“Weed is one of the most significant cultural changes that's happening our lifetimes,” says writer, producer, and unofficial Weed Queen Michelle Lhooq. “It spans across so many different areas, from food to politics to gender, everything.”
Before immersing herself in the world of weed, Lhooq was an editor at Vice’s electronic music vertical Thump, and was constantly seeing parallels between the two. “Both rave culture and weed are things that a lot of people don't really take seriously, on a superficial level, but if you actually dive into it, you can see so many different socio-political issues refracted through them.”
Lhooq decided to plant herself in pot, moving from New York to Los Angeles and becoming fascinated with the growing popularity of weed parties. She was inspired to throw herself into the industry, producing her first Weed Rave in January and publishing the definitive ganja guide, her illustrated book Weed: Everything You Want To Know But Are Always Too Stoned To Ask which was released this week.
On international high holiday 4/20, Lhooq will bring Weed Rave to New York as a launch party for her book. Out sat down with the pot princess to chat about creating stoner spaces, operating intentionally within a capitalist structure, and the inherent queerness of marijuana.
How is weed culture different between New York and LA?
California is the production capital and New York is the consumption capital. New York actually has more weed consumers than anywhere else in the country, which is fascinating, but California holds a lot more of the infrastructure, because it had medical for so long.
That's why New York legalization is stalling, because there's just not enough infrastructure for the demand that's gonna fucking take over. Because, I think medical culture was so strong, for so many decades in California, it's just a lot more ingrained into the mainstream.
In New York, it still has a slight danger to it. Especially in organizing my weed rave, it's been really interesting to see the contrast between approaching companies in New York versus LA, because in New York, companies are still trying to keep their head down. They don't want publicity. They just want to line themselves up, and be ready for legalization, but they don't want press.
What made you want to take the leap from writing about weed, to throwing a weed rave?
Honestly, I was just going to so many weed parties, and I was like, "There is so much potential here. There is this amazing sense of freedom, and abundance." But, a lot of them felt super industry, and I just wasn't getting that catharsis and ecstasy that I find at raves.
A lot of it has to do [with] really prioritizing music, and making sure that your dance floor is cute. The current weed parties are, as I said, very industry, very branded, very focused on the companies, but I wanted to do something that integrates the companies, and the products, into an actual experience.
One of the things that I'm doing at the Weed Rave that I'm really excited for is a CBD yoga collaboration between Eartheater and Sigrid from Fluct, who are super avant garde artists. They are gonna be incorporating CBD lotions, tinctures, and sprays into the activity, through this brand called Goodwitch — from this really awesome, herbal, witchy girl.
Throwing this rave that aims to set itself apart from other weed parties, how do you, as a producer and a weed enthusiast, create the kind of intentional space you want the party to be?
One thing that I'm really about is making it very organic, literally bringing in plants into the space, and creating a very natural and eco-friendly vibe. Because I think weed is obviously a plant, so when you're super stoned, I think you want to be surrounded by softness, and nature. To me, nature is very femme, whereas your typical rave space is very masc, because of the super linear lines, and the grittiness, and the hardness. I'm trying to push the party into this more psychedelic, femme, warm space, that goes in line with weed as a wellness plant rather than a hardcore drug, so that's one way to create a welcoming environment.
Messaging is also super important. I always, always talk about how all the companies that I'm working with, and the DJs, are femme, POC, queer. It's funny because a lot of the response that I got for the first one is, "I'm straight. Can I come to this party?" Within our little rave world, we're so used to this femme, queer thing being the default almost, but in the weed space, there's a little bit more confusion, because weed is a lot more mainstream, so you can attract a lot of different people.
Again, it's all about creating a safe space, where people can get really fucking stoned.
Is there any tension, as a producer, with trying to keep it from feeling too branded and too much about consumption?
I think about this a lot. We're all prisoners of capitalism. In that, the best thing you can do is, try and encourage a version of ethical consumption, which is why I'm trying to work with companies run by people who care about the issues and not trying to just have a booth at a party where one person is standing behind it, talking, saying the same thing over and over again, meanwhile, you're just like, "Can you shut up so that I can get the free weed?"
I try to integrate every single element of the party with an intentional partner. We're also gonna have all these discussion panels, talking about social justice within the legal weed space and that's gonna be paired with joints to help people loosen up during the speech. Nothing is there just for the sake of being there. I'm trying to thoughtfully curate the sponsors to be in line with specific activities. All of the activities are supposed to showcase the versatility of weed, that it's not just about smoking a joint, but it's also about topicals, it's about tincture. There's just so much going on in the weed space.
