In a world dominated by questions about the literal future of the human race on planet Earth, there’s something charmingly simple about a group of hot women getting high and speaking truths.
Of course, there’s more to Queens of the Stoned Age than that. The series, produced and created by Snoop Dogg for his Merry Jane network, challenges D.A.R.E.-era depictions of cannabis culture by making women this generation’s messenger.
The series is like a Meet the Press roundtable, except Chuck Todd’s seat is filled by a beautiful stoned woman that asks guests how cannabis improves their orgasms. Cannabis feminist Jessica Assaf serves as Queens’ informal host, sharing cannabis and conversation with influential women like singer Samantha Urbani, adult film actress Riley Reid, artists The Kaplan Twins, photographer and 1999 Playmate Jennifer Rovero and cannabis entrepreneur Molly Peckler. Assaf links all these women with her warmth and genuine love for cannabis.
Whether or not you enjoy cannabis, there’s something inspirational about these women who truly do. They’ve found pleasure, opportunity, wellness and – with women holding 36% of cannabis company CEO positions compared to 5% in the rest of the business sector – a billion dollar industry to lead. The Queens are a small snapshot of women living the green American Dream.
Merry Jane producers Tara Aquino and Assaf hope that through sharing these stories, the all-female cast and crew can help break down the stigma around using cannabis and educate more women about the power of the plant.
“It was such a joint effort,” Assaf says with no hint of irony. “We created this dream all-female crew, and together we recruited some of the most interesting women I’d ever met with such diverse backgrounds…There needs to be more women openly using cannabis and talking about how they feel.”
We spoke with Aquino and Assaf about getting moms out of the cannabis closet, changing stigma around smoking, and celebrating women taking charge of cannabis industry. Below is our interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Queens of the Stoned Age premieres September 12th on MerryJane.com.
Photography by Jennifer Rovero
What do you hope viewers take away from your show?
ASSAF: We wanted to share the different faces of cannabis–just the different types of people that benefit from cannabis or who uses cannabis on a regular basis. But we also wanted to show the connection that cannabis creates. I think it’s pretty obvious as you watch, you can also feel us connecting and creating an everlasting bond through the shared experience of using cannabis. And the fact that it actually made the conversation more real and more open and more comfortable in a lot of ways.
I also want people to see that cannabis can actually make you smarter and more articulate. I probably smoked, I don’t even know how many joints during the course of that day, an obscene amount, but I felt myself getting happier and more comfortable on screen with the women and more willing to be vulnerable and share and just be real. I think that’s what it already does for so many of us, but we don’t get to see that in the media. The media is holding cannabis back from reaching its true potential, so I think we can be the ones to show, not tell.
AQUINO: I feel like the purpose is to normalize cannabis and just get rid of the taboo.
ASSAF: The act of sharing the joints in the show almost becomes a small detail. I don’t think that’s what people will pay attention to. I think it actually maybe even adds to the beauty of the visuals, but it doesn’t take away from what we’re saying or it doesn’t distract from the conversation.
What inspired Snoop to produce a show like this?
AQUINO: There’s no show out there that depicts women cannabis users in real life. There are a bunch of scripted series out there, but he wanted something to truly reflect, normalize, and celebrate women who enjoy cannabis. Back when he was growing up, he noticed women had things that brought them together–and that was Tupperware parties and book clubs. So, he wanted to bring to life something like that for this generation of women.
ASSAF: It’s a crazy time for women in cannabis right now, and so it’s kind of hard to ignore if you’re in California or Los Angeles. Women are the ones that are changing the culture and so I just think Snoop is early to recognize a lot, including that.
Why do you think women and cannabis are such a potent combination?
ASSAF: Women have had to be in the cannabis closet for a long time for many reasons–the legality around cannabis, the stigma, what it would mean for someone like a mother to come out and say she uses cannabis–and I think finally culture and media are ready for women to be honest and open. Women are the most powerful force because they can break the stigma. If you think about it, your mom would be someone that would change a national perspective around cannabis. So we need the moms. It makes the message softer, it makes it feel more accessible, it feels less like a sketchy drug deal and more like a wellness experience. And that’s what we’re doing. It’s the women that are coming out and creating products that don’t look anything like they’re cannabis related. It feels like a female force and we’ve been waiting for so long to make this a reality. Now it’s years of bottled-up excitement so it’s no wonder we’re all just jumping up and down every day.
What left a lasting impression on you after shooting for the series was over?
AQUINO: It was just interesting to see how all these women were basically struggling with the same things. We were connecting over anxiety, we were connecting over just body image issues and so on. From adult film stars to musicians, everybody had the same shared pain that they were dealing with and using cannabis to treat.
ASSAF: I agree with Tara in that it was so easy to be vulnerable when other women were vulnerable and it never felt like we were classifying ourselves as having depression, or anxiety, or PTSD. We were just acknowledging that these are all parts of life and if you figure out how to self-medicate and listen to your body and be open to getting help from others then we’re all going to be okay. This plant medicine is really here to help in so many little ways, so it was the shared pain, but it was also the shared love and happiness that we get from the plant. It’s also knowing that there’s something that can help us everyday without going to a doctor. That’s the most empowering feeling and that’s what we all shared.
How has cannabis improved your life?
ASSAF: Everything from giving me confidence and giving myself time and space to get to know myself and learn to like myself. I didn’t like myself before I started using cannabis because I didn’t take the time to know myself. Cannabis created a mindspace where that was possible. If you are willing to lean in and be open to the ways that cannabis can help, you will find so many ways that you don’t even notice. Now I know what to take when I have a headache. Or this month when I have my period, I’ll use the suppositories to manage cramping. There are little ways that it’s actually revolutionizing women’s health and giving us the power to decide what we need and when.
AQUINO: I’m actually pretty new to using cannabis. So through Jess and through the show and through the experience other women have had with it, I’m learning how to incorporate it into my life. As someone who deals with anxiety, I’m talking to my friends and asking, “How do I deal with this, how do I medicate with cannabis?” It’s pretty new but I’m learning to embrace it and make it a part of my lifestyle.
ASSAF: That’s beautiful.
What do you hope the future of cannabis culture looks like?
AQUINO: I hope it’s embraced and mainstream and not even an issue that we have to separately address all the time.
ASSAF: I hope it’s so integrated that it’s not even its own culture. It should just be as basic as getting a cup of coffee or tea or going to the supplement aisle or going to the doctor. It should just be a part of our lives as much or as little as we want, but it should be up to us.
What really excites you right now in particular about the cannabis industry?
AQUINO: What women are doing in this space is the most exciting thing. Seeing how they create products and use flower. They’re making it really beautiful.
ASSAF: What really excites me about the cannabis industry is that I think it’s going to be the first billion dollar industry run by women and across all industries the highest percentage of female executives are already in cannabis. I’m looking forward to where we’re headed. It feels very bright.