BY TAYLOR ENGLE
With Pride Month upon us, we’re highlighting some of the most well-rounded and grounded LGBTQ+-owned cannabis brands on the market today—brands that work to educate the masses on the plant and its origins, provide safe access to people who’ve been shut out of the legal market, and give back to their communities at every turn.
From the whimsical Sonder made “by creatives, for creatives” to botanical-infused joints crafted by an award-winning mixologist, this list features eight of the industry’s LGBTQ+-owned brands who are individually advancing the perception of the plant and its holistic community in various ways.
Co-founded by love and life partners, CEO Faun Chapin and CMO/Creative Director M. Paradise, Sonder likes to “delight, surprise, and reward” with fast-acting, full-spectrum cannabis products, like their inventive sublingual Space Crystals that dissolve on the tongue à la Pop Rocks and were designed to be both an edible and a sublingual.
“It was like they had transformed into children. They had this totally giddy, giggly look on their faces and they were just so completely delighted. I was like, ‘That’s amazing, that’s exactly what I wanted to do,'” Paradise told Ember, describing watching customers try Sonder's Space Crystals.
Sonder also hopes to work towards a better future in cannabis for all: “[The cannabis world] has a long way to go to actually be inclusive, and to create a supportive environment so that the queer community and other people of color can actually be welcome into it… There are too many people incarcerated and too many who are suffering.”
NYC-based Sundae School started out as a cannabis-positive streetwear brand, and has since expanded to include all aspects of the industry and culture. Founded by Korean brother and sister duo Dae and Cindy Lim, Sundae School playfully takes inspiration from traditional Korean garments in their contemporary streetwear line, and has a standout perspective on their pre-roll and edible offerings.
The brand's miniature-sized Bullets were designed for a work-break smoke—a perfect fit for their community of “functional stoners." With delicious Asian-inspired cannabis creations like the mochi gummy edibles, the flavors are reminiscent of the Sundae School team's nostalgia for pan-Asian snacks from their childhood, like Milk Tea.
Sundae School is also dedicated to partnering with and spotlighting minority brands in the space as much as possible, collaborating with Asian-American woman-owned Elefante on their edibles, and minority-operated SF Roots for their flower. J Tran, Sundae School's CRO and Head of Cannabis, to Ember in a 2021 interview: "Community, to us, means striving to build an ecosystem where we all win. And we will continue to do that with every step forward."
Founded and curated by James Beard award-winning mixologist Drew Martin, the eponymously named cannabis brand is widely known for their low-dose, botanically blended pre-rolls, expertly crafted for a rejuvenated take on the social ritual of smoking—one that's more sensory and more present (in Weedmaps' words, "so you're always in the room").
Drew Martin’s flower is harvested by two sun-grown and women-owned farms in Mendocino and Humboldt, based on Martin’s desire to directly connect with the growers and ensure the best possible product for consumers. It's then blended with globally inspired botanical ingredients like yerba santa, rose petal, passionflower, and damiana.
Read all about Martin's fascinating life in our 2021 Ember profile, where he recounts his experiences at a rural queer commune residency in which he trained under a resident Cherokee medicine woman who foraged and processed herbs for the commune apothecary. This experience inspired Martin to further his formal training in Traditional Western Herbalism, and he eventually opened his private practice as an herbalist.
The brand is in many ways a social project that marries mixology, transformative experiences, and community: reminding the cannabis space of its origins and the true, connecting purpose of the plant. Read Ember's recent interview with Drew for his summer playlist, the brand's exciting new event series, and what being a queer founder of a cannabis brand means to Martin.
Cann is a queer-owned cannabis beverage brand whose social tonics have played a major role in redefining social drinking sans alcohol.
The origin story of the brand, for founders Jake Bullock and Luke Anderson, was deeply personal. “Luke and I realized alcohol-fueled socializing wasn't working for us. It wasn't serving us from a professional standpoint, from a personal standpoint, physically, mentally—it was preventing us from not only being the best versions of ourselves but really feeling like the best versions of ourselves,” co-founder Jake Bullock told Ember.
Now one of the best-selling cannabis beverage brands in the market, Cann is also a leading visionary force both inside and outside the cannabis industry with their inventive Pride Month campaigns. In 2021, Cann reimagined the early 2000s Fanta soda campaign featuring the "Fanta Girls," featuring drag queen icons who "drink weed" instead. This year, Cann collaborated with Weedmaps for an original music video and song "Taste So Good," featuring LELAND, Hayley Kiyoko, VINCINT, MNEK, and Kesha. Watch below for all the iconic cameos:
Cannabis edible brand Wyld offers a variety of elevated fruit-flavored gummies to consumers throughout various legal regions in the nation. Founded in 2016 by three college friends in Oregon, Wyld is dedicated to giving back to communities, supporting the environment, and contributing to progressive societal change.
It's no wonder Wyld's gummies are the nation's best-selling cannabis edibles, as reported in 2020 by Forbes. They're are a cut above the rest, made with real fruit, in delectable flavors found previously in high-end confections instead of infused edibles.
Co-founder René Kaza told Sava: "I feel cannabis has a way of bringing folks of all walks of life together, so for me, being queer in the cannabis industry has been refreshing and a blessing because there is no pretense with the cannabis community... To see the tolerance and diversity of people working in the space and the myriad consumers brings me joy and hope for the narrative to continue changing to even more acceptance, understanding, and compassion."
The brand remains heavily involved with the greater LGBTQIA+ movement, supporting the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Portland’s Pride Northwest, the Equality Federation, which advocates for LGBTQIA+ people on a national level.
Although we took care to highlight these above brands, there are several other LGBTQIA+-owned cannabis companies that are doing incredible work for the intersecting communities that have built this industry from the ground up. Here are some more brands to add to your Pride Month shopping list (and beyond):
Taylor Engle is a freelance writer, editor, and public relations/marketing specialist based in Brooklyn, New York. In her free time, she loves to cook, do yoga, and hang out with her cat.