Allison of Her Highness | 09.09.21

Allison Krongard runs Her Highness with her friend and business partner Laura Eisman in New York, where they sell a lifestyle collection of ‘THC and CBD products designed to increase joy in women’s lives & remove the stigma of cannabis use’. They sell stylish high end products across three channels, to accommodate different regions with varying degrees of legal weed: hemp-CBD, high design paraphernalia, and THC (to expand as legalisation spreads). Their product range includes accessories like the Thigh High stash jar, pre-rolls, vape pens and highly orgasmic pleasure oils. While their THC products were initially available in California only, they have since expanded this range across several US states. Recently, Her Highness announced plans to begin launching products in the Canadian and Mexican markets.

When did a women-oriented cannabis company come up first, in conversation with Laura? How did she initially pitch the idea to you? Both of us came from businesses – where she created a website, I created products for women. So we both came from the standpoint of creating luxury female products. But she came to me with an idea to do cannabis accessories. As cannabis was becoming more and more popular, she was looking for some beautiful rolling papers and ashtrays and accessories for people who like to smoke; female-oriented, design-oriented. I, being a cannabis user for 30 years, have collected beautiful ashtrays and things from my cannabis use over the years, coming from design and interior design. And I totally agreed, there’s a real gap there. But really, my passion was to make cannabis products and touch them; really get in there, and feminise them. Which she loved too. So when we got together, we both did this really beautiful paraphernalia collection; marble rolling trays and ashtrays, the stash box, our fun lips ashtray… They definitely stand out compared to typical accessories, they’re very unique. Yeah, so for her that was what was driving her and I of course loved that. So I jumped right on board with that.

But then we took it further to design beautiful pre-roll boxes. We really feminised that, like our pre-roll with the extra long crutch, so you don’t melt your eyelashes and ruin your nail polish. Once we got together, we knew we were gonna do something for women. We then developed a bigger idea, with the mission of creating a CBD version of every THC product, as well as the paraphernalia. That really allowed us to enter many markets and talk about THC while we’re talking about CBD. Mainstream media would not profile our THC business, but they would profile our CBD business. And when they’re asking questions, we can always answer with something that includes this concept of normalising something that contains THC. If we can get it on that type of magazine and on that type of media, we can accomplish that. So that’s where we came from and how we started this company.

You’ve said in previous interviews that Her Highness is keen to eradicate stigma associated with cannabis use and sex. Have you noticed a significant cultural shift away from the stigmatisation of both in America? Yes. I would say that, especially during Covid, when things like Only Fans became mainstream, but there’s still a long way to go. But even when things like sex and cannabis become less stigmatised for women, it always takes longer. To accelerate that process, we’re making accessories that you want to display in your home and creating cannabis products that are designed for gifting. For example, a pre-roll and lighter set. On the back it has a ‘to’ and ‘from’, so it’s like a postcard. It’s a very cool feature, actually. Yeah, it’s just fun. It reminds people that this is not only a gift to ourselves, but if you’re meeting a bunch of friends for dinner instead of picking up a little candle for everyone or whatever, this is really a super fun gift, and something to be shared. And that’s sort of a very female characteristic. When we find something really good that we love, we love to share it with our friends.

In terms of destigmatising cannabis through products meant for sharing and gifting, another example of that would be our Get Lit Kit *Richard laughs*. It’s just a lighter, ashtray and grinder, meant for hostess gifting. Instead of bringing wine, to bring cannabis. To bring actual cannabis, we have another gift set (which we also do in CBD), where you get your box of pre-rolls, an ashtray, and a lighter. We’re really trying to encourage people to gift cannabis instead of alcohol, or with alcohol, but instead of it always being the go-to to bring a bottle of wine or something to a party, to make cannabis gift-able. To answer your question about sex as well, there’s not just sex stigmatised, but female pleasure stigmatised.

