Funny, thoughtful and educational, Gossamer is about much more than just cannabis
“One thing we always talk about when it comes to cannabis consumers is that people are multifaceted. No one’s just one thing,” states David Weiner, one half of Gossamer magazine (alongside friend Verena von Pfetten), as we chat over the phone. The duo, who are based in New York and have known each other for over ten years, is talking me through what exactly it is that makes Gossamer, well, Gossamer. Now in its second volume, with a third on the way, on the surface Gossamer is a niche magazine that speaks to those who smoke weed. But, in reality, it’s a publication that tells stories anyone can connect with; it might make you laugh or teach you something new, but it will definitely change your perspective on the world.
David and Verena met while both working at Huffington Post and have remained friends ever since. In 2016, however, they both found themselves freelancing at the same time, “lamenting the state of media and how everything felt the same”, over a cup of coffee . The conversation drifted to how the pair could do something in a different way and David suggested cannabis. “I went home and was like, ‘Absolutely not! A cannabis media company… that’s insane,’” Verena jokes. “But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how big an opportunity and how exciting that was.” This opportunity was in no small part down to the fact that cannabis has, over the past few years, been legalised in states across the US, and has become not only big business but also culturally more mainstream.
“For me,” David chips in, “when we were looking at cannabis, thinking about its growing industry, nothing was speaking to us. Anything from the media to the branding, to the name, there was nothing that I identified with personally.” Realising that friends, family and peers felt the same, Gossamer was born as a way to offer something to those who consume cannabis, far removed from the “canna-this or green-that” aesthetic, that touched on subjects other than just smoking, and which could help bolster criminal justice reform and educate on the sociopolitical issues associated with the substance.
“To make sure that we were making something that most people could have out on a coffee table and not be judged for was very important."Gossamer
Adamant they didn’t want to make something just for those who consume, David and Verena took the decision early on to produce something diverse, a consideration which has helped shape the magazine from the get-go. “Cannabis is not something that breaks people up into demographics,” David remarks, with Verena adding: “There are plenty of reasons that people might not consume and we want to make sure they feel welcome or that, if they’re curious, there’s the opportunity for them to get some answers.” It’s factors such as these that help make Gossamer so exciting, from its slick design to its beautiful commissioning , it’s entirely surprising. Free from the stereotypical greens and leaf logos of the cannabis industry, instead, Gossamer hides in plain sight and delivers insightful, thoughtful stories within its pages.
This decision goes far beyond just wanting those who don’t consume to feel included; it comes from a place of understanding and sensitivity. “It’s very important to remember that everyone’s circumstances are different and the cultural tolerance towards cannabis depends on their community and background, their socioeconomic circles and, obviously, the colour of their skin,” explains Verena. “So to make sure that we were making something that most people could have out on a coffee table and not be judged for was very important.”
Cannabis as an industry is plagued with problems, problems that those who now consume cannot forget. Generations upon generations, and disproportionately people of colour, have suffered at its hands. In response to this, Gossamer intends to be more than just a jovial publication which “channels the mindset of someone having their best high” but, instead, it aims to provide a platform, particularly for those whose voices have long been ignored. “There’s a very rare opportunity to build this industry from the ground up,” Verena points out, “one that is fair and equitable and we recognise that we have a part in that.
“It would be very easy for me to go out there and say, ‘Yes I have a cannabis lifestyle magazine and I have these beautiful pipes at home and here’s a joint-rolling tutorial that we are offering at a private women’s club.’ Those are all great and help push the conversation forward but you don’t get to participate in that if you’re not aware of what is happening across the whole industry. It’s important to us that we are trojan horsing that conversation.”
One way in which Gossamer is attempting to broach that conversation is through the use of custom-created ads. “We knew right away off the bat that we weren’t going to take advertising in the first volume,” David explains. Instead, the duo took this space which a magazine would usually offer to advertisers and instead dedicated it to organisations they felt were spearheading reform within the cannabis industry, or offering support to those negatively affected by it . These ads then feature calls to action so Gossamer readers can get involved in, or contribute to, each organisation’s work. “It felt wrong to create something that was celebrating or speaking to cannabis consumers without acknowledging that, and without giving people a way to do something,” David elaborates.
“It's giving you a different perspective on a conversation, on what you're reading, watching or eating”Gossamer
It’s in its balance of content – the earnest and the good-humoured – that Gossamer’s unique voice really starts to become clear. Both David and Verena possess a unique understanding of who they want to reach, and what exactly they would be interested in. “Serious people can be funny and funny people can be serious,” David says. “Frankly that’s just life. If you’re only doing one, only thinking about the fun side of cannabis then you’re ignorant to the history of it and if you’re only thinking about the serious side of it, you’re potentially missing something that creates fun in a lot of people’s lives.”
With themselves solidified as the go-to guys for a beautifully designed, interesting, funny and educational publication about weed, David and Verena recently took the next step in constructing the Gossamer world. Understanding their power when it comes to directing buyers to ethical, well-sourced products, David and Verena have created their own. A tincture, Dusk is “a unique formulation of cannabinoids and terpenes engineered to help you rest.” After receiving questions upon questions about product recommendations related to sleep, they worked for a year and a half alongside Dr. Alex Capano , who holds the first and only doctorate in cannabinoid science. “Something we found was that there was so little transparency in the industry in terms of where products are sourced,” Verena tells us. To counteract this, Dusk is not only tested rigorously for potency and quality, but it is also completely open about what is in the formula, and where these ingredients come from.
Asked to reflect on this process, David and Verena respond: “After almost two years of research, the making of Dusk is kind of one big blur. But one funny moment does stand out: one of the early formulations of Dusk had a higher amount of a terpene that naturally tastes very lemony. While the feedback from friends and testers was positive about the effects, we kept getting told that we should take out the lemon flavouring, as if it were fake or chemically created. People were shocked when we told them that it was a real and natural flavour. We ended up dialling that terpene back a bit for a few reasons, but also to ensure that nobody thought we were adding anything unnatural to the formulation!”
Ultimately, however, whether telling Christina Pérez’s story of heartbreak through her hotel history, supporting pro-criminal justice reform candidates like Cynthia Nixon, or discussing how food relates to immigrant culture and activism with DeVonn Francis, Gossamer will make you see things from a different perspective. And it’s here that the publication’s connections to cannabis are most felt. “People who consume are looking at things from a slightly different perspective,” Verena explains. “It’s giving you a different perspective on a conversation, on what you’re reading, watching or eating.” As a result, David and Verena revel in being able to take on the pitches that no one else will, that slightly off-kilter or unconventional idea you’ve had for a while – Gossamer will run it.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.