Stylish Yet Illegal: Why Cannabis Marketing in The Beauty Industry is Exploitation at Its Finest

I recently made a mini rant about this issue on my Instagram story, but I wanted to write a fully fleshed out thought on how beauty brands have recently been utilizing the hype around cannabis and why we need to slow the roll on how we talk about cannabis.

The major source of my irritation has been with Herbivore Botanicals embarrassingly goofy ad campaign for the release of their newest product, Emerald Oil.

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I have been testing this product out and I’ll concede on the fact that it is a superb hydrating facial oil that I love having in my beauty routine, but this marketing makes me embarrassed to admit I purchased it.

“Get High on Glow,” come on what are we 14?

What gives this such a high cringe factor for me is that the owners of Herbivore are two people two look like this:

Were we shocked? No.

And are profiting off a product that equips marketing tag lines that incorporate the social taboos and propagandized reefer madness surrounding cannabis that landed people of color in prison on lengthy harsh sentences.

If you’re not following me here, we, as white people, need to be mindful of the privileges we have in participating in capitalism’s new found market in recreational drugs. Especially if the marketing plan for the product entails cashing in on the long history of criminalized cannabis resulting in mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of people of color.

This is simply exploitation.

This isn’t an attack on Herbivore or the owners by any means. They’ve generally had very positive messages in their ad campaigns, and I believe their hearts are in a good place. However, a little criticism never hurts and all that’s lacking from this brand is a little self awareness and tact. If they want to jump into the sensationalized cannabis market, be prepared for well deserved commentary when your marketing does not come off as planned.

Cannabis should absolutely be decriminalized because of the health and wellness benefits which Herbivore is happy to discuss. They even donate with every purchase (a whopping) $1 to Americans for Safe Access, an organization that helps fund and advance legal medical cannabis research. Not a bad choice, but this is a more complex situation that requires companies to handle the social issues surrounding cannabis with more nuance.

What is Herbivore doing as a brand to influence decriminalization and expunging criminal records for those convicted? I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen any mention of this on their site or Instagram. It might seem like I’m haranguing Herbivore, but they’re not the only one guilty of this style of “hee-hee it’s WEED!” marketing.

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Milk Makeup this is insufferable…. and your Brow Gel isn’t even good..

Making a spectacle about how naughty we are for putting the good kush on our faces as a luxury beauty item while people of color rot in prison cells and suffer the consequences of felony convictions is T A S T L E S S.

But it doesn’t stop there.. Oh no.

Now that Emerald is out and available online and in Sephora, the Herbivore marketing team is at it once again to really drive the nail in that we are smoking big bowls in this upcoming year of our lord.


Now this email doesn’t seem so bad. I’m all for small businesses, especially female owned, making their money as artists and creators. I’m also supportive of educating people about cannabis and helping end the stigma surrounding what is simply just a very funky plant.

But oh Holiest of Fucks, once I popped onto Instagram I found this gem which made my asshole pucker so hard I felt like I was quantum linked to a dying sun on the opposite side of the universe experiencing slow arduous heat death simultaneously killing the sentient life forms on the nearest planet. img_7872.png


There’s something so… je ne sais pas wrong about that phrase to me. What cannabis lifestyle do you mean pray tell? Is it this white washed new age smoking out of a crystal while reading tarot cards you’re trying to sell me, or is it the thousands of Americans in prisons working as literal slaves for companies all because some bastard cop found a little bit of weed on them.


It is so fiendishly White to brand drug paraphernalia as a luxury item in this way. All this kind of marketing does is allow white people to distance ourselves from our collective privilege and participation in upholding racist stereotypes that have landed so many others behind bars.

5 thoughts on “Stylish Yet Illegal: Why Cannabis Marketing in The Beauty Industry is Exploitation at Its Finest

  1. I feel you make a lot of valid points here but it also feels like a gun aimed at the wrong target. For a company of Herbivore’s size, a $1 donation per a single sale will go a long way. When Prism launched, Herbivore announced that they donated 10k to the Trans Women of Color Collective – sounds very white privillaged, doesn’t it? Also, as a journalist who’s going hard for cannabis, I feel you should educate yourself on some of the commercial limitations in our country when selling pipes which is why they most likely used the word “vessel”. As you know, a lot of things associated with this plant are still illegal and many words can’t be used at this time when selling goods associated with Cannabis. Out of all the brands, look at the waves they are making! At least they didn’t lie and falsely advertise that there is CBD in it like another brand.


    1. Wow it’s almost as if you can have your heart in the right place but execute your mission with remnants of problematic thinking. Donating to trans women of color is fantastic and why I have supported this brand but the recent campaign for emerald has been contrived and rife with rather elitist and ill informed sentiments.
      I am not a journalist and have never labeled myself as such, and I am aware of limitations in marketing cannabis related goods, but I’ve never seen someone use vessel to describe a literal pipe and it sounds pretentious regardless of the intention behind it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So, first off when you yourself make a cheap, easy marijuana joke like “slow the roll” you minimize your argument. Secondly, I live in CO and have had a medical marijuana license for ages… not to mention it’s now recreational. If you think the industry at large doesn’t take full advantage of marijuana culture, you’re completely mistaken.

    Marijuana has strain names like Alaskan Thunderfuck, Green Crack, Cannatonic… etc, etc. If you check it out, you will quickly learn that the beauty industry’s playful, though predictable, banter on the evolving trend of CBD in products is minor in comparison.

    Furthermore, you act is if there are no white marijuana users. While there’s no doubt that people of color are disproportionately targeted in terms of criminal charges (and that this is something that NEEDS to change), it’s certainly not like only POC use marijuana, or speak out about their usage. Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Carl Sagan, Bill Maher, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Stephen King, Jerry Garcia…

    And going back even further, Alexandre Dumas, Herodotus, Queen Victoria (who was prescribed it for menstrual cramps from a doctor who had the right damn idea), James Monroe… you get the idea, hopefully.

    The point is, there is absolutely a culture around marijuana, some of which is goofy and silly (ala Cheech and Chong) but it also has medicinal value, and it’s been widely used in many cultures for millenia.


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