empowering cannabis communities through design

Empowering local communities through cannabis graphic design and media, Savina Monet works out of Portland, Oregon, making magic with digital collages that feature bold, vibrant imagery of women, cannabis, and positive icons, heavy with flower patterns—from carnations and daisies to thick buds of cannabis kolas and broad sugar leaves. Over the last few years, Monet says, she has “carved out a creative niche in the cannabis industry as an artist and graphic designer.”

“This started back in 2017,” she explains, “when I was working at an agriculture software company and I was so limited design-wise. I had to have an outlet and I sucked at drawing so I started cutting out images on my computer and pasting them together.”

Astral Works, inspired by the strain from pruf cultivar farms.

After discovering digital design as an outlet for her creative mind, cannabis naturally blended into her process and work. “Integrating cannabis was a no-brainer for me. I’ve been smoking since I was 16 and adding a marijuana plant in the middle of an art piece felt like a huge middle-finger to the governing authorities who couldn’t understand cannabis was a medicine.”

But the industry isn’t exactly easy, and getting off the ground took a lot of networking and reaching out. “When I first started working the cannabis industry as a designer, I heavily relied on Tokeativity and The Oregon Cannabis Industry Meetup (OCIM) as networking events.”

Monet’s groovy portfolio headshot.

Then there was the added challenge of gender bias in the field. “Tokeativity was women-only, so I was able to meet a lot of great growers, distributors, processors, and more that were very supportive and understanding. OCIM is for anyone in the cannabis industry and has also been a great source of leads, but adding dudes into the mix just screwed everything up. I would get hit on constantly; I’ve had leads turn cold once they find out I was married; I’ve been told I’d never be able to accomplish a freelance career. After my second white male client I got the point, I’m going to work only with women- or diverse-owned businesses.”

In My Skin, inspired by the song I Like My Body.

Monet has done branding work and art commissions for canna-companies such as Sweet Cannabis, Tree Femme Collective, and GreenForce Staffing. Currently, she is working as the creative director for Mercatus Magazine, a business directory and storytelling archive dedicated to highlighting and empowering cannabis entrepreneurs of color. This summer they’ll be putting out their first publication.

“Mercatus first started as a collective for entrepreneurs of color in Portland,” Monet says, “put together by Prosper Portland. It has evolved into a network, a community, and a collection of stories from the diverse entrepreneurs of Portland. I’m most excited about the 20-page directory that will be at the end of the magazine, that lists all of the businesses featured in the Mercatus collective.”

Why does it matter? Because cannabis has long been used as a weapon against communities of color, which has left some bogged down by excess stigma and risk. Interested communities without the resources or access to the industry that more privileged identities might have are basically starting with a cultural, financial, or social handicap. Others are afraid to even get involved in the industry at all because of that history of suppression, even now (just look up cannabis arrest statistics in states post-legalization). Programs and publications like Mercatus are so critical because small, diverse-owned businesses and leaders are often left behind or ignored in mainstream media, and it’s easy to feel intimidated in the industry.

The Future of This World is Female, inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“My hopes for this project,” Monet explains, “is that it will encourage transplants of color that are still searching for their community to stay in Portland. Portland’s whiteness can be intimidating for those with more melanin and when you don’t find your people in the city, most transplants end up leaving and taking that culture Portland so desperately needs with them.”

No matter who you are or how you identify, there are little things you can do as a consumer to help bring balance to the culture over time and support marginalized communities in cannabis. A big one Monet believes in? Listening and believing.

“Listen and value black and brown women,” Monet says. “Culturally, white America has learned to silence and dismiss people of color when it comes to speaking on issues happening in and out of their own community. Stop trying to be their home girl and instead listen to our messages, our feelings, our thoughts.”

 

Cyn Marts is an east-coast Boricua living on the west coast, searching for her own path through life’s bullshit. She spends her time practicing self-care, devouring pop culture, and working as a publicist and editor in Portland, Oregon. She writes a cannabis lifestyle zine series called Ganja Bruja and posts about it under her Instagram.