By creating psychedelic-inspired works that defy convention, Emily Eizen, a queer multimedia artist and model, seamlessly merges cannabis and art while showcasing the beauty, freedom and diversity of the cannabis community.
Eizen says her relationship with cannabis began while studying political science at George Washington University in DC. Her social justice advocacy started off strong, holding the freshman chair position for the campus LGBTQ+ organization and meeting President Barack Obama. However, she says the culture shock of moving from a beachy Los Angeles suburb to the epicenter of the political universe was “a lot.”
With an innate creative streak, Eizen’s passion for the arts defined much of her youth, offering her not only a way to express herself, but also to escape reality. When she left for college, she lost touch with that side of herself—that is, until she made friends with Mary Jane.
“It was like picking up a paintbrush again,” Eizen says, describing the first time she smoked cannabis. “I found a creative spark I couldn’t contain; a rebirth almost.”
With that discovery, Eizen refocused her direction and moved back to California to study art full-time. Outside of her studies, she landed a job as a budtender in the legacy market, working in a few different places before finding her tribe at a West LA dispensary. There, Eizen says she first learned about the plant and its place in US history, specifically how it had been weaponized to incarcerate entire communities. “It caused me to reflect on my place in the world,” Eizen says. “It’s where I met and fostered a community of women and creative mentors throughout the cannabis scene.”
Shortly after, the dispensary promoted Eizen to social media manager—her first job in the industry other than budtender or receptionist. Around the same time, Prop 64 passed, and California’s adult-use market kicked off. Eizen’s blended passion for social change, cannabis and creativity all came to the fore.
“I witnessed the male-dominated environment and misogyny that dominated cannabis culture transform into the corporate version,” she says. “Brands I saw weren’t creating diverse or artistic marketing content, let alone through the lens of a woman or a queer person. That’s when I first started to create it myself. Combining cannabis and art felt so right to me, using my place in this new, emerging industry to create real positive change.”
What also felt right, she says, is that through her art, Eizen showcases all the different kinds of people who use cannabis. It’s a way to focus on marginalized voices and to highlight the beauty of cannabis culture as a whole. Eizen says her goal is to keep cannabis and creativity intertwined and protected from the homogenous legal market. “In my opinion, when cannabis became corporatized, the whole idea of artists and creators using cannabis for centuries was forgotten or an afterthought,” she says. “By reigniting the creative spirit of cannabis culture through art, we preserve history while creating a better future.”
Working with cannabis culture legends Cheech and Chong “felt like total validation from the cannabis gods,” Eizen says. However, she’s quick to emphasize that while working with iconic celebrities is fun, her true passion lies in advocacy—releasing cannabis prisoners, in particular. “It’s the most enriching part of what I do,” she says, reinforcing that it’s not all social media glamor. Rather, she’s often invested in creative partnerships with nonprofits and major cannabis companies to share the stories of those impacted by incarceration.
“Corvain Cooper was in prison for cannabis serving a life sentence until receiving clemency; Sean and Eboni Worsley, a veteran and his wife with PTSD who used cannabis medicinally and were arrested and sentenced for years,” she says. “These are the stories I must amplify through my work so that more people can bring awareness and pressure their representatives.”
In addition to advocating for those wrongfully behind bars, Eizen is also interested in keeping the passion for cannabis thriving within the industry, especially as it expands and more newcomers enter the space. While talent should always be recognized, the problem, as Eizen sees it, is a lack of passion for cannabis or knowledge of actual consumers. Her utopian future of the industry includes legalization and freedom for those wrongfully trapped behind bars. “Those affected and hurt by the War on Drugs should have priority in this space,” she says. “I hope the cannabis industry can keep the creative spirit alive and understand the value of art, social equity and inclusion.”
For other women hoping to break into the cannabis space, Emily Eizen says any point of entry is a start—whether that be as a budtender or brand ambassador. “There’s opportunity for growth once you get your foot in the door,” she says. But above all, she reminds women to stay true to themselves.
“Find your niche, something you’re passionate about and promote yourself in that field,” she wisely advises. “Even if others may not listen at first, building a consistent message will help you get a following.”