Whether used to ease the pain of medical problems or simply as a way to unwind after a stressful day, cannabis use across America is common, and becoming increasingly so. Exactly half of America’s 50 states allow the use of some form of legalised medical marijuana, and a report earlier this year from New Frontier Data said that in three years time, the legal cannabis market will have opened up in excess of quarter of a million jobs. By 2020, sales of medical marijuana are set to grow to $13.3 billion from the 2016 figure of $4.7 billion, while adult recreational sales are projected to grow from $2.6 billion to $11.2 billion over the same four year period.
Cannabis is undoubtedly big business, so why do the drug and its users still suffer with an image problem? Anja Charbonneau, the editor-in-chief of new pro-cannabis publication Broccoli argues that in America at least, it’s a question of geography. “The perception of cannabis users changes dramatically based on where you are, so it’s hard to grasp what the prevailing image is right now. The scales probably still lean towards a negative view overall.”
Anja and her all-female team are aiming to rebrand cannabis use from stoner to chic via their new free magazine Broccoli. A challenge perhaps, but not when you consider the team’s creative background. Anja Charbonneau, Broccoli’s editor-in-chief spent several years working at hipster bible Kinfolk with Jennifer James Wright and Jessica Gray, who are now the new publication’s designer and communications director respectively. It shows: Kinfolk’s apparently carefree (but impossible to replicate) aesthetic lingers in Broccoli’s tasteful still lifes of bongs and cannabis flower arrangements, dreamily lit portraits and peppy recommendations for cannabis-inspired candles cased in millennial pink packaging.
Having originally imagined Broccoli as a “super conceptual magazine” with a limited shelf life, Anja soon found that the demand for a educational, design-led publication was far greater than she had first thought. Now, the publication is set to be published three times a year. It is available for pre-order by readers in the US, Canada, France, UK, Japan, with stockists to be announced later this month. We caught up with Anja to find out more.
Why start a magazine “for women who love cannabis”?
In the very early ideation stages of Broccoli, we pictured doing a super conceptual magazine that would live and die within a few issues, inspired by publications like Comme des Garçons’ Six magazine. However, the more we connected with women in the cannabis industry and potential readers, the more we realised that there was a real need for accessible, design-focused and educational cannabis media. This made the project less about our desire to do something weird, and more about providing a platform for the community of women out there who want to discuss and explore cannabis in a modern way. We want Broccoli to be part of normalising cannabis use, especially for women.
Your mission is to unpack modern stoner culture “through an art, culture and fashion lens”. Can you explain this in more detail?
Existing cannabis media — magazines, websites, etc. — focuses largely on the industry, writing mostly about legal policy, growing, the technicalities of extraction, subjects that might not be relevant or exciting to people who are casual consumers, or just curious about weed. Cannabis touches so many creative parts of life — music, food, fashion, film, art — these are all subjects are readers are familiar with, which provides a level of comfort when discussing a “taboo” subject. For example, in Issue 01 we interview Sundae School, Korean-American fashion designers who make “smoke wear” and accessories that nod to weed, and we have a photo series of cannabis ikebana, creating floral arrangements that include hemp branches. Some of our stories have nothing to do with weed at all, but cover areas of interest for our reader, like discussing interesting women in art history or sharing an album review of relaxing, avant-garde music.
What would you say is the prevailing stoner image now, in 2017?
The perception of cannabis users changes dramatically based on where you are, so it’s hard to grasp what the prevailing image is right now. The scales probably still lean towards a negative view overall. In a fully legal market, there’s growing representation of high-achieving, creative people who use cannabis because it’s more acceptable to be open about it. On the other hand, an illegal state like New York is our second greatest market in terms of readers who have ordered the magazine, but hardly anyone living there will talk to us about it! There are a lot of people who like Broccoli but don’t feel that they can be featured in a magazine like ours, concerned about what a cannabis connection might do to their public image. We hope that over time, this fear will be minimised as more places legalise cannabis, because the community already exists.
Are you aiming to reshape the taboos around cannabis use?
Absolutely. Education is a big part of this. For every person who uses cannabis for fun, there’s another who uses it for their health, and neither should be judged. If the general public becomes more comfortable with cannabis as a whole, then we’ll see more resources being made available to scientists and doctors, who hold a really important key to gaining more knowledge about the plant and how it can help improve people’s quality of life.
Let’s talk about your all female team. How did you meet?
Jennifer James Wright (our designer), Jessica Gray (our communications director) and I all met while working at Kinfolk. Years of working together provided a strong platform for Broccoli, because we were already so familiar with each other’s creative strengths. I met Ellen Freeman (our deputy editor) through a mutual friend, and found Stephanie Madewell (our editor) by reading an interview with her on Moon Lists (https://www.moonlists.com), and we’ve quickly become a very solid team. We’re all based in different cities, so there’s a lot of digital communication. We usually name our group messaging threads “Broccolinis”, it’s like our club.
And are all your contributors female?
For Issue 01 all of our contributors are women or non-binary people.
How many issues do you have planned? Will they be themed?
Right now we’re working our Issue 02 for spring, and we’ll be publishing three times a year. We’re not working with themed issues, but we do have a few recurring formats. One of my favourites is a travel feature called Day Trip, where we pick a strange destination and have the writer craft a “hallucinated odyssey for the armchair traveler.” We can’t all fly across the world and smoke weed in a visual paradise, but we can imagine it.
As former director of Kinfolk, how does it feel to start a new publication?
When I decided to leave Kinfolk, I was interested in staying in publishing but wasn’t sure what shape that might take. With all the amazing magazines out there, it was surprising that there was a niche subject left for me! Making a new magazine is a dream come true, thanks to working with an amazing team and through all the support we’ve received from people who are excited for Broccoli to exist. It’s so refreshing to get to satisfy all of my weirder creative impulses that didn’t fit within the Kinfolk brand, although I did manage to get an archival photo story published in one of my last issues of Kinfolk about cats who have jobs, so I’ve got that achievement to carry with me.
What are the parallels between the two publications?
Despite being a free magazine, Broccoli still has a premium feel, and that level of print quality is something we’re carrying over from Kinfolk, minus the high cover price. The design overall is pretty clean and that’s something Kinfolk is known for, but we’re finding ways to add in doses of playfulness for Broccoli that will evolve from issue to issue, like mixing up our cover design. I love the ways that Jennifer has manipulated the typography in our larger features, both by distorting the letters themselves and in the way that you follow the content as a reader, like turning the magazine upside down to follow a spiralling path of text. We definitely did that for the stoners.
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