How a Purpose-Driven Brand Does Pride

I wrote this article in June 2019 for the blog of The Hybrid Creative – read the original here. I learned a lot while writing this article and it’s worth sharing and preserving this work...

June brings summertime sunshine (or if you’re near the Bay Area, it can be more like June gloom), BBQs, and trips to the beach. And it also heralds the arrival of Pride parades, celebrations of diversity, and lots of rainbows adorning storefronts and social media accounts.

Cannabis and Pride actually share a common thread in the history of their movements. Gay rights activists were among the first to champion cannabis legalization when they discovered that it helped to alleviate complications caused by AIDS. In 1996, gay activist Dennis Peron co-authored a California law that dubbed him the “father of medical marijuana.” So it’s no surprise that cannabis brands are jumping on board to show support for the LGBTQIA+ community and add a splash of rainbow to their summer marketing campaigns.

But before painting your brand with the popular rainbow brush, dive deeper into your intentions, make sure your company’s actions align with the cause, educate yourself on the history and people of Pride, and invite your LGBTQIA+ team members to lead the planning process to ensure you’re truly aligning your actions with your words.

As our Brand Strategy clients know, it starts with WHYBeing mindful to “do what you say” and, above all, making sure your campaign is inclusive and sensitive to the history of struggle behind Pride, will help you create a win-win for all with your marketing efforts this month and beyond.

It’s been truly inspiring to see the creative ways cannabis brands have partnered with organizations supporting the queer community for Pride, even more exciting witnessing the long-term commitments to social justice and equality initiatives. From brands offering a percentage of proceeds to LGBTQIA+ causes like Dosist and Lowell Herb Co, to Jetty’s efforts to save cannabis compassion programs, Cannabis for Good, Vangst’s Social Equity initiative focusing on equity in hiring, and finally, to  the PAX ‘Be a Force for Good’ campaign—creative companies are using their platforms for a good cause, connecting with their communities, and creating a buzz around their brand at the same time. Talk about a WIN-WIN!


In the spirit of Pride, below are a few ideas to help your cannabis business support social justice issues like Pride. These lists are a start, but you’ll want to seek out local organizations as well that align well with your brand values and mission.

Let us know what you’re doing to support Pride! What other organizations or community efforts are you spearheading? Please share in the comments!

LGBTQIA+ Organizations to Support

Pride month is almost over, but it’s never too late to partner with and donate to organizations doing great work in support of the queer community. Here’s just a sampling of our favorites, many in our own backyard.

Equality as a Business Culture

Your Pride marketing efforts should be genuine. Your audience can tell if you’re inauthentic, so be sure those stunning images and cleverly crafted words are backed by a solid action plan to promote diversity and equity within the walls of your organization.

Here are some preliminary steps you can take:

  • Hire for diversity and hire those who have been impacted by the war on drugs.
  • Build acceptance of all people into your company culture, and have a ‘zero tolerance for intolerance’ policy in place.
  • Real representation matters: mix up your marketing with images showing the diversity of real people from all walks of life. When people can see themselves represented in your marketing, they feel heard and safe.
  • Collaborate with, purchase from, and be a true ally to LGBTQIA+ owned and focused organizations in your community.
  • Participate in and sponsor Pride Events – here’s a Pride Calendar by City.
  • Carefully moderate your Pride campaigns on social media to make sure any discussion in the comments is supportive and not bigoted or hateful..
  • Think of Pride as an opportunity to educate, engage with, and listen to your audience rather than to toot your own horn.

When planning Pride marketing campaigns, be mindful, let your LGBTQIA+ teammates lead the process, and check out these guides from Later and AdWeek for more excellent tips. Happy Pride!

In Pursuit of Lucid Enchantment…

It’s that time of year again… I have 20+ tabs open, on my browser and my brain. Upgrading my failing hard drive on my five year old laptop felt like breaking through to a new level of existence and a simultaneous brain upgrade and cash hemorrhage. The hustle is ON.

Full steam ahead, two festivals in production, conference calls and projects crammed into every bit of possible off time, plus a part time web design gig and once in a while I even make it to yoga class or take care of the chickens and goats! Yes, busy to the point of slight overwhelm, but what else is new? I thrive on this shit. And there’s not much else to distract me from it.