What was the first weed rave you threw like?
It was in a warehouse in LA, three rooms. We had a fast, more sativa-oriented space, with a weed bar. Then, a marketplace with fashion, street wear, and accessories, and then, a downstairs, ambient, more live, more indica vibes.
I was really struck by the energy in the room. I was really nervous beforehand about what would go down, because it's such a social experiment. I feel like we don't know what weed-centric parties are like, because they're so new. Obviously, people have been smoking weed at parties forever, but when it's the main thing that's bringing people there, it really changes the vibe, because weed is a super social drug. It's also really hard to be mean to people, or pretentious when you're on it.
What I really loved about the first one was seeing how many people were talking to strangers, and sharing things, like, "Hey, want to smoke out of this crazy contraption that I have?" And talking to each other, which is really different honestly, from a lot of other parties in LA, which can be very, let's-watch-each-other-and-see-what-you're-wearing and too cool vibes.
How did throwing the party impact writing your book, and how did writing the book impact how you threw the party?
It was all related, because a lot of the companies that I approached for the rave are in the book. I got to know them through writing the book. That was my vetting process. Now, for the New York one, it's actually the official launch for my book, so I'm gonna be giving away free copies of the book to everyone who buys advanced tickets and I'm having a reading.
All of the visuals from the book are related to the party, which is really important, because it shows that I'm trying to be really playful. I'm trying to be very femme-friendly and also very modern. The aesthetic is very different from the typical ... There's several different aesthetics in weed right now. One is the kush monster, bro-ie, very heavy backpack bro kind of vibe. Then, the other one is almost like the polar opposite, Silicon Valley, very clean, very Starbucks, very rich white women. Mine is something else. Mine is more street, more youth, again, more playful, more Adult Swim.
Why do you think queer people love weed?
Weed has always been a shadow economy. It's existed outside of the mainstream, and it's been a really potent and viable way for queer people and minorities to eek out a living outside of systems that might reject them or make it harder for them. That's why it's so, so important for us to band together and support each other at this transitional phase when all of these white corporate interests are coming in and trying to industrialize into a really mainstream product, which is gonna happen.
But, in order for us to survive, we really need to support each other, because as individuals, it's not gonna work.
What do you think the future of weed is?
I think it's gonna infiltrate every single level of culture. Think about how much alcohol affects everything we do, from the way we socialize to the way we self-medicate. I think weed is gonna have the exact same sweeping change.
I am really interested in two things. The first is criminal justice. I think it's gonna be really interesting to see how people address the disproportionate targeting of minorities during the war on drugs, and how to build that into the legal movement, which is really happening in New York. A lot of people are pushing for that, for some kind of reparative program to be built into the bill.
I'm also interested in the more psychedelic aspect of weed. I think that it is a gateway drug, LOL, because it's already opening up people to other sorts of psychedelic medicines, plant-based medicines. We've seen mushrooms, ketamine, MDMA, all having breakthrough scientific discoveries on how it can help us treat mental issues that have gone for decades as unsolvable or untreatable things. Now, it's just like, “Oh, wow, ketamine can help with depression? That's crazy.” But yet, I know so many people who are self-medicating with ketamine.
What are some of your favorite weed products?
I'm getting really into oral ingestion, rather than smoking. I think a lot of people who are health-conscious, don't want to be smoking all the time. So, I love THC tinctures and sprays. I think they're the future.
I'm on the fence about weed lube. They're really becoming very trendy, but-
People seem so split about whether or not they even work.
Okay, so I interviewed a sex educator in the book called Ashley Manta. She identifies as a canna-sexual. She told me that, the way to do it is, a marinade, not a lube. You have to let it sit for 20 minutes, before it works. So, I think the problem might be that a lot of people are just not using it right.
I used to be really into CBD, but I've actually come to maybe be a bit more skeptical, because of the level of snake oil on the market right now. It's literally everywhere and I think it's irresponsible for people to be pushing it, as if it's a panacea to every single problem that you might have, when we actually have very little research into recreational use of CBD. We only know how it works for people with seizures, and cancer. I'm a little skeptical of CBD, and CBD topicals and stuff like that, but the placebo effect is very strong, and if it works for you, then work!
What's your favorite thing to do when you're high?
Michelle Lhooq’s book Weed: Everything You Want To Know But Are Always Too Stoned To Ask is out now. Her Weed Rave will take place in New York City on April 20, get tickets here.