Weed and Wellness: Wisdom from Humble Bloom Co-founders

Get woke about US drug policy, farm culture, being a responsible consumer and all things cannabis.

Solonje Burnett-Loucas and Danniel Swatosh founded Humble Bloom out of a desire to see a constructive community around the use of cannabis. As you may know, the United States has a very complicated relationship with marijuana; while studies have shown cannabis is almost universally consumed regardless of age, race or class, a disproportionate amount of nonviolent drug offenders in US prisons today are black or Hispanic males who happened to be carrying or consuming weed. This problem goes deep, back to the Nixon administration’s hard-line policies on drugs and an overall racist agenda to criminalize minorities. It’s pretty intense… however, as Humble Bloom founders Danniel and Solonje can attest, the attitude and overall awareness surrounding cannabis is rapidly changing! The drug is being acknowledged for the life-giving, potentially healing substance that it is, and Humble Bloom is there to guide the way organically and responsibly.

Humble Bloom provides a positive, inclusive and progressive view on any and all weed-related experiences. Their focus is on wellness and building an explorative and creative community around cannabis in all forms.

We spoke to the bold founders about the origins of Humble Bloom, their relationship with weed and what they hope to see transformed when it comes to the overall usage and sentiment towards cannabis.

Photos by Didem Civginoglu

Hi guys! Tell us a little about Humble Bloom and how it developed to today.

DS: We started Humble Bloom with the idea to make a product and create a space with the main goal being raising awareness as well as educating people. Through engaging with our community, we organically developed what Humble Bloom is now. We believe we can use cannabis as a conduit for connecting with ourselves, with our community and with the planet while shaping a conscious consumer by providing them with more access to trusted brands, education and immersive purpose driven experiences.

SB: Yes, everything she said plus equity, inclusion and socioeconomic access. We founded Humble Bloom because we are on a mission to humanize experiences with cannabis and lift the stigma through diverse interactions. The plant has been criminalized and demonized to control black and brown bodies so the status quo of fattening the type-A “businessman’s” pockets — profit over people rules. We can’t let that happen in this industry and in communities who’ve used this pant for healing therapy forever. We’ve flipped the model. Discover products, people, and culture leaders. Connect to form a collation and supportive network in which we can all flourish.

So you held a “Field Trip” of sorts where you shared in a community harvest. What was your aim and how did it come to be?

SB: It happened pretty organically. I was asked to participate in the launch of SHAW. at Lucas Lucas Gallery in Williamsburg. My dear friend and gallery owner Stacie Lucas connected the dots. Maya Shaw was putting together a cannabis event that highlighted women artisans called Breaking the Grass Ceiling and they wanted me to moderate the panel on “Women Making an Impact” as Co-founder of Humble Bloom. It became a collaborative event and in my pre-interviews of the panelists Maya set up, I spoke to Brittany Carbone of Tonic. Brittany mentioned she had a hemp farm. I told her we’re going to bring people out there to help harvest the plant. After an incredibly impactful standing room only Breaking the Grass Ceiling (photo set 1 and set 2) Humble Bloom became public with our intentions, and our future collaborations were birthed. A month later we took a 4 hour drive to Berkshire to complete strangers’ home, farm and workplace. I came away changed, with my own perspective shifted.

The aim of the HB Field Trip was to bridge communities and shatter the stereotypes we cling to due to our upbringings, the misinformation we’re fed through media as well as our government, and find the common thread to connect us to cannabis and ultimately each other. To close the gap between urban and rural, black and white, politically passive and charged, left and right, as well as all the shades of grey or colors in the spectrum through intimate engaging human contact. Making space to discover empathy for each other by learning our differences are not who we are. We all still want the same basic things and it’s those similarities that should unite us. Also, we focused on getting people to disconnect to reconnect; make new friends and just get away from their devices.

DS: From the very first moment we set off on our journey to the farm—I had literally just landed from a flight from Portugal—I felt super charged by all of the potential that I imagined. Solonje and I talked non-stop about our desires for the experience that we were soon to create. What I found went way beyond my expectations.  We arrived late to clear starry sky and a smiling family waiting on the porch to great these two strange girls showing up on their farm with ideas about some Field Trip. We barely slept that night, filled with glee and excitement of what was to come. Just as felt myself fall into sleep, a tractor started at the crack of dawn and smell of hot coffee and fresh zucchini bread wafted through the air; the gears of this working family’s home started turning. We set out on the farm, boots in the mud, walking amongst the 10,000 dancing plants and were lost in a child-like delirium. Not only did we learn so much about the nature of this ancient plant, we learned about ourselves through hearing the story of how a Long Island family followed their dream, putting in their all, investing everything: blood, sweat and tears in working the land for the revival of the crop.  

This experience very much inspired the spirit of the Field Trip—getting out of our element, breaking our patterns and opening our hearts and minds to new experiences, ideas and people. A bit of a social experiment, literally bridging communities by bringing a diverse group of people from the urban city environment who have never touched a plant, much less harvested, to the rural farming community.