In November I started my third marketing cycle with Lucidity Festival near Santa Barbara.  Taking place in early April, this unique open-source festival is always a fun chance to see old friends, soak up a little SoCal sunshine, and enjoy beautifully curated music, performances, workshops, and more. Looking forward to the always awesome music lineup, and maybe I’ll actually get my ass in gear and take some workshops this year! Tickets are going quick now that our lineup is out, so hit me up for my discount code & join me in exploring Eudaimonia…

Late last summer & fall I was working on a crowdfunding campaign for their Lucid University project, which is also pretty exciting. Lucid University began as the central workshop / learning space at Lucidity festivals, and last year expanded to offer five immersive 3-day courses that took place the week before the festival, Courseweek. Last year, LU partnered up with a few other aligned folks to collectively purchase a property called Trillium, which had been a retreat & education center, in Southern Oregon. They just recently closed on the land, and a few of my Lucidity co-workers have been spending the winter in cabins up there, learning from the previous stewards and planting the seeds for the new home of a Lucid University education and retreat center and sustainable co-living / co-working community space. The festival, and Courseweek, is still in Santa Barbara, but this opens a whole new chapter of possibilities for this team so that’s really exciting to be a part of! I’ll be checking out the land at the Land-Warming party in May at Trillium.

But first, south to Lucidity in just a little over a month. I am excited to see my friends Pal & Ottie who live in the area and all my Lucidity co-workers and Animal Kingdom campmates! It’s been a long, cold, wet, and stormy winter, and I’m ready for festival season. And some time with old friends. Gonna try to figure out a visit to Idaho somewhere in the madness too…

Once festival season begins, there’s no slowing it down. I am now working year-round for Enchanted Forest Gathering, and we recently announced new dates for 2017 in June. I’m knee-deep in putting content together for the revamped website, and I’m working with an almost entirely new Marketing team this year, which has been really awesome and helped me learn a lot already. Moving to June means even little more overlap between EFG and Lucidity though. The last month or so I have really started to feel the overwhelm, and have gone back into hermit workaholic mode. But with both teams moving along like well-oiled machines and a couple hectic production seasons under my belt now, I feel like I’m finally getting a better handle on this work-life balance thing. Kinda.

The Enchanted lineup is shaping up to be the stuff of legends, and Camp Higher Porpoise is making plans for an even more amazing collaborative Mendoland environment. I am super excited to announce our music lineup this year. OMG. It is SO HARD to keep this one in… but we gotta have a freakin’ website first so let’s just say it will be well worth the wait, and you should definitely BE THERE. Get those tickets meow, and be sure to hit me up for my discount code. You will regret it if you don’t Get Enchanted with us this year.

I am not too sure how many flow arts events I will be able to make it to this year… now that FireDrums is the weekend before Enchanted, it may be a bit hard to go. But I am going to a new event that I’ve been meaning to check out forever, Symbiosis, which will be in Oregon this August on the weekend of a solar eclipse. Badass. A bunch of my festie friends will be there, and it will be nice not to be working at a festival for once, but we’ll see, I may just find a way to work at it yet…

All this work and festivals has been a lovely distraction from the absolute shitshow that is American politics lately, as well as my rather neglected personal life, so I’m just gonna keep my focus there. I have been to some awesome shows the past few months in the Bay, had some yard sales with friends and started cleaning out my storage unit, foraged for edible mushrooms in between rainstorms, got involved in a local activism group called Mobilize Mendo, and marched in the Womens’ March in Fort Bragg, which was super inspiring and uplifting after such a horribly fucked election, and really well attended. I have NEVER seen so many people in one place on the Mendocino coast. And the protest signs—SO CLEVER! Also loved seeing the various National Parks and science / environmental agencies that Twitler has tried to silence and censor rise up on social media with alternate accounts, climate change truth bombs and clever resistance. We need these silver linings in this stormy weather.