The idea of prioritising women’s orgasms when sex in popular media is so much about the male orgasm. And by really shining a light on the importance of a female orgasm, and creating a product that we feel really enhances the depth and size of a female orgasm. The Pleasure Oil is a product that is so shared and so gifted because when women discover that, it’s like: ‘Oh I’ve gotta tell my best friend about this, this is major!’ Game changer. Game changer! And then we’ve created this product around it, these packs. They’re called Cum on the Go packs. With the idea that if you’re going to your boyfriend’s overnight, women typically will bring heels and lingerie. But you know, it’s like you’re thinking about planning for them, but you’re not planning for your own orgasm. Right, so you’ve got little handy sachets to bring with. Exactly, right! And it’s subtle, and each one is ‘one orgasm amount’. They’re also gift-able and it’s such a fun thing to share. And in making things that are kind of fun, you know it’s silly but it’s not silly, it’s actually useful. We’re just trying to stimulate conversation and make it something that people want to tell their friends about and share.

For our full bottle of Pleasure Oil, we tried to make it beautiful. And we tried to make the experience of using it beautiful. We don’t want you to hide it. If you leave it out on your bedside, you’re gonna use it. If it’s something that looks weird or ugly, you’re gonna hide it and use it less. So you’ve designed it kind of like a designer perfume box. Exactly, yeah. Your packaging designs are fantastic, I have to say. The Thigh High ashtray, the way it’s got the marble and the legs sticking out, it’s really cool. Thank you. In an interview with the Cannabinoid Connect podcast, you credited weed as being a consistent source of inspiration to you in previous ventures, whenever you were designing products. Why do you think many people continue to perceive cannabis as being detrimental to productivity? I think many people are stuck in that Nancy Reagan Just Say No moment, ‘cannabis is bad’. Rationally, people know that cannabis is ancient medicine. It’s such a clean product. I don’t know any young people who are stuck in that mindset. Yeah.

It seems like that generation that was raised on ‘cannabis is a drug and it’s bad’ and ‘alcohol is not a drug and it’s okay’.. Rationale is out the window and those are just accepted as facts and it’s really hard to break that. Although, what’s interesting is something I learned with my father, who is certainly a very conservative person. What happened, when he got cancer and he started using cannabis medicinally, it helped him for a long time. Now he’s better, but during that time he realised that it actually was a great healer. So I think there are a lot of older people who are starting to use it for arthritis and sleep and other reasons, and they’re starting to see it. Yeah. Slowly but surely. Right, slowly but surely. It’s just old tech, old thinking. Everyone I know who uses cannabis regularly is athletic, works out regularly. For me, I find it gives me access to my creativity in a way that when I’m not stoned, I still get the ideas, but it’s like I shoot it down before I develop it. But when I’m stoned, it’s like the idea flows and keeps going to fruition, I get to a place where I can use it. It gets you in the zone more. Yeah, yeah.

I saw you mention before that Her Highness tries to avoid cannabis that causes ‘couch lock’, and that you display rankings for the strength of each product’s high and so on, to keep your customers informed. Now, you already gave me the example of the way your pre-rolls are designed to bear nails and lashes in mind. Do you have another example of tailoring your products to your customers’ needs? Yes. Our vape, which you mentioned, sort of looks like a Tiffany pen, looks like a piece of jewellery. It doesn’t look like drugs and there are two formulas inside. Giggle, which is perma-smile energy with extra humulene to kill off ‘the munchies’. Okay. And High Priestess, which is pure euphoria, it’s 93% THC..Oh wow..With extra humulene to kill off ‘the munchies’. And the reason why we developed these two is because we were speaking to the two most prevalent, distinctive, memorable highs that women tend to like. It’s ‘going out with your friends and laughing so hard your face hurts. And then not going home and having twelve bowls of macaroni and cheese.’

