STORIES

Choice Words: NYC Cannabis Collective Uses Language to Push Boundaries

By Celia Gold on July 16, 2018

With a name that evokes both Star Wars and the critical stylings of gender theorist Judith Butler, NYC-based collective PussyWeed uses the force of language to educate and galvanize the cannabis community. Under an umbrella of linguistic appropriation, founders Hannah Campbell, Natasha Przedborski and Ava Kingsley created a feminist cannabis advocacy collective and social justice start-up in one go.

More than you expected from a group named after vag grass? That’s part of the point. One of the collective’s primary goals is to draw attention toward—and intervene into—the various socio-political problems facing cannabis legalization and commerce. While it began as an apparel and accessories company—and they continue to sell t-shirts, grinders and other merch through the website—PussyWeed is, at its core, a collective focused on changing the landscape of the industry by promoting equity within it.

Sure, they’ve received criticism for their namesake. Most of the negative feedback accuses the trio of forwarding a premise that’s both too much and not enough—a critique many feminized readers will likely recognize. “Maybe we’re too open about cannabis use or we’re not open enough,” says Hannah of the occasional upbraiding. “We’re inclusive to the point of being offensive or were not inclusive enough.“

The trio gratefully note, however, that fault-finding tends to come from outside the industry. People within have been overwhelmingly supportive. Perhaps that’s because they’re diligent about infusing accountability into their mission.

“We’re able to run this platform so openly because of the white privilege we have,” Natasha points out. In fact, more than renegade diction, advocacy for both the plant itself and for the folks disproportionately criminalized by its prohibition, namely low-income people of color, sets PussyWeed apart.

True, there are many different camps when it comes to accountability practices, and inevitably people will disagree on the best ways to implement them, but it’s irresistible to imagine how the professional landscape—in any industry—would look different if all entrepreneurs approached their businesses with this level of conscientiousness.

Down the line, the trio would like to expand to the West Coast and devote all their time to the project (like many young entrepreneurs, all three work multiple jobs in addition to PussyWeed). In the meantime, the trio has partnered with local legal nonprofits to direct efforts toward furthering retroactive justice efforts to expunge criminal records and the like, and they're putting together a podcast and zine to expand their reach and create non-consumer driven ways to interact with the collective. The trio is even volunteering with immigrant rights advocacy group New Sanctuary Coalition as of late.

“None of us thought we would be in the cannabis industry in the way we are today,” says Natasha. “It’s so beautiful, it’s so diverse. I wouldn’t wish to be part of any other industry.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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