My political activism is re-awakening, after getting a bit complacent and wrapped up in my own stuff for quite a while, it’s time to wake up & rage against the machine again. Reminds me of my college days of turning every art class project into a political statement. I never thought I would actually miss George Dubya & his cronies, but I admit it, I do. There is no reasoning with the current batch of fearmongers and I am legitimately terrified for my country. But mostly for anyone who is not a rich white male, and for the planet, for immigrants and our oppressed populations whose already inadequate protections now don’t stand a chance. I can’t even pay attention to the news lately, it’s too much. The rise of fascism is too real and too fast. But I’m bracing for a fight. And I’m focusing on building and supporting the communities who are our only hope. It’s about time to start planting more seeds and growing more food, too…

There is good happening. I am surrounded by amazing and inspiring people, but I can see through the safe walls of my bubble. I know it’s dark out there, and there’s much work to be done. But I won’t let that shit dull my shine, and I sure as hell won’t let it keep me from building the better future I know is possible, because I glimpse it every time I arrive at a festival and see people working together, building community, creating amazing art and celebrating the good we still have.

So I’ll just be here, working, dreaming, dancing, and resisting until the clouds part and the sun returns… Spring is coming. So I gather my strength and look forward.

Strides Forward for Animal Rights in 2014

I began working with PETA about nine years ago doing web design, and at times it can be challenging and heart-wrenching having to see footage of undercover investigations in industries that use and abuse animals or to put up with trolling and hate on the internet when I mention where I work. But it is also one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I may not play a large role in this very dedicated, hard working, and compassionate organization, but I am proud to be a small part of an amazing team. The people I work with inspire me every day. The video below shows some of PETA’s accomplishments on behalf of animals in the past year. 2014 marked many strides forward in animal rights, but we still have a long way to go.

My Work with Moscow Hempfest

Moscow Hempfest 2014 Poster

Today up in Moscow, Idaho, where I lived for six years and attended college, there’s something slightly revolutionary going on, for Idaho at least, and it’s been going on for 18 years now: the Moscow Hemp Fest. This day of live music, local artisans, food, tie dye, and of course, hemp advocacy and education, happens in the middle of the small city’s main park. It has been over six years since I left Idaho, but I’ve had the pleasure of keeping some roots there by designing the posters and t-shirts for Hemp Fest each year.

I went to Hemp Fest while at University of Idaho, and first got the opportunity to design the poster and t-shirts in 2006. Almost every year since, I have created posters, flyers, and t-shirt graphics for the event, collaborating with Arlene Falcon, the colorful organizer of Hemp Fest and owner of Tye Dye Everthing.

You would think I would get tired of designing with pot leaves year after year, but it’s actually one of the projects I most look forward to each spring. Hemp is a versatile plant with so many various uses and benefits to humankind, so naturally I have endless inspiration for design concepts. And until it’s legal, Moscow Hemp Fest will keep fighting the good fight in a very red state surrounded by medical and now legal cannabis states (which we made painfully obvious with this year’s poster design). We usually try to think of a theme for each year and over the years there have been some pretty great concepts.

My first Hemp Fest poster was in 2006. Hemp Fest was on Earth Day, so my very simple retro design used the recycling symbol, Earth, and of course, lots of leaves!
Hemp Fest 2006 Poster Hemp Fest 2006 T-Shirt
And speaking of retro, one of my favorite designs was created in homage to the Woodstock poster for Hemp Fest 2009, on the 40th year since the festival that started it all.
Hemp Fest 2009 (Woodstock)
And the poster that I am probably most proud of for Hemp Fest so far was in 2012: our theme was “We Can Do It. We Can Change the Law.” and Rosie the Riveter was our mascot for the poster.

Hemp Fest 2011: We Can Do It! I hope that there was sunshine and a great turnout for Hemp Fest 2014 today. I usually try to go back up there for a visit this time of year but haven’t been to Hemp Fest in a couple years now. It has prevailed through rain, shine, wind, and snow, minimal funding and a very stubborn state government, but thanks to the tireless efforts of a small handful of volunteers, the people of Idaho are learning about cannabis hemp and demanding safe legal access to its benefits. Hemp Fest has succeeded in gathering signatures for voter initiatives and even gaining the support of a Republican Idaho State Representative, Tom Trail, who has written several bills on the issue.