You focus a lot on health and wellness. What does this mean to you?

DS: Health and wellness is a multidimensional subject that I approach holistically. I don’t believe one is healthy and well or not. Feeling healthy and well is achieved through being attuned to your body, your environment and your life, while making conscious decisions in order to achieve the balance you need, adapting to life’s transformations with grace. But it goes beyond that; we have to ask ourselves important questions to understand what we are truly buying, who are we supporting and who are we not supporting. These kinds of questions are especially important when buying cannabis products. Because it’s not federally legal, there is no regulation, no universal yet controversial stamp of approval like Organic.  

Anyone can get CBD from the internet and white label it. Cannabis is one of those incredible plants that actually removes toxins and heavy metals from the earth, similar to Cacao, so your source of hemp matter. Knowing how the company extracts is important. Some companies use toxic solvents that are bad for our health like butane, propane, hexane or pentane.

SB: We’re all in search of healing – physical, spiritual, mental. But just subscribing to the new fad self-care regimen without thinking about how it affects others on a large scale is  ego-driven capitalism 2.0. Our focus is on conscious consumption, whether it’s what you put on your body (from cannabis topicals with ingredients you can pronounce to the clothing you wear, where it was sourced, how long you can wear it, and whose pockets you’re fattening) to what you put in it. As consumers, our power is in what we spend our hard earned dollars on. What message are you sending with what you purchase? How are these purchases affecting you and your communities?

How much participation is there in the community and what are the values you share?

DS: I’ve never felt so much synergy and support in my career until this point. The intrinsic value that everyone shares is that the accessibility of this plant is a social justice issue. People have the right to access a medicine that has the potential heal in so many ways.

SB: The level of collaboration in this community is like nothing I’ve experienced. Most likely, it can be attributed to the newness of it for those trying to legalize and/or normalize its usage. We are all trying to find our place in an illegal space. On a basic level, we all want it legal for whatever our specific motivation is — criminal justice, profit, access to employment, medical usage, etc. Beyond that, like every industry, our values are diverse. This is where Humble Bloom comes in. We want to be a platform to craft the cannabis culture so it doesn’t end up like most already established industries in our patriarchal exclusive white-male dominated culture that doesn’t give difference a seat at the table.

What does it tell you that so many people are interested in such an experience?

DS: That our intuition was right and that people are looking for something more than your usual stale cannabis conference or a bro-fest of people just getting super stoned.

SB: HA! What she said. And also the opportunity to have experiences that are thoughtful, engaging and non-transactional. Get into nature, deep conversation, meet people who are curious, and have a moment that’s different from your normal day to day.

How do you want people to feel at the end of this journey?

SB: Open to discovering and growing as humans. Making connections with people they probably would pass on the street, on a subway platform, or in their work environment. To see that through this plant, we can find more in common than what’s different. And that difference isn’t negative. Having different perspectives and experiences can help us solve larger community/cultural problems and shift our current mindset.

DS: To feel more connected to themselves, to each other, to the plant, to the earth and to their life’s work beyond us. That we are interconnected rather than separate entities. To feel encouraged to continue to seek knowledge and advocate for the plant, for themselves and those who can not advocate for themselves.

What are the different uses of cannabis? Can you go a bit in detail about some of the benefits?

DS: Cannabis is an ancient and adaptable plant, around for millions of years and used by humans for thousands of years as medicine, recreation, ceremony, food, textile, rope, paper and even fuel. The two most common species are Sativa and Idica, both with strains rich in THC or CBD and used for medicinal and recreational purposes.With over 400 different compounds, of which three are mentioned the most. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound that produces a psychotropic effect, Cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive, and Terpenes which are instrumental to the experience of cannabis.

THC and CBD have a variety of medicinal effects. CBD is mentioned more for its positive effect on epilepsy, muscle spasms, inflammation and anxiety while THC is used for its positive effects on PTSD, pain and nausea.

The way the cannabinoids interacts with our body is as though we were made for each other. The cannabinoids within the plant called phytocannabinoids stimulate cannabinoid receptors within our body and brain, called the endocannabinoid system, which is made up of thousands of receptors. The endocannabinoid system promotes homeostasis affecting everything from sleep, digestion, pain, inflammation, immune system, mood, and even reproduction.

How you can use cannabis is incredibly versatile, evolving from roll-it-up and smoke it or infusing it in just about anything for edibles to being delivered to your system in more ways than you could ever imagine such as vaping, dabbing, topicals, tinctures, capsules, patches and sublingual strips.

As we mentioned before, unfortunately in the USA, an enormous number of prisoners (particularly non-wealthy persons of color) are serving very long sentences for minor drug offenses. Do you feel it’s important to raise awareness about this?