And the other one is when you’ve sort of passed from mildly stoned into super stoned and it becomes more about the body high and this introspective feeling.. Mindfulness. Yeah. That is the perfect sex high, it’s the perfect yoga high, I think. For me, it’s also the perfect ‘walking down 5th Avenue and window shopping and looking at people’ high. That’s that other feeling that’s sort of like the high when you want to be by yourself more. Yeah. Taking it all in. Yeah. It’s that other kind of high that’s so great and so useful. A great example would be our High Heels, which are trans-dermal pads that go in your shoes when you’re wearing high heels. Because that’s when women need pain relief. And so many trans-dermals, it’s all about back pain, which is great, and boring. *Richard laughs* But women have foot pain. We all have shoes in our closet, where every woman sort of has a mental checklist of how many hours they can go in that pair before it’s too unbearable. So, judging the evening ahead gives you a selection of what’s possible. So this really extends that time. I must say, I think that’s a particularly clever item to sell. Because that’s a major annoyance for a lot of women out there. It’s a real issue, so I’m sure they’ll be eager to pick that up. Yeah, it is.

That’s sort of the premise of our company: ‘How can we bend cannabis to suit women?’ There’s such a rich, amazing assortment of cannabis products out there. But they’re often either delivered in a way that doesn’t suit women, or dosed, or… A million things that give us the opportunity to tweak them to make them more female-friendly.

In that same interview with Cannabinoid Connect, mentioned earlier, you said that at one time in the past you used cannabis to help you combat depression. And you noticed that many women were self-medicating with pills and alcohol, and you felt that more of them should know about the benefits of weed. Did this take place long before you had that discussion with Laura that led to Her Highness? It did. It happened after my previous venture was acquired, and the deal was I had to work for them for two years. And I went from running my own business and being in a very creative, positive-spirited environment, to a sort of Wall Street, 100-year-old company. A really, really corporate environment where the people.. It was like a job. Before that, we went to work because it was more fun than being home. *Richard laughs* And I moved into a company where it was hard to get out the door, really hard to get out the door. And I think a lot of people suffer with that. Plenty of people hate their job and they really look forward to that after-work drink.

I really felt like there was a better way and I wanted to do something. Initially, I was thinking after I sold my last company that I wanted to do something in cannabis. But it was just too early on the East coast and I was just worried about federal laws. And I’m a single mom, the last thing I need is to get in trouble. But then more time passed and Laura came. This idea of being in the cannabis industry and being part of cannabis has really been a part of my life forever. When I was eighteen years old in New York City, when I could finally register to vote, I picked the Cannabis Party. And I didn’t even smoke cannabis, but I just thought it was so stupid that it wasn’t legal that I wanted to support it. I didn’t even get into cannabis for many years after that. But I guess I was just meant to do this. It seems like it! *Allison laughs* How do you market your brand towards women who don’t know much about weed or its effects, or who only have a vague interest in learning more about cannabis? How do you get them on-side?

Through low-dose products and non-psychoactive products. By making the CBD foot pads, even if you’re not sure about cannabis, that’s a great on-ramp product. We have low-dose mints. Even if you wanna mix it with alcohol, a 2.5g mint just takes the edge off, if your body’s completely clean (for me I could eat the whole bottle). But for an on-ramp or canna-curious person, just one will give you the idea that it’s safe, it’s small, but it’s noticeable. So between low-dose products, non-psychoactive products, the packaging and the accessories (‘cause it’s still a great gift), we’re trying to open up all these doors for women to just come in and take a look without getting stoned. Do you believe Her Highness is getting much closer to that original aim of being able to bring cannabis to women everywhere? Well, yeah! I mean, we started in California. And then we added Nevada, and Massachusetts, and we’re gonna add Ohio and Pennsylvania. Colorado, Canada, working on Mexico, starting to talk to someone in Venezuela. Oh. Yeah!

I think between the CBD that we can ship legally, the smoking accessories that we can ship internationally anywhere, and getting THC licences in any state and country that we can, licensing our brand so that it can be done locally, as laws allow… that’s how we’re gonna do it. We’re about five years ahead of anyone who’s specifically targeting women. It’s like all the other companies split it down the middle and are targeting just everyone, but make some female products.

