Article by Sam Riches, Growth Op
It took information requests submitted to the Pentagon and the FBI to unearth Steve Jobs’ thoughts on cannabis.
“The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative,” Jobs told the Department of Defense during a security clearance interview in the 1980s.
For other creative types, however, their relationship to cannabis is more direct. Take, for instance, Brazilian artist Fernando de La Rocque, who uses stencils and cannabis smoke to create images. “I’m taking advantage of an ‘ink’ that’s just being tossed in the air to make a work of art,” he explained to Newsivity in 2014.
Pablo Picasso, widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, is believed to have been a cannabis consumer. Shakespeare, too.
Art and cannabis, in other words, have long had an association with one another. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that legal companies are now turning to as they seek new ways to connect with consumers.
“I don’t really see a distinction between the two worlds,” says Tosh Jeffrey, a Toronto-based painter whose work focuses on the city and urban culture. “A lot of cannabis consumers are your everyday doctors, lawyers and nurses, that sort of thing. So I think it would be all the people that you would suspect to consume art, consume cannabis.”
Jeffrey is one of 15 artists whose work has been featured at Axes Smoke Cannabis, a retail store in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood. He lives nearby and started showing his paintings at the store last fall.
“They’re giving me a platform, which I really appreciate,” he says. With art shows paused by the pandemic, the retail store “is almost like a gallery or a studio outside of my studio,” he explains.
When Axes opened its doors last June, shop manager Jessica Zepeda knew they were stepping into a vibrant neighbourhood that had already welcomed a number of cannabis retail stores.
With their walls unadorned, Zepeda had an idea.
“I figured, why not let people influence the interior of our store since we’re influencing the city and Queen Street with another cannabis store?” she tells The GrowthOp.
The result was the Axes art collective, with the store dedicating its interior wall space to paintings, photography and mixed medium pieces from local artists. There are no prerequisites for being featured, and the artists range from up-and-coming to established.
For some recent Ontario College of Art and Design graduates, the store offered a place to show their work, even as the pandemic closed off traditional opportunities.
“A lot of them didn’t get a showcase this year. So it was really cool to see them come into the store, masks on, and take pictures with their art on the wall, and have some sort of small showcase even like that,” Zepeda says.
It also benefits the store, she says, and helps differentiate it from others on the block.
It’s not unusual for people to pop in, not to buy weed, but to look at what’s on display. Zepeda says that’s just fine with the staff at Axes.
“If people are in here and they’re not buying weed, but it looks like we’re busier, that works in a marketing way as well,” she says. “People see and are like, ‘Oh, let’s go to that one, that looks busy,’ even though people are just staring at the art. But, hey, whatever works.”
When consumers visit the landing page of Pure Sunfarms, a licensed producer in B.C., they are greeted with an illustration of a greenhouse set against mountains and a forested landscape, an ode to the company’s Fraser Valley location.
The illustration is by Laura Garcia Serventi, a Brooklyn-based artist who has helped shape the company’s aesthetic.
Mandesh Dosanjh, CEO of Pure Sunfarms, says more than a few people have contacted the company to see if prints are available. “She really was able to connect with us and bring our story to life,” he says of Serventi’s work.
She has also created holiday cards and letters for Pure Sunfarms, in addition to illustrations for the company’s product line.
“The reaction from the customers, and the community and our budtenders in the stores, is incredible,” Dosanjh says. “People love to see the artwork. So that was telling for us to say, ‘Hey, we’ve done something great, it’s really resonating.”
The company is now launching Marketplace by Pure Sunfarms, where consumers can purchase prints of Serventi’s work, in addition to other branded merchandise, apparel and accessories.
The collection also features work from B.C.-based soapmakers Nectrous Botanicals, a palo santo collaboration with Vancouver’s Woodlot, and handmade porcelain trays from artist Nathalee Paolinelli.