the New York market and we love the people we work with,” Harms said. “When you talk with The Travel Agency, there’s a lot of queer people in management. There’s a lot of queer people involved in this market and that makes our day-to-day lives so much more joyful when we’re interacting with people who understand what we’re doing.”

 

As the cannabis industry matures, whether or not it becomes an equitable and accepting place will depend on the strength of its community of consumers, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Harms noted that the New York market offers hope that the industry will be built from the ground up by the community that was criminalized for so many years. But to retain the culture that paved the way for legalization, in all its forms, the people who built it need to stick together.

 

“It’s about being in our community, hiring people from the community, doing partnerships with people from the community — and it’s not just Pride, but it’s something to do year-round,” Harms said.

Drew Martin, promoting cannabis as a healing tool

Drew Martin is a queer-owned cannabis brand focused on the therapeutic properties of plants in nature, including sun-grown cannabis. The brand brings together flavorful botanicals and premium flower to produce low-dose prerolls.

 

Drew Martin Gosselin (he/him), co-founder of Drew Martin, had one foot in two very different worlds in New Orleans: he worked as an herbalist by day and developed cocktail programs for award-winning bars at night.

 

“Drew Martin was born out of my reverence for plant magic and the healing properties of plants, as well as the ritual and social beauty that plants can provide for people,” Gosselin said.

 

As a queer-owned business, Pride is central to Drew Martin’s philosophy, not just in June but every month. According to Gosselin, the tightly-connected history between the movement for queer liberation and cannabis legalization plays a key role in how the brand approaches the industry today

 

“As queer people, I think we are especially able to see and recognize the historical implications and contributions the community made towards legalizing cannabis,” he said. “So, from day one, we’ve always recognized that we are here today and we are able to work in this space because of the work these queer forebears made for us.”

 

Gosselin specifically cited Dennis Peron, the iconic advocate for medical cannabis legalization and co-founder of the San Francisco Buyers Club, the first medical cannabis dispensary in the United States. Peron went on to be an instrumental figure in the passage of Prop 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which made California the first state in the U.S. to legalize medical cannabis.

 

“Understanding that work that [predecessors did] for us, we want to continue pushing for that mission, particularly around marginalized communities because this industry was built and forged by marginalized communities,” Gosselin said.

 

As a celebration of Pride this year, Drew Martin has created a new product called “One Queer Preroll,” and all proceeds from this product will go to local organizations supporting queer and transgender people. With their The Travel Agency partnership, that organization is G.L.I.T.S., an organization focused on Black trans sex workers’ rights, helping to provide harm reduction services, housing, and education, as well as engaging in advocacy work.

 

For Gosselin, the road to healing through building an equitable cannabis industry is intersectional. It can’t just be about the queer community, he said, but must also be about BIPOC communities that have been deeply affected by the War on Drugs.

 

“This industry is inextricably tied to the fight for justice within the Black and brown communities as well,” Gosselin said. “Step one for us is recognizing that we are a white-led company in cannabis … which is something we have to sit with and recognize and find ourselves responsible for making amends every single day we’re in this industry.

 

“Starting from that position, we can move forward and take the privilege we currently have to make sure we’re amplifying the right voices and pushing forward on advocacy and supporting the groups that are doing the work to undo a lot of the damages and harms affecting these communities as a whole across the country.”

 

In that way, Goesslin said, he hopes that cannabis can be a healing tool not just for the patients who seek out products that provide them relief and help them feel better each day, but also for a society which is still reeling from the wounds caused by decades of prohibition, centuries of racism, and endemic homophobia.

 

“Cannabis has become an incredible healing tool for this community,” Gosselin said. “The plant is really something people can build community around … and that enables them to heal and grow.”

Cann, breaking down binaries and barriers in social settings

Jake Bullock (he/him) and Luke Anderson (he/him) founded Cann, a cannabis-infused beverage company, in 2019 as part of a broader mission to rethink how they — and society — relate to alcohol. Cann offers low-dose THC and CBD-infused beverages designed to be a cocktail alternative, which Bullock said is intended to “help make us more ourselves.”

Read our Cann review here.

 

As a queer-founded company, Cann has grown with a particular perspective that’s rooted in the LGBTQIA+ community. Bullock described how he and Anderson, longtime friends, worked to eschew an “escapist” mentality associated with alcohol in favor of fully embracing their own queerness.

 

“It started in our early twenties with some real heavy lifting around our identities and understanding who we are,” Bullock said. “And alcohol was a factor in initially preventing us from doing so.”

 

In doing that work, the pair accepted and embraced their identities while they learned more about themselves, one another, and found balance with alcohol  — only to emerge into a community that had its own challenges with alcohol.

 

“We did all this heavy lifting … but all of a sudden were thrust back into a pretty toxic drinking culture,” Bullock said. “It didn’t make sense to try and wash away the trauma when we’re being our true selves.”

 

Bullock and Anderson were inspired by that experience to create an alcohol alternative that was less harmful and supportive of people being their true selves, neither influenced by alcohol nor pressured to stay home and isolate themselves rather than attend parties and events.

 

“We’ve been thinking about this idea of fluidity — the future is fluid, and even drinking is not a binary,” Bullock said. “Our gender expression is not binary; our sexuality is not binary. So how do we break out of this idea that you’re either this or that?

 

“And that’s exactly what we experienced with drinking,” he added. “You’re either drinking alcohol and going out or you’re staying home. And that’s just not the case and it’s not the world we want to live in.”

 

According to Bullock, some of Cann’s best customers continue to drink alcohol, and the brand is supportive of that. Whether you want to be sober or you just want to drink in a healthier way, Cann hopes its products can be helpful, he said. That vision for helping people approach drinking in a different way and find the balance that’s right for them personally connects closely to Bullock’s and Anderson’s desire to challenge some of the other big binaries in society.

 

“We’re also trying to do this with some of the other big binaries in our marketing and in the voices we use,” Bullock said. “Every time we’re hiring people we have these conversations. A significant number of our team are openly queer. We’re hiring drag queens in our marketing year-round; we’re bringing in these amazing creators and paying them for their work as a way to actively support the community.”

 

But binaries can be persistent even as society and technology continuously evolve, which Bullock noted recently when experimenting with an AI image generator. The idea was to create images of liquid figures of various gender expressions kissing, but after a series of different prompts, the results were consistently biased toward cis-gendered, heterosexual images.

 

“It kept pushing us into heteronormative, white expressions — it’s so stigmatized and ingrained,” Bullock said. “That’s what we’re fighting against, so we keep talking about fluidity. You don’t have to choose between this or that.”

 

With that mission in mind, Cann has dedicated itself to finding partners in its local markets that understand those goals and want to be part of advancing equity in the cannabis industry and beyond. For Bullock, The Travel Agency was a natural fit.

“We have the ability to change the future and it will happen in places like cannabis because of the history of the industry,” Bullock said. “The Travel Agency is a natural partner for us because we have that ideological connection. We want to be in that store to meet more and more New Yorkers, give them the opportunity to try our product, and do it in an environment that feels authentic to us.”

Proud to uplift queer-owned cannabis brands

New York’s cannabis market has launched with intention, connecting retail to social causes aimed at healing our communities and bringing people together. That’s why we’re so proud to work with the exceptional people at brands like Flamer, Drew Martin, and Cann, who understand that cannabis is a tool to help heal, drive progress, unite our communities, and yes — to spark joy.

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