But when you split it down the middle, it’s not 100% for women, it’s like, ‘Oh this is the best thing I could find’, but it’s not 100% there. Yeah, you do strike me as being considerably ahead of the curve there. Having a lifestyle collection, rather than just having a single product, really sets us apart. And our mission, where we raise money for female cannabis prisoners. The idea is to shine a light on female prisoners, because as an industry, we all do a pretty good job of talking about cannabis prisoners and raising money for them. But it mostly goes to men, because they’re the most known and vocal and the largest population. But when a woman goes to prison, a family falls apart, typically. It’s very destructive. We have a mission with The Last Prisoner Project, where we ‘Help our sisters doing time for cannabis crime’. Where we feature an actual former cannabis prisoner, and 50% of our proceeds go to these women and to a fund to help more women. That’s fantastic. Yeah.

Our mission as a company is ‘to reach all women through cannabis’. So, to your point, through our product, which is obviously bent towards women… Through our mission helping the women in the cannabis industry who came before us, pre-legalisation, who are in prison. And also, future women coming into cannabis. I end every presentation with buyers by reminding them that with our lifestyle collection, you can anchor a female section in your store and finally have room for those single-product women-owned companies, ‘cause there are a lot of them. But it’s hard for them to get shelf space, because it’s just one product. If we can make buyers mindful, in every meaning, that ‘I should have a female section’, we hope that we’re helping future female entrepreneurs in this space to find shelf space more easily. Are there any New York-based personalities you and Laura look up to, in terms of people who have had a significantly positive influence on society’s attitude towards cannabis? Hmm. It’s funny, because in terms of consumption, New York is the largest consumption state in the country, and has been.

So, I’m sure there’s tonnes of fabulous celebrity New York stoners, but I can’t really think about a specific New Yorker who’s influenced us. Really, we’re most driven by the love of the plant. Yeah. I believe in its benefits. I can’t even think of a single person. I would say, we both come from design so our inspiration is probably designers. Florence Knoll said: ‘Form follows function and good design is good business’. Those words really are integrated into our products. If the product is beautiful and not comfortable, if it’s beautiful and not perfectly functional, it’s a ‘fail’. It has to be both. According to Filter magazine, New York marijuana possession arrests fell from 3,700 in the first quarter of this year, to just eight in the second quarter, although there were still ‘racial disparities’ in those eight arrests. The legislation in New York for legal weed expunges the criminal records of anyone previously convicted of actions involving cannabis that are no longer considered criminal.What more do you feel can be done in New York to have a more equitable legal cannabis market? That’s a good question.

The regulations haven’t really been rolled out yet, so we don’t really know. But what we are hearing is that they’re very heavily weighted to people that have been heavily impacted by the war on drugs, to women and minorities. I think New York is really making a grand effort to tilt the scales, and we’ll see. A lot of people are trying to get licences. We’re gonna try and get a retail licence in New York, to have our flagship store. So, I would love to answer that question once I get intimately involved in that process of getting a licence and then I’ll really learn. Because it’s still early in the market. To your point about cannabis arrests and racial disparities, that is something that I’ve certainly seen growing up in New York City and smoking pot in New York City my whole life. I’ve seen that so much and I’m so happy to see that arrests are down and that that time is over. It’s just so disgusting and unfair. It must be an amazing feeling to know that your state has changed for the better, at last. At last, I know!

I mean, I cannot believe how long it took. I cannot believe how many conservative states legalised before New York. Right, yeah! *Richard laughs* Ireland is definitely taking its sweet time with legalisation. I know, the slowest, right? It’s painful. Here’s hoping we’ll get somewhere within a year or so, if we’re lucky! Well, I hope so. Speaking of Ireland, if you could present your elevator pitch to the Irish government about the benefits of legalising weed, what would you say to win them over? Certainly, the Irish government is okay with alcohol at high levels. Yeah. I would say, we know that alcohol overdoses happen. Alcohol causes violence, deaths, car accidents. The amount of suffering caused by alcohol compared to cannabis, really makes the argument. And the fact that it has antidepressant, calming, anti-anxiety attributes, as well as natural medicinal attributes, like anti-inflammatory.

People who use cannabis regularly have a lower BMI [Body Mass Index] than the rest of the population. I mean, that is an amazing thing, despite ‘the munchies’. Yeah. I just don’t understand people saying that it should be illegal now, and there’s so much evidence pointing to it (being beneficial). To the Irish government, I would say, when you compare the death and destruction statistics of alcohol to cannabis, to not want your population to have this safer, healing, more human-friendly alternative available is just unconscionable. That’s about as good of an answer as I could’ve wished for! Thank you so much for sparing your time, I wish you and Laura all the best with Your Highness! Take care, Allison! A pleasure, thank you so much.

Debating the Drug War: Race, Politics, and the Media | Review

Michael L. Rosino is the Assistant Professor of Sociology at Molloy College in New York State. In his book, Debating the Drug War: Race, Politics, and the Media, he explores the following areas of debate on the War on Drugs: ‘the history of the relationship between racism and drug policies, the role of the media as a place where people debate these policies, how the debate reflects popular ideas about race, crime, and politics and even commonly held ideals like justice, equality, and freedom, and how people construct and reinforce identities through their participation in these debates and what that means for society’.

In order to get a clear breakdown of the views held by people in this debate across the media, he ‘conducted a content analysis of over 30 years of US newspaper content that focuses on the War on Drugs, including 394 op-eds, letters to the editor, and news articles.’ He also examined ‘3,145 comments on the internet’, gathering them from the comments sections of relevant online news articles, published from 2009 to 2014. Including the Introduction and Conclusion, there are six chapters, which include questions for academics to discuss, as well as additional notes. To emphasise the ongoing legacy of systemic racism in the United States, Rosino begins the Introduction by detailing the fatal police shooting of unarmed eighteen-year-old African-American, Ramarley Graham, in 2012. He mentions that this was only one of three killings of black men that week by the New York Police Department.

A plain clothes NYPD Officer shot Graham in the bathroom of his home, which he shared with his grandmother and six-year-old brother, after the cops involved broke down both the back door and the bathroom door. Graham was trying to flush a small amount of newly-bought cannabis down the toilet. The officers involved had seen his purchase through street cameras and had decided to follow him home, entering without a warrant. Before the young man’s home was breached, Officer Richard Haste announced that Graham had a firearm, ‘perhaps misrecognising the young man adjusting the waistband of his pants’. A gun was never found at the site. This gives readers a sample of the racist police violence that is so prevalent across the US. Rosino covers the racist origins of American drug prohibition, which relied on the creation of moral panics, exaggeratedly defining activities, events or people as ‘a threat to societal values and interests’.

The powerful would manufacture such hysteria, linking minority ethnic groups to the supply of drugs and the corruption of the innocence of white moral values. The author begins by outlining the suppression of Chinese opium dens in the 1870s, eventually leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first law excluding an entire ethnic group from entering the United States. Anti-Catholic sentiment and growing antisemitism against Jewish immigrants in the alcohol trade, by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, led to a demand for alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. Popular and influential media depicted European migrants who identified with these religions as threatening to the dominance of white Protestants in America. Mexicans, blacks and Native Americans were all presented by the Temperance movements as engaging in criminal and immoral activities, particularly when using alcohol. Rosino provides examples of how historical prohibition has had a lasting effect on racial discrimination in policing and the legal and criminal justice systems.

One study from 2006 stated that, ‘although a majority of drug transactions involving the five serious drugs under consideration here involve a white drug dealer, 64 percent of those arrested for drug delivery in Seattle from January 1999 to April 2001 were black.’ A 2016 study said: ‘Overall, in comparison to blacks, whites receive shorter prison sentences for the same drug crimes in the United States.’ A 2007 study into the effects of felony convictions on employment, found that white applicants who had felony convictions received more callbacks than blacks who had no criminal record at all. A groundbreaking sociological study of crime carried out by W.E.B Du Bois in 1889 gets a mention too, where he showed that ‘racial differences in crime rates were a product of residential segregation, disproportionate policing and surveillance, the impact of slavery, racial discrimination, lack of economic opportunities, and lack of government investment in black communities.’

