What is an influencer, anyway? They aren’t just people with large followings on social media; influencers have a reputation for knowledge and expertise on a particular topic. Cannabis influencers occupy a niche on social media platforms that’s become increasingly important to cannabis brands since traditional methods of advertising aren’t available for marketing weed products. Television, radio, billboard and print ads are governed by regulations and age gates that require ads only be seen or heard by a majority audience of adults 21 or older. In California, for instance, the requirement is that 71.6 percent of the audience must be of age. In Massachusetts, it’s 85 percent.
Of course, people who love weed will always find a way to get their message out. Enter the cannabis influencer — a trusted voice who can promote their favorite herbaceous trends and topics on social media, and drive traffic to sponsors. It’s a win-win situation for weed brands and the people who want to keep up with what’s good, what’s not (or potentially dangerous), and what’s up with the latest hot drop. Read on for profiles of some of our favorite influencers, including a Q&A with the inimitable Koala Puffs (and check out the Gentleman Toker podcast ep with her here)!
The history of influencers
We’ve witnessed the rise of the social media influencer over the last 10 years. However, influencers have been around for decades — centuries, even. We can trace the roots of the concept of influencers back to the 18th century: in the year 1760, a potter by the name of Wedgewood created a tea set for the Queen of England, and dubbed himself the “Potter to her Majesty.” In the 1920s, Coco Chanel transformed fashion with her influential, still-beloved little black dress and Chanel suits just as women gained the right to vote. In the 1980s, Michael Jordan launched the mothership of celebrity endorsements with his famed Air Jordan collaboration with Nike. And everyone who was alive and had a TV in the ‘90s was influenced by Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” haircut on Friends… while you may not have loved it, you definitely knew about it.
The original weed influencers, Cheech and Chong, came on the scene at a pivotal moment in American history with Up In Smoke, the movie that rocketed them to success, in 1978. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and was speaking out in support of decriminalizing weed. The nation was arguably at a tipping point with public views on cannabis following the Vietnam War, with many returning veterans turning to marijuana use for relief. This was evident at the box office for the stoner-buddy flick: Up In Smoke raked in $104 million, which in today’s dollars is around $452 million. We did some light Googling, and that’s around what Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed in 2015! Cheech and Chong are the Wedgewood version of influencers… they’d be the “Stoners to Her Majesty,” if the Queen of England smoked weed. Which we think she should, because she could probably use a break.
Snoop Dogg is, of course, the OG influencer on everybody’s list. Snoop popped up in 1992 on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, and stoner culture crowned him king. Rapping about weed throughout his legendary music career, Snoop moved into investing in cannabis early as a partner with the delivery service Eaze in 2015. He launched his media platform Merry Jane just a few months later. Leafs by Snoop was the first-ever celeb weed brand. He co-founded Casa Verde Capital, which closed on $100 million for its second investment fund in 2020. Snoop is the GOAT. He’s got staying power. He is the past, and the future.
The other influencer heavyweight everyone knows and loves, B-Real, has been repping his love for the plant since he blazed his way onto the scene with Cypress Hill in 1993, when they dropped their iconic album Black Sunday, featuring “Hits from the Bong” and “Legalize It.” Cypress Hill was banned from SNL for sparking up a joint onstage, but it didn’t slow B-Real down for a second. Today he owns five Dr. Greenthumb dispensaries in California, with a sixth opening next week, and he just announced the launch of his own line of flower.
Cannabis influencers today
There’s some tension in the cannabis community surrounding the idea of the weed influencer. Many of the people who labored in the shadows for decades to cultivate the plant and disseminate their knowledge are understandably uncomfortable with the concept of hopping on social media to blaze and tout an affiliation with a brand for “likes.” After all, the forefathers and mothers of legal cannabis had to operate undercover, often under threat of losing everything they cared about, because of their love for a plant that the US government deemed on par with heroin and LSD. Let’s not forget that 40,000 people are still in prison for non-violent cannabis offenses.
That said, the rise of the cannabis influencer reflects the current landscape in America. One in three people lives in a state with legal weed. The US House of Representatives just approved the MORE Act for the second time (although it’s not likely to pass in the Senate, we’re stoked by the historical, albeit small, step forward). In DC, consumers have access to an incredible network of storefronts and delivery services providing cannabis to patients and adult-use consumers under I-71. It’s a new era, and the cannakids are more than alright — they’re on social media! Read on to discover who you should follow to keep up with what’s what in weed.
Cannabis social media influencers you should follow
The OG: Danny Danko
Danny Danko was the senior cultivation editor for High Times for 20+ years, where he personally selected the annual Top 10 Strains of the Year, and created the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame. He’s the author of The Official HIGH TIMES Field Guide to Marijuana Strains and Cannabis: A Beginner's Guide to Growing Marijuana. His weekly podcast “Grow Bud Yourself” features interviews with cultivation gurus like Jorge Cervantes and Kyle Kushman. Danko has traveled the country and the world in search of the finest buds, and he tops our list as one of the most influential people in cannabis! Follow Danny Danko on Instagram at @dannydankoht.
The Teacher: Cannabis Cutie
Tammy Pettigrew, a.k.a. the Cannabis Cutie, graduated in 2018 from the University of Miami with an MBA and a passion for educating people about cannabis. She uses her platform to advocate, educate and empower people to help destigmatize cannabis use. She runs a book club, emcees events, speaks at conferences and works with a number of brands. “I got the idea to start an educational platform after realizing there wasn’t an abundance of easy-to-understand content out there about some of this confusing information about cannabis,” Pettigrew said in an interview with Herb Magazine. “I have a knack for explaining complex topics.” Follow the Cannabis Cutie to learn more @thecannabiscutie.