SB: More so than raise awareness, it’s our responsibility to make sure this topic is baked into every cannabis convo and legislative decision. You cannot talk cannabis without going into criminalization, the war on drugs, the industries that expanded from its demonization, the POC bodies that are still caged while white bodies profit, and the environmental effects that harm us all. Families have been broken, paths to economic success, and equal housing extinguished. As a human advocate, it’s my privilege to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

DS: Yes! Cannabis as a drug has led to the empowerment and expansions government, wars waged, imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people and the demonization and fear of racial and ethnic groups. The first anti-marijuana laws came about in the early 1900’s, directed towards Mexican migrants. The word “Marihuana”, in its original spelling, comes from Spanish/ English slang used to describe cannabis. After the Spanish-American War, resentment of our Southern neighbors grew and cannabis “Marihuana” began to be linked to negative portrayals of entire groups of people in our media, entertainment and government—and then our longest war, Nixon’s War on Drugs.

What does a healthy relationship with cannabis look like, in your opinion?

DS: A healthy relationship with cannabis starts with having a healthy relationship with yourself. It is one that is not transactional, that is intentional and respectful. One that recognizes its potential to heal the body, the spirit, communities and the Earth.

SB: The same as with anything else. Be smart, thoughtful, and kind to yourself and others. Knowing and learning about its benefits so you can speak from an educated background rather than just from your opinions and media/culture sway. Getting rid of language that’s demoralizing and start using words that are empowering.

Photo by Carlos Alberto

What is your relationship with cannabis or drugs? Did you experiment a lot with consciousness-altering substances in your youth?

DS: Every creature on the planet seeks out experiences of altered states of consciousness with various substances to help them achieve a certain state of being. It’s a primal force that aids evolution, breaks patterns, habits—breaks us out of the box. I have a long relationship with cannabis beginning around 14 years old. I grew up outside of DC and was an early 90’s club kid going to parties in Baltimore, DC and Richmond. So yes, I was experimenting. Prior to Humble Bloom, I co-founded a raw juice company in NYC called Heartbeet Juicery. It was around this time that I really expanded my knowledge of plants for their medicinal, nutritional and ceremonial purposes and less for recreational. I began to travel extensively to South and Central America, Asia and Africa learning local traditions. That being said, I’ve stopped experimenting and become more focused on plants.

SB: No. I was the scholar-athlete type growing up in Newton, MA. In high school, I was a three-season sports captain (soccer, basketball, and outdoor track), sang in a travel choir and went on to study at Wellesley College and then got my MA at Emerson College. My family is from Caribbean and as the first-born child of immigrants, I was always told I had to be 10x better than Becky or Jim to get to the same place. I didn’t have the luxury or privilege to hang around and get high. I first smoked in college but it was random at best. I had a boyfriend after grad school who had it as a part of his nighttime decompression routine and I started to make it part of mine. I remember hosting parties in Boston and one of the owners telling people as they passed treats around that I wasn’t into it and to leave me alone. It actually felt great to not do what everyone else was. I didn’t get into other drug exploration until I moved to NYC and my nightlife/music scene immersion was so deep. I made a conscious decision to check others out to have knowledge of how I’m affected but realized most don’t work with my body chemistry. I’m team green.

How has your attitude towards cannabis changed over the years, if at all?

DS: I’ve become an activist. I was like everyone else, puff puff pass and no questions asked. After working in wellness, and experiencing the white washing and commercialization, I knew the same thing was going to happen in cannabis. This is the biggest public policy shift in decades and because we are coming out of prohibition, we have an opportunity to make some huge cultural shifts before big pharma, corp, alcohol and tobacco come in.

On a personal note, I am also a mother of two and I can’t help  being shocked by the degree to which people are comfortable with alcohol, which kills over 80,000 people a year and anti-whatever prescription drugs but they are not OK with cannabis.

SB: And more than alcohol… TOBACCO. It’s gross. And there are spaces in NYC that allow cigarette smoking on their rooftops and turn up their noses to cannabis. My weed smoke isn’t causing you cancer. *Insert side eye and all the confusion.*

My attitude has changed drastically. I didn’t touch it when I was a kid because of my upbringing, that morphed to casual, party, and self-healing usage. Now I’m a cannavist trying to ignite a passion for conscious consumption in others and advocate the rights and economic justice for communities that are disproportionately terrorized by the war on drugs. This plant is made of magic. They know it now. Let’s make sure it’s available to the people who need it most and not dive into cultures of corruption and greed.

What is happening in the near future or your vision for Humble Bloom?

SB: So much is in the pipeline. Collaborations with incredible brands, discussions in spaces where thought leaders co-work, and so much more.  With each connection, we draw inspiration for future culture shifting moments. I would suggest staying in touch with us. Mailing list on humblebloom.com and follow us on FB/Instagram.

DS: Everyday is full of new opportunities, as Solonje said. Follow us to stay in the know.

If you could send one message to girls or women around the world, what would it be?

SB: Lead with collaboration over competition. Find ways to positively grow yourself and your community. Working together, we have a collaborative well of resources. Seek out those male allies or fierce supporters and those who are maybe outwardly different to strengthen your message. Don’t follow false “influencer” gods. They aren’t here for you or us. They are here for profit.

DS: Don’t be afraid to ask for support on your projects, reach far, tell everyone; it’s more often than not that your biggest cheerleaders are not always your closest friends.