Rosino mentions two response tiers which began to emerge for problem opiate drug use in America during the 2010s. One of harm reduction, treatment and empathy, and one of surveillance, punishment and incarceration. Statistically, the former tends to be the approach for white people with drug issues, while the latter is how black people with the same issues are dealt with. Although the Obama government began moving away from severely punitive drug laws, former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of the Trump administration re-introduced regressive drug laws and narratives, positing that cannabis use is linked to violence and that it is addictive and dangerous. Rosino discusses media agenda-setting, via frames, which present coherent narratives of a complicated War on Drugs. By examining digital copies of local, regional, and national newspapers containing the term ‘War on Drugs’, from the ’80s onwards, the author was able to break down exactly how arguments have been framed in the media over the years.

He presented four primary frames: Fiscal, Freedom and Justice, Functionalism and Racial Unfairness, each of which was further broken down into sub-frames. They were given percentages based on the frequency they appeared. The frame of Racial Unfairness was the least common to appear, at almost 9%. Additional frames were included in the author’s breakdown of internet comments, such as Racialized Victim Blaming, which had sub-frames like Denial of racism. Racial Unfairness was acknowledged nearly 12% of the time by commenters. According to Psychologist and Sociologist, William J. Ryan, victim blaming involves ‘justifying inequality by finding defects in the victims of inequality.’ Racialized Victim Blaming took place when commenters ‘interpreted racial disparities in arrest or mass incarceration as a natural or legitimate outcome of inherent differences in traits between whites and blacks.’ Such comment authors ‘saw clear evidence of systemic oppression as instead serving as evidence of moral inferiority or social deviance.’

For me, chapters four and five were the most eye-opening sections of the book, as they covered important terms like racial silence, coded language and identity construction. Racial silence involves the implicit silence of whites (including white-dominated media) regarding the ongoing legacy of systemic racism, which is a central issue of the discriminatory War on Drugs. Because whites are dominant in positions of power and influence, their perceptions of themselves, other ethnic groups, and so-called cultural norms in behaviour and thought are imposed on society, promoting their interests as being legitimate, natural, or common sense. Coded language is explained by the author as ‘enabling claim makers to construct racialized subject-positions while maintaining surface-level racial silence.’ Code words for ethnic minorities range from crack babies and welfare recipients to terrorists, cartels and thugs. Words such as these are used to ‘conjure racial imagery, yet avoid the direct evocation of racial categories.’

In this way, age-old myths about an intrinsic superiority of whites compared to other ethnic groups who are threatening, dysfunctional, and morally-inferior are reinforced to some degree in the public psyche. Rosino states that identity construction and reinforcement are an integral part of responding to, understanding and debating a given issue, such as the War on Drugs. People are inclined to identify themselves as being part of a particular group, while excluding others via symbolic boundaries. The categorising of racial groups, dominant traits associated with them, and differences between them, are just some symbolic boundaries. Such notions are highly influenced by those with the most power and influence in society. Michael L. Rosino’sDebating the Drug War..‘ is more informative and enlightening than this review can truly communicate. It’s packed with sociological and racial concepts and data which underline the urgency for drastic racial justice and drug reform in America (and by extension, the Western world and beyond).

Many uncomfortable truths of systemic racism are laid bare in this book. Often, those truths are ignored, undermined or denied in the media and in public discourse. It seems that a significant amount of white Americans prefer to imagine that their society is fundamentally fair and equal and that those complaining about social inequities have simply failed in life through poor personal choices, or were born into an inherently inferior culture with lesser moral values. The reality is that this is nonsense. No ethnic groups are less morally sound or more naturally prone to dysfunction, violence and crime.

* The Green Lens would like to thank Michael L. Rosino for providing us with a review copy of this book.