The Memelord: Smoke
Layne Schmerin, a.k.a. Smoke, uses a comedic approach to build an organic audience on social media. His viral memes and Tik Toks feature a positive take on weed culture, and his years in the music industry working with big-name artists like Macklemore and Waka Flocka Flame have given him plenty of creative insight into how to gain an audience through authentic content. He told Forbes, “I still look at cannabis as a medicine and how it helps me and those around me. I also love how much fun it is and that sense of community I have to cannabis users.” Follow Smoke for good times @smoke.
The Terp Whisperer: Hope Lord
Hope Lord has his finger on the pulse at the intersection of weed, music, art and accessories. He’s a co-founder of the Talking Terps brand with Jewice from Flatbush Zombies and PTA Haiti 3000, and their T-shirts and toy drops have become the stuff of legend in the hypebeast sector of the weed community and beyond. “Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Hope told Thrillist. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.” The powerful ethos of the brand is reflected in Hope’s impeccable style, chill AF vibes, and even his sweet French bulldog pup Mary Jane. Follow Hope Lord to keep up with what the cool kids are into @hopelord.
The High Princess: Koala Puffs
Koala Puffs is arguably social media’s biggest star in weed. Born in Ukraine and now located in Los Angeles, Koala has over 700,000 followers on Instagram and other social platforms. She has her own cannabis and CBD line and a monthly subscription box, and she’s seemingly unstoppable with her content creation, product reviews, tutorials, and comedy skits — even though Instagram has taken her account down several times. But she’s back up again after the latest account deletion, and we caught up with her to hear more about what life is like when you’re high-profile for getting high! Follow @koala.puffss, and read on for our Q&A.
How did your journey start with social media?
I started posting seven and a half years ago just for fun. I was lonely; I had just started smoking cannabis. It was very new to me, and I didn't know anything about it, or the things that I needed to use to consume it in the proper way. So I started posting online and from there, a little community gathered around and it was nice, ‘cuz I felt like a lot of people could relate to exactly what I was feeling. That's where Koala Puffs was born. Just for fun and giggles basically. And here we are!
We’ll talk about the rollercoaster of what’s been going on with your Instagram lately, but first can you talk a bit about your experience with other social platforms like YouTube?
I think it's important to spread out and just keep your reach open. Some people don't like Instagram, some people don't like Twitter, some don't like YouTube. I felt like it was nice to be available for as many people that needed a smoking buddy on as many different platforms as they connected with. I still maintain my Twitter and my Snapchat.
My YouTube got deleted about two years ago. I had some strikes put on my content that were not really valid, but I didn't have time to appeal it. I was never able to get it back, but to be honest with you, the deletion of that YouTube channel helped my mental state a lot, because I was pushing myself to film a lot of videos. I was trying to make sure my content was up to par, and that it was entertaining, and I was constantly kind of putting my exhaustion and how I felt aside. So honestly, once that YouTube went down, it helped me a lot to not push myself too much, because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The deletion of my account was almost like a blessing in disguise, because I had 300,000 followers; it was verified. It would've been something really hard for me to willingly step away from, you know?
Right. How has your experience with Instagram been, with your account getting deleted? It must be stressful to constantly worry about whether or not it's gonna be there when you check in.
Yeah. That's been very difficult. Talk about mental health (laughs). Recently I've discovered that every single one of my posts, I would say probably 99 percent of them, have gone down because of mass reports from haters. There are no reports of cannabis. It's all nudity, which — I don't know if you're familiar with my page, but I literally am in hoodies 24/7. Or for harassment and bullying, which… I literally wake up every morning and tell people, I hope they have a great day and to go crush it. So the sadness of it is, it seems like our community is not targeted by Instagram. I really don't think they care what we do, as long as we're not harming anybody. It's people reporting. It's somebody that is displeased with somebody else's attention, success, happiness, networking, whatever it is.
It sounds like you're doing everything you can, and you're still being taken down.
Exactly. That's why I say to spread to other platforms to do things on your own, to not rely on things so much. I've established a website that has massive traffic. We've got an email newsletter. We've got a text message system so that we can be in direct contact with our consumers.
Your Instagram account is back up. You've got your website, your email newsletter, your podcast… is there anything else that you're working on that people should know about?
We recently started doing Koality comedy nights in Los Angeles. Every two weeks in Hollywood we host a new set of six comedians, and it's an environment that’s 420 friendly. So people can bring their own cannabis, or we provide bong rips, and joints, and a dab station, and food and all kinds of stuff. If anybody's visiting Los Angeles, it's a really fun little date night that also allows you to consume and not feel bad about it!
Get off your computer and come hang out IRL.
Yeah! Come giggle with some comedians that wanna do exactly what you wanna do.
The Artist: Laganja Estranja
Laganja Estranja may have got her start when she dipped her way into The Werk Room on Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but she’s now a world-renowned TV personality, choreographer, musician and cannabis advocate in her own right. Laganja has appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Heidi Klum’s Queen of Drags, So You Think You Can Dance, Latin American Music Awards, Bong Appetite, America's Got Talent, MTV's Video Music Awards with Miley Cyrus, and the American Music Awards with Christina Aguilera – all while championing equitable cannabis access for all. In 2015, Laganja was featured on the cover of Dope Magazine making her the first LGBTQ+ entertainer to appear on the cover of a cannabis magazine and she continues to espouse the need for more LGBTQ+ representation in the cannabis industry today.
The Last Nug
While the fine folks we’ve profiled here are a few of our favorite cannabis social media influencers and content creators, there are so many more to follow. We’ll update this feature every so often to let you know who you should check out to keep up with cannabis trends and hot new products. While you’re at it, why not give Gentleman Toker a follow? We’re on Instagram @gentleman.toker. Mwah!