I’m from Canada, from a town in British Columbia called Kamloops. I grew up there and then, after high school, I lived in Vancouver.
In 2004, I got married to an American and moved briefly to New York. I was 21 and not prepared. Not prepared to not be able to work and not prepared for the immigration stuff. I just became a U.S. citizen, though, so now I can vote—I’m really looking forward to that.
After about seven months in New York, my ex-husband and I drove to Portland and now I’ve been here for 12 years. It was funny trying to research Portland at the time. Instagram didn’t exist and no one was sharing anything personal online, so I was watching city planning videos just to get any kind of glimpse of what the city was like. It was kind of a gamble, but I already knew I liked the West Coast, so it felt like a safe gamble.
For a long time, like many people in Portland have done at some point, I did the “vintage resale thing.”
Portland’s a really nice place to live. Etsy had just launched around the time that I moved here, so I made crafts and sold them online. And for a long time, like many people in Portland have done at some point, I did the “vintage resale thing.” I focused on clothes, because they’re soft and you don’t need a box to ship them. It’s much easier. Portland used to be great for that. You’d just dig through piles and hope you find treasure.
One time I found a copy of Charley Harper’s Giant Golden Book of Biology. That one from the ’50s with the really iconic illustration style and nature stuff? They’re worth a fair bit. Mine was all ripped up, but it still sold on eBay for like $200. Another time I found $40 in a book. So that was great. And then the best find, though maybe not the greatest, was a vacuum-sealed pickle. A real pickle! There was pickle juice in it. It must have been some kind of souvenir from a pickle factory or something.
I started shooting photos for small designers in those stores, which meant I got to work with a lot of really cool women. I was just shooting for fun. And then someone eventually asks you to do it for them, and then eventually you’re like, “Could I get paid to do that?” And you just go from there. That led me into the other side of things, and doing art direction with Kinfolk. I did that until last year.
Georgia King, Kinfolk’s editor, actually bought a jacket from me while she was still living in Australia, working at Frankie. She’s really friendly so she left a note with her order and we vaguely kept in touch online. So when she came to Portland, I hooked her up with the person she ended up subletting from, and then down the road, a job popped up.
One of the great things about working for a small magazine that works big is that you get to learn a lot about all the nuts and bolts.
I was at Kinfolk for three and a half years. The company was in Portland up until about two years ago, and then half the team went to Denmark and the people who were here moved on. So I was working remotely for about a year. It was kind of a bummer. Why would you not want to have a fun team that you liked with you, right? But there was a lot of transitioning happening for me that year, so it wasn’t too bad to not have to go to an office. The hardest part, though, was the nine-hour time difference. I would get up, get on my computer at 8 a.m. and it’s like 4 or 5 p.m. there, and they’re all done for the day.
My dad passed away the summer that I left Kinfolk, and that was basically when I quit. I needed to be home. He had cancer, and when someone is going through that process, you don’t know how much time you’re going to get with them, so you gotta drop everything you can and just go. So that’s what I did.
All of the legit recreational stuff in Portland started happening about a year before I left Kinfolk. Seeing the retail and brand stuff that was happening—it was really impressive. But we were still looking at incredibly industry-focused magazines.
One of the great things about working for a small magazine that works big is that you get to learn a lot about all the nuts and bolts. I had worked with Jessica Gray and Jennifer James Wright at Kinfolk, so I knew we could do it. It was just a matter of should we do it, because there was a lot of stuff out there already.
We had a designer, someone to do partnerships, and then me to do all the rest, so it was a good foundation. I found one of my editors, Ellen Freeman, through a friend of a friend of a friend. She was the funniest person I’d ever met. I crossed my fingers and hoped that she was just as funny in writing. She writes all the stuff that’s from the Broccoli voice: all the titles and the captions and the little intros. She also probably writes two or three articles per issue.
Jessica lives in L.A. J.J. lives in Austin, and then Stephanie Madewell, our “editor” editor, lives in Ohio. I was already comfortable with the remote thing, and knowing how to project-manage from a distance, so even though it wasn’t my dream of having everyone together in Portland, I knew it would work. And, you know, when they’re the right people, they’re the right people. Everyone flew out for a launch party in December and it was the first time a lot of us were meeting each other. It was just so sweet and fun.
We’re trying to find a balance between talking about weed and things that are just adjacent to the subject.
