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NEWS AUGUST 12, 2018

Interview with Anja Charbonneau, Creator of Broccoli Magazine

Since the dawn of humans (or at least the 1960s), cannabis culture has been infused with a somewhat puerile sense of identity. While everyone enjoys a good giggle at stoner memes, Cheech & Chong movies or Snoop Dogg’s latest shenanigans, it’s all very “teenage boy”.

That’s why we were immediately paying attention on discovering Broccoli Magazine. An “international magazine created by and for women who love cannabis”, Broccoli explores and shapes modern stoner culture by looking at cannabis through a global art, culture and fashion lens” while marking out a dedicated space to discuss our favourite plant “in a fresh, stylish and approachable new way."

We are head-over-heels in love with Broccoli. The second we saw it, we just had to have it - so we got heaps of them, and you can have one too! The high-level print quality and design aesthetic are matched by the insightful, humorous and thought-provoking content, which is unsurprising considering the magazine is the brainchild of Anja Charbonneau. The former Art Director of Kinfolk Magazine has brought her impeccable design credentials to this new venture, and we were keen to pick her brain.

Now that we’ve gotten to see a couple of issues, the parallels between your former gig at Kinfolk and your new initiative with Broccoli are starting to make sense – at least in terms of the broader aesthetic and general playfulness. However, what did people say when you first made it known that you were quitting one of the world’s most well-known and best-loved design bibles to produce a women’s magazine about weed!?

My career path in publishing definitely added a bit of novelty to our origin story, but it wasn’t surprising to anyone who knew me personally. While I did get to shape Kinfolk’s editorial evolution along with a really talented team and I’m proud of how far the magazine has come, it was never my magazine or full expression of who I am. My favourite articles for Kinfolk were some of the last ones I worked on, like a history piece on the Dance Theatre of Harlem, a profile on the late cellist Jacqueline du Pre, and a series of 1970’s photographs of cats with jobs. Ballet, cello and cats, those are some of my long-term interests expressed through those features, and honestly, they could have been published in Broccoli as well. Those stories originated from a very personal place for me. With Broccoli, we can be a lot weirder, and there’s a lot more flexibility to play with the design and editorial scope. Kinfolk had an established set of parameters that we worked within, and Broccoli is much more open and constantly evolving. We use a lot more colour, too!

Broccoli Magazine - The Cannabis Company

Delving into the comments section of anything female-oriented online is a shitstorm [of male outrage]. Any socio-cultural endeavour which dares to make a case for women and non-binary people without concerning itself with what men think tends to suffer a hail of abuse from MRA and “not all men” types. Have you met with any of this nonsense due to Broccoli’s specifically female orientation?

I actually disagree, I find male-dominated spaces online to be much more vitriolic and abusive. Communities started by and centred around women tend to self-regulate in an interesting way because the trolls can’t egg each other on if they are alone. It’s true that I have had a few negative interactions with men who wanted to berate me for some reason or another, but it’s only been a handful of interactions. It barely registers compared to the tens of thousands of people who are supporting us on Instagram, reading the magazine, emailing us, coming to our events, etc. Eventually, maybe the trolls will find us, but they will be ignored.

I find it absolutely bananas that cannabis culture is only just starting to shrug off its “teenage boy” mentality. The parts of the marijuana plant of most interests to the widest amount of people are the female parts, while cannabis has a long history of helping with ailments that affect women only. Can you identify a point at which you started to realise that this plant had particular relevance in a “for women, by women” context, and how did you pursue it from there on?

Well, I’m a woman, and I’ve always enjoyed working with other women, with queer people, non-binary people, those are the communities that have always felt the most supportive and open to me. If I was starting an ice cream business, a shop, a photo agency, any kind of business, it would be coming from the same place of intention. The relationship that women have to cannabis is very broad, and very unique from person to person. Hearing personal stories from women in the industry when Broccoli was just getting started was really powerful and encouraging, and convinced me that a project like Broccoli would actually make a difference for some people. Women really wanted it to exist, and to be involved. I didn’t want to start the business if it was entirely self-serving as a creative outlet, it had to be bigger than that.

I’m sure it was no surprise to your closer confidants that you were willing to put your name to cannabis culture publicly, but did you have any worries about negative effects it may have on your family, career, opportunities, etc? Has that happened?

BC BudI grew up in British Columbia, Canada, so cannabis was often present even if it was on the sidelines, everyone has heard of “BC bud”, it’s just part of west coast culture. I didn’t touch it until I was 19, and my family has been really supportive of Broccoli. I was a little embarrassed when my mom recently saw a photo of me smoking weed that we shot for an interview, I’ve never smoked in front of her, but she doesn’t care at all. She gives copies of Broccoli to my grandma. Obviously, I’m coming from a place of privilege, and my experience is not reflective of the hugely diverse perspectives that we share in the magazine. One of the most amazing things about Broccoli has been the way it has opened up connections to people all over the world who want to share their cannabis stories, and we get to see the things we have in common while giving space to all of our differences. We’re always very cautious of how comfortable people are with sharing these stories publicly, some people have used an alias in the magazine because they know it could threaten their careers or personal safety. It’s not always an option for someone to be open about cannabis use, and it’s important to respect that.

What are your earliest memories of cannabis? Not necessarily smoking or getting high, but anything to do with the cannabis plant?

Growing up on the west coast, it’s always vaguely present. I remember in elementary school finding out that my friend’s parents smoked weed, and we were all really judgmental and maybe a bit scared for her. Pretty ridiculous, but we had no idea what cannabis was other than it being a “drug”. I also remember digging around in our cupboard at a young age and smelling a big jar of dried tea leaves, and I believed it was tea, but recently I smelled a jar of very old weed and it triggered that scent-based memory, so it was probably my parents’ weed.

When did you first actually try it and what was the first time like?

My first time was around 19, I had just moved away from home to Vancouver and was watching a movie with my new housemates. They had a joint and offered it to me, and I tried to play it cool even though it was my first time. I remember one of my best friends trying weed at a party a year or so earlier, and she had a terrible time, so I just didn’t see the appeal. I think I needed the right environment, something calm and easy, not a big chaotic teen drinking party.

Broccoli Magazine - Cats

How do you tend to utilise cannabis these days?

My favourite product is the Quill, a low-dose vape pen that uses pure cannabis extract, so there’s nothing artificial in it. It’s straightforward to regulate how much THC you get, and it never, ever makes me feel too high. I’ve recently come to accept that cannabis tends to accentuate how I’m feeling, so I’m more thoughtful about how I use it. When I’m stressed, it’s usually not a good choice, but when I feel good, it can make me feel even better. Cannabis really asks you to be honest with yourself, to respect your boundaries, and to be flexible and willing to learn from your experiences.

The market in the United States is beyond anything I ever imagined regarding strains, edibles, tinctures and suchlike. It seems to be growing in acceptance throughout broader society almost on a daily basis. Have you had any surprising encounters regarding unexpected people you’ve met who are similar aficionados of the Tree of Life?

The biggest surprise for me has been tapping into a global community, beyond our legal markets in the US. We’re shipping the magazine to over 40 countries, including some you might not expect, like Latvia for example. We’ve connected with a family there who runs a hemp farm; they’re called Obelisk Farm. How cool is that? Cannabis is such a powerful connector, and I’m so grateful to be part of this vast and fascinating network.

Anja Charbonneau - BroccoliWhereas High Times has been around for close on half a century now, we’re starting to see a lot more magazines (of varying quality) appear in the cannabis space. Do you reckon there’s a broader market for more publications about cannabis, specifically those orientated towards women? How about more extensive media, beyond print?

We’re definitely in a bit of a cannabis magazine boom right now, but I don’t think they will all last. Running a magazine and making it into a profitable company is really, really challenging. Vice has done a lot digitally with weed for a long time, and they just released a cookbook from their Munchies platform. There are a couple of digital content platforms out there that focus on cannabis, and some do highlight a female audience, but it takes a lot of money and resources to sustain that kind of content schedule. I think we’re going to see more and more people going offline, I feel right about the future of new print media, and I’m excited to see people connecting more in person. Even in legal markets, there are many restrictions on where you can consume weed as a group (it’s illegal to do it anywhere but a private residence or privately-owned space), but I think those laws will soften over time.

In 2015, women held 36% of executive level positions in the cannabis industry (according to a survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily). By 2017, that number had fallen to 27% (which is at least still higher than the national average for the United States, in which women hold just 23% of executive-level positions). Firstly, do these figures accurately represent what you see “on the ground”? Secondly, do you feel this situation can be improved, and how so? Thirdly, here in Australia, the cannabis industry is still in a fledgling state – do you have any advice for women who want to enter the industry on their terms, to create it in their own image?

I’ve had a hard time reconciling with these stats, and seeing that the industry is just as male-dominated as any other while also championing the story of “women in weed”. Venture capital firms and big investors primarily power the industry, and they’re pretty much all run by white men. Women in cannabis have a huge voice, but we don’t always have the financial resources. However, it’s the only industry where I see people constantly demanding transparency from the companies they support, and it’s women who are leading those conversations. It’s women who are organising rallies, events, and organisations that support socially-driven causes within cannabis, who support minority-owned businesses, and who are creating the cannabis community. There’s a powerful movement happening, and it’s being led by women. I don’t know how it will evolve, but we are working towards something useful.

Finally, if you could smoke out anyone in history, who would it be?

My best friends. There’s nothing better than getting stoned and laughing until your belly hurts with the people that you love the most.

Thank you, Anja, for the insight!




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