I love design projects that promote a good cause, educate and inform people, and bring communities together at events, so working with Hemp Fest has been very rewarding and inspiring. When clients become friends over the years, working together is a joy and the annual project challenges me to come up with creative solutions and a unique concept each year. Long-term client relationships like this one are a blessing, and something I strive to maintain with all of my clients. And I couldn’t ask for a more fun project than getting to design with pot leaves while promoting a revolutionary cause. (Didn’t you know? Hemp can save the world!)

Why I Love Working With PETA

For almost nine years now, I have worked with the interactive media team at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a web design contractor. As the largest animal rights organization in the world and one who fearlessly confronts animal abuse on many levels, PETA tends to get a lot of press, and unfortunately much of it paints the non-profit organization in a negative light. But anyone who pushes to change the status quo or stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised and oppressed is met with opposition and resistance, so I see this as a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

I invite you to check out this feature on PETA’s Community Animal Project. This division of PETA deals with the tough and heart-wrenching realities of very desperate animals who have nowhere else to turn. Animal overpopulation due to breeding instead of adopting is a huge problem that PETA tackles by offering free and low-cost spaying and neutering and encouraging animal adoption. But when severely neglected, sick, abused, and dying animals have nowhere else to turn or languish and suffer in “no-kill” shelters, PETA isn’t afraid to step in and deal with the brutal realities of the overpopulation crisis. The video below gives a glimpse into CAP and the animals they help, and gives some context to PETA’s numbers and stance on animal euthanasia. In a cruel world, the most humane option in some animals’ cases is a painless end to their suffering. PETA is one of the few organizations that has the guts to do whatever it can for each animal it helps and for as many animals as possible.

I may only play a small role at PETA by updating their web sites and designing bits and pieces of their online presence, but I am continually blown away by the compassion, dedication, talent, creativity, and brilliance of the people I work with. I just returned from Norfolk, Virginia, where our department got together for a retreat to train, plan, and meet face to face since we are spread out all over. After a week of crazy winter travel, playing in the surprise snow, learning and training, meeting and strategizing, hanging out with the people I work with, and petting plenty of adorable rescued animals, I return home inspired, awestruck, and with renewed dedication to this brave and hard-working organization.

The hardest part about working with PETA has always been dealing with people’s misunderstandings of what we do and ugly comments and misguided hate towards the organization. And the best part, that far overshadows having to deal with the bullshit, is the people I get to work with. I am so grateful to be part of such a big-hearted, talented, dedicated team and organization. Thank you for all you do for animals, PETA people! And thanks for taking in a silly circus freak like me and giving me a flexible job that allows me to use my skills for a good cause. I love my job!

Haiti’s Got a Piece of My Heart

I can’t read or see anything about Haiti, and especially about the earthquake that shook the poorest country in the Western hemisphere on January 12, 2010, without tearing up and feeling a heavy tug in my heart. But I’ve never even set foot there, I’ve never witnessed the earthquake’s destruction in person, and I certainly don’t speak a word of Creole.

To understand why Haiti pulls at my heartstrings so much, all I really have to say is that I almost lost my only sister Rachel to that earthquake. But that’s only a tiny part of the story. The real story is not so much about my sister narrowly escaping the earthquake’s destruction that took the life of her friend Molly Hightower, a hospital volunteer halfway through a year-long stay there, who she was visiting on her winter break. The real story is how my little sister became my hero, by taking a tragic and traumatic experience and the loss of a dear friend and turning it into a personal mission to do as much good as she can for Haitian people that touched her heart and literally rescued her from the rubble.

My sister, Rachel, in Haiti with an abandoned baby.

To say the least, Haiti was a mess before the earthquake reduced much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, to rubble. Upheaval and political turmoil have long been a big part of Haiti’s struggle, and the majority of the population there lives in poverty. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and was not prepared at all for such a disaster. The earthquake crumbled what little infrastructure they had and threw the country into a state of chaos and desperation that they will be struggling to overcome for some time. Sadly, very little of the aid money poured out by the world shortly after the earthquake actually went to helping the Haitian people. The earthquake destroyed countless homes, shattered families, and reduced much of the city and surrounding area to rubble. I can’t even imagine the devastation my sister must have witnessed as she was taken from the 7-story building she was in that pancaked to the hospital and then to the US embassy in a pickup by a group of Haitian men who brought her to safety before even checking on their own families.