J.J. came up with our little tagline on the front: “A Magazine for Cannabis Lovers,” which is great. Broccoli looks at weed from a culture and fashion perspective, so looking at all the different things that a person who likes weed might also be interested in, or that we know they're interested in, because we are these people.
Stephanie put it really beautifully once: “For this type of person, weed is just one star in the constellation of their interests.” It’s doing both those people and the subject a disservice to ignore the rest of life. I understand this is just the premise of a lifestyle magazine in general, but like with many things for cannabis, even expected frameworks are still new and exciting. So we’re trying to find a balance between talking about weed and things that are just adjacent to the subject.
We’re often talked about within the framework of the luxury weed picture, but it’s funny because Broccoli is free. We try really hard to make sure that the stuff is a mix of things that are fantasy and reality. Not everything you see in there is going to be a $500 product.
We have seven people who have a regular thing each issue, and then we’re finding ways to get new people involved. We have a Science Editor, Zoe Sigman, for this third issue. She wrote to us because there was a factual error about CBD in our first issue and her email was so kind, like, “I just want to share this with you.” We went back and forth and I asked her some follow-up questions to make sure I was understanding it. Any time you hear some new science thing, you have to translate it to yourself, repeat it back to a person who knows the facts, and get that understanding of what’s really going on. We barely even got through those questions before I was like, “How about you take an editor’s eye from a science perspective on any article that makes any kind of claim, or references any kind of scientific understanding, and tell us if that seems to be the most up-to-date thing?” It’s just so cool to have her.
One of the biggest dangers that I see right now in cannabis is the overzealous claims around CBD.
One of the biggest dangers that I see right now in cannabis is the overzealous claims around CBD. The crowd is turning it into a snake oil, and it’s freaking me out. I think this is a really important debate right now. With CBD under the legal radar, right now, anyone can put out a CBD product. I could get on the internet and buy CBD—something that says “CBD White Label”—and stuff it in a vape pen, put it in a pill, put it in a lotion, and sell it to a lot of people. And I could say that it cures XYZ, from to skin problems to tumors. And that’s what people are doing, and it really, really hurts the truth. And the truth is that we are still learning. I’m very disappointed that people are going too far with it, because it’s going to cloud the reality of how powerful and versatile CBD is. That’s a risk we’re facing right now and I don’t like it.
The brands that I respect are the ones who approach that stuff cautiously, and with a lot of respect for where we’re at. They are not overdoing it. If they want to talk about an effect that they’ve seen, they’re actually referencing real studies and giving people’s personal perspectives. I hate the phrase “studies show.” Which studies? I get that most brands have to do their own research and this stuff’s very internal—so you don’t always have more than just your own research to call back to—but even then, I’d love to hear the research being done. Just a little more context off of which to hang a claim.
People have to make a more conscious decision about how they want to teach others, including their kids, about weed.
I probably started smoking weed when I was 19 or 20, when I moved to Vancouver—the “big city.” I was kind of a dork in high school. They tell you weed is bad, so you’re like, “Okay. It’s bad. I’m not gonna do it.” It’s interesting how people approach it now. People have to make a more conscious decision about how they want to teach others, including their kids, about weed. I don’t have kids, so I can’t really speak to that.
Now, with all these new vapes and stuff, my tolerance has gone down because the nice ones don’t hit as hard as just smoking flower. I really like the vapes that have no added junk, no flavors. You can just have pure cannabis extract and it tastes good and it’s effective. I love the Quill—that’s my favorite one. I really like Andi Bixel’s Gems from Drip Sweets, and I like Mr. Moxey’s Mints, because I can cut them in half and that’s the perfect amount. And Pilot Farm—they’re an Oregon farm.
I think Portland is 100% leading in terms of retail and brands. New York has more weed events than we do here, but we’ve had a little bit of a head start and the people here are really doing great work. Portland doesn’t always get to be the city that other cities look to, but I think they do for branding and design. And the farmers and people who really care about the land and biodiversity, they’re doing crazy cool stuff. We have a really strong farming culture, and I think it all fits in naturally with Oregon’s pride as a “maker” kind of state.
The next frontier is seeing which brands—the really traditional, big, corporate entities—are willing to play in this space. Who’s willing to touch it? Because there’s a lot of fun stuff to be done, and it doesn’t have to be illegal or scary.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Anja Charbonneau photographed by Jules Davies at her home in Portland, Oregon. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies.