One trend in the cannabis industry I didn’t see coming was the rise of the influencer, but it should have been expected. Every industry has influencers, for example, look at the Oscars and things such as whisper campaigns.
There have always been influencers in cannabis, but before social media and “legalization,” they were just considered outlaws. High Times was the first influencer magazine that made stoners across the world identify with names like Tom Forcade, Steven Hager, Jorge Cervantes, Ed Rosenthal, Steve Bloom, Keith Stroup, Jack Herer, and many more who decided to stand on the right side of history.
Washington State Cannabis Culture
I got my medical marijuana prescription within a year of moving to Washington State. Once I got that prescription, it was like having a backstage pass, but instead of a concert, it was the Washington State cannabis culture. The culture has changed since the erasing of medical marijuana in Washington State, there’s still a small contingency, but like the VFW, these veterans are slowly dying.
Marijuana is the safer multi-billion dollar tax generating industry. The zombie apocalypse has not occurred. States have prospered financially and socially. In “legal” States there are the influencers, experts, policymakers, activists, and the Instagram star.
Movers and Shakers
Influencers are dynamic and exude positive energy; I would like to introduce you to the Queen of the ball, the social butterfly everyone that is someone knows, Neil Lequia. I met Neil at an industry event, and since then he’s proven to influence both cannabis policies and the parties I attend.
WN: What cannabis organizations are you a part of?
WN: What made you want to be involved in cannabis?
NL: Cannabis is a misunderstood plant, feared by the ignorant. As a gay man, I can relate to that. I’ve been involved in cannabis way before legalization. There is a cultural shift happening right now around cannabis, and right now myself and others are feeling more comfortable opening about our stories. People are beginning to understand the versatility of this plant that can solve so many problems. I’m excited to be able to educate people further on the truths of where cannabis is today, and where we need to help it go.
WN: As we talked before, I feel that the present state of legalization is due to the gay men community. The A.I.D.S epidemic of the ’90s showed everyone that cannabis is medicine as gay men died all over the world. Prop. 215 came about because of this from the efforts of people like Dennis Peron. How do you feel about the status of the LGBQT Community in the Industry?
NL: The Cannabis Industry as a whole has forgotten to make space for LGBTQ people. It seems silly to me…Dennis Peron, the Father of Medical Marijuana, was a gay man. It took me a long time to break into the industry. When I got here, it was difficult to find others as visibly queer as myself. There are other kinds of minority groups, but until now, there hadn’t been any organizations for queer people. The cannabis culture still has an element of toxic masculinity. I strongly feel the industry needs to develop stronger human resources policies for the protection of both employees and employers.
WN: Favorite cannabis event to attend?
NL: Lemonhaze!! It is The ultimate event to check out new products, learn, connect, and enjoy quality entertainment.
WN: Favorite way to consume?
NL: I love everything!! Mostly joints and dabbing right now.
WN: What do you have coming up?
NL: The Terp Festival is coming up in February! The Queers of Cannabis is working on developing HR structures for the industry, as well as educational, outreach, and social events. We’ll be volunteering for Lifelong AIDS Alliance this Saturday! Keep an eye out for Bellingham Budfest this summer!
WN: Advice to people wanting to get in the cannabis industry?
NL: Don’t ask “how can I get a job.” Ask “how can I help?”
I would like to thank Neil for his time and am looking forward to working with Neil on another article that relates to living with HIV and cannabis. I look forward to seeing Neil at either the next industry event whether that’s a party or volunteering to make the world a better place. We would like to wish Neil good luck in all his future endeavors.