When Rachel first visited in 2010, she was in a Physical Therapy program at University of Puget Sound. The earthquake shook her foundation and made her question whether she could even go back to school. But she did, and in May 2012 she graduated with her doctorate degree, and has returned to Haiti every year since the earthquake to help at the hospital and orphanage where Molly worked, cuddling orphaned babies, bringing toys to the children (and sponsoring one herself), and training PTs in Haiti.

Not only has she returned to Haiti to help the organization her friend worked for to continue Molly’s legacy, she has also given speeches and interviews about her experience, raised awareness and funds to help the earthquake relief effort, and redirected her entire life to focus on helping Haiti. She also founded and chairs the NPH USA Northwest Associate Board to raise funds and awareness for the organization Molly worked for in Haiti. Additionally, Rachel founded a scholarship at her alma mater in Molly’s honor to provide a college education to a Haitian student who grew up at NPH. The student who was awarded the first scholarship to University of Portland, Jean Francois, grew up at the NPH orphanage and is now working on his degree. He has become a member of our family and spent the holidays with us last year, where he got to experience skiing for the first time.

Through her work on the NW Associate Board of NPH, she has organized fundraisers, including one in Molly’s honor called Music for Molly, shortly after the earthquake. NPH runs a number of homes and hospitals in poor countries throughout Central and South America, and Rachel’s board has planned and organized several events in the Northwest benefitting NPH. I’ve had the privilege of working with her to create flyers, logos, and event promotion materials for several of them, and though these are but small contributions to the cause, it is nice to be able to use my design skills for such a noble purpose. Last fall, Rachel put together a stroke manual in Creole to help families and caretakers care for stroke patients and aid their recovery. It was the first thing I have ever designed in Creole, so that was a challenge, but I hope that our simple booklet helps Haitian stroke patients and their families. On her most recent visit, which is just now wrapping up, she led a tour group of NPH supporters, including my parents, around the facilities at NPH. Now that my parents have been to Haiti, I guess next it’s my turn!

Music for Molly Poster

Haiti will never be the same, but with the dedication and hard work of people like Rachel and organizations like NPH, there is hope. Aid organizations may have long forgotten about Haiti and squandered the money meant for rebuilding, but the hearts and souls of the Haitian people are obviously strong and resilient. And though I haven’t been there yet, Haiti will always have a piece of my heart.

Ever since the earthquake I have tried to think of a way I could help Haiti. I have no medical training like my sister, and I’m not sure if I could even handle seeing the pain and desolation caused by the earthquake, poverty, and turmoil I’d see there. But if I have even a tiny fraction of the strength and compassion my sister has, I am sure I could help somehow. Recently I have begun dreaming up an idea, a way to use my passions and talents to help make life a little easier for the people of Haiti. It may not seem like much — I have no cure for cholera, nor do I know how to build houses or even speak the language — but sometime I would like to bring the joy of flow arts to Haiti. There isn’t much in this world that makes me happier than hooping, and play is a universal language — so someday I hope to raise enough money to build and take hoops, poi, staves, and other flow props to the orphans of Haiti and teach them how to spin. I am not a teacher, or even that great of a spinner, so teaching flow arts would be something I’d have to practice and learn. It would surely take some time to gather up the funding and supplies to build hundreds of props, round up donated props from the spinning community, and maybe even recruit some spinners to join me in this mission (I know James is on board at least!). But, inspired by organizations like Spark Circus and Performers Without Borders, who bring the joy and fun of flow arts to disadvantaged communities around the world, and of course with the inspiration and help of my amazing sister, I’m sure that we can make it happen. I look forward to seeing a sea of smiles and colorful spinning toys arising out of the rubble of Haiti, and I will surely keep you all posted as I start planning to make this journey happen.

In the meantime, I urge anyone touched by this story to visit Rachel’s blog and learn more about Haiti and her work there. If you are moved and able to help, you can donate here.