“When queer artists are visible and celebrated for their uniqueness and brilliance, it counteracts the ‘othering’ we often experience as LGBTQ+ people,” says Luke Anderson, co-founder of CANN, a cannabis-infused social tonic, which kicked off Pride month with a new campaign fronted by RuPaul’s Drag Race current reigning supreme, Symone, as well as Gigi Goode, Rosy Thorn and Song of Summer contender Vincint (if you haven’t listened to “Higher,” get up to speed now). In an industry dominated by and too often centering cis-hetero men, CANN is positioning itself toward a wider, and more inclusive market.
According to Anderson, who co-founded CANN with his business partner Jake Bullock as a queer-owned brand, they have what he describes as a duty to be inclusive in their marketing in an effort to help legitimize the LGBTQ+ community within the cannabis industry.
“Beverage brands are still using predominantly heteronormative marketing toolkits, so we also try to be a bit subversive with the details here,” he says. “If the Fanta Girls were drag queens when I was growing up, I might have felt safer to explore sexuality and gender identity without as much fear or self-destruction.”
I’ll drink to that. Now what exactly is a cannabis-infused social tonic? Each CANN is made from five ingredients: fresh juice, herbs, agave nectar, cannabis extract and water. The fresh juice is no BS either, with sourced ingredients like Sicilian lemons, Fijian ginger and Massachusetts cranberries. “We tinker with each formulation until it’s perfect,” says Anderson. “Sometimes my co-founder Jake and I argue over whether it should be six or seven drops of something for days before settling on the final answer.”
Bullock grew up in Colorado and witnessed the legalization of cannabis happen from his front yard, studying the evolution of the industry closely as it played out in real time. Anderson, meanwhile, had little exposure to cannabis, swearing it off entirely after a “bad pot brownie experience in college.” Duke and investment banking were in Bullock’s trajectory; Stanford and math teaching in Anderson’s. Then fate happened, when in October 2012, they both accepted jobs at Bain & Company as management consultants. “Both of us were at the time closeted queers who picked up an intense alcohol habit as a means of coping with our sexual identity crises… you know the type.”
That part is important, Anderson says, because after a typical weekend spent heavily drinking, they would often argue about the destructive nature of alcohol and how dependent they were on it for a social lubricant. “Jake would say things like ‘microdose cannabis beverage is the future,’ pointing out how thousands of years of human history have been spent socializing around beverages with micro-doses of active ingredients like alcohol or caffeine.” Anderson shrugged off his friend’s bizarre musings as the “dumbest idea ever.”
Years later, in his 30s, Anderson experienced his first two-day hangover, which led him to reach out to Bullock about that very dumbest idea ever. “Okay wait, do cannabis beverages give you a hangover? Because if not, then I’m in.” As it turned out, again fate, Bullock had been incubating the concept with a few folks at business school under a different brand name. Although it had gone well, the group did not want to risk leaving behind comfy jobs on an “unproven segment of a nascent industry riddled with stigma.” Anderson was convinced that together they could fully form what would become CANN. So they did what any 30-something start-up founders do: Moved in together in Venice, start-up garage style, under the shared vision of bringing people an alcohol alternative that would “allow them to hate themselves less.”
Published: June 17, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News