We were so excited to virtually chat with the amazing women behind High Herstory and Mercury Road Media. We spoke with Annette, Kendall, and Jenny about their upcoming premiere, experiences with cannabis, and representation. Mercury Road Media is an NYC/Portland-based production company and creative agency specializing in digital media that reaches a driven, informed female audience via branded content, films & series. “We established our production company, Mercury Road Media with the goal of producing TV, film, and media with a focus on stories most in need of representation. The idea for High Herstory was born while writing another historical fiction series about sex workers. We had been writing together all day and were taking a smoke break and venting and asking ourselves the question, ‘How do we get people to care about hearing these stories?’ It struck us. Just like this. Women consuming cannabis and telling stories about other amazing women whose histories were so suppressed, stolen or colonized out of the history books that many of them only exist orally.” So important and necessary!
How were you introduced to cannabis?
Annette: I was in high school and my best friend’s older sister had her boyfriend over who rolled us a joint, I probably took a few hits, coughed and then we watched a movie. I remember just feeling kinda relaxed and happy and we watched a movie and ordered pizza. Kind of a boring night in, made less so by a little cannabis.
Kendall: It was in college when I was first around it socially. Although my dad rolled his “special cigarette” quite a bit in my youth. I was taught the propaganda and told to be scared of it and its effects on the reputation of a nice young woman! Lol, I was very conservative in High School and never once partied, but instead was more of the spokesperson for purity in all its forms (giant eye roll at the patriarchal concept of purity). By 20 years old, I had my doubts about much of the brainwashing tactics used on me. My first time using cannabis, was in my apartment with my roommate/dear friend and her boyfriend who was also someone I trusted. They came from the same small town and had known me as someone who was scared of cannabis. They were able to make my first experience so educational and fun! I’m so grateful they took the time to help me see where I had learned false fear-mongering information because I cannot imagine my life without cannabis.
Jenny: The first time I tried weed was in college, in a friend’s shed dressed as Bettie Page at a Halloween party. It just made me giggle and none of what the D.A.R.E. program had told me would happen, happened. Since then I’ve learned how to incorporate it into my life as a creative and healing tool.
Are there any stigmas you have faced because you are part of the canna community and/or because you work in the cannabis industry?
Kendall: Of course! We are actively working against their momentum. Stigma much like the history taught in our schools was and is created by people with an agenda. In the case of cannabis that agenda was extremely racist and profitable. Stigma is a matter of an emotionally gripping narrative rooted in fear and lots of money spent on advertising and marketing that idea. Which is what happened in this country with cannabis. Any stigma I may face in my life is laced with white privilege. I must never forget that as I try to profit in my work related to cannabis that innocent people and families suffer greatly from the way this “stigma” has been wielded. Stigma is a weapon. The work is far, far from done.
Jenny: When we first started creating videos around cannabis and women, many people asked if we were worried about our reputations. Some of those same people now come to us for advice on what products to try. Cannabis has entered the mainstream but I think the stigma is still very much present in our society. I have had to unpack a lot of internalized guilt over the years surrounding my personal relationship with cannabis - presenting as a weed person is still something I rarely do on my own Instagram.
How have you benefited from cannabis products?
Annette: I feel, as someone who has insomnia and anxiety, it helps me relax and not be so worried that I am unable to fall asleep or have a fun night out. I prefer cannabis to drinking and it is nice to have an option that doesn’t give you a hangover the next day.
Kendall: I’m so happy with the variety of applications we are seeing from so many amazing entrepreneurs in the industry! Especially when it comes to women’s health and mental illness. I don't want to imagine having my monthly cycle without cannabis products like tinctures, topicals, edibles, and my own infusion machine. As an herbalist, I see cannabis as one of many medicinal plants this world offers us to nourish and heal our complex systems. Managing my symptoms of CPTSD are mainly what I use cannabis products for. Though I would recommend doing so medicinally and under the care of a professional.
Jenny: I agree wholeheartedly with my business partners described above - cannabis is a great substitute for alcohol and helps my cramps. I also use it to elevate my mood when I’m feeling stuck or bothered by something. It helps me stay present, the bigger picture outside of temporary setbacks, and lets me see the joy in the world. I feel connected to a sense of play and creativity when I consume cannabis.
What do you think people get wrong or misunderstand about the cannabis community?
Annette: I think this idea that all cannabis consumers are stoners who sit on the couch all day and can’t accomplish tasks. I think the stigma comes from a place of lack of experience, once you are around someone who consumes responsibly you can see that this plant isn’t really altering you the way some legal substances would.
Kendall: This question feels so linked to the question of stigma. The sad experience is that people are actually afraid of it, and an association with it. Fear creates shame, guilt, and a variety of strong defensive reactions. The majority of people are consuming cannabis all around you mostly just to be healthier and happier people who want to go about their lives and are not harming society at all. It takes a lot of humility to admit your learned beliefs are not reality, especially when so many lives have been destroyed in the wake. Change is happening.
Jenny: People who are anti-cannabis are coming from a place of fear. They are worried about their children losing motivation, about psychological damage to the brain, and weed being a gateway drug. Considering the war on drugs, just say no campaign, and the amount of misinformation still present in the societal consciousness, it’s not surprising. There’s a 2004 study by Yale (that’s often quoted by anti-canna Karens) about how cannabis could lead to schizophrenia, but if you look at the research they are doing on medical marijuana now, the results are very positive. At the end of the day, we need more unbiased research that's looking at science instead of playing to fear.
If you could spend a day with any person in the cannabis community (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Annette: Probably Willie Nelson, just because I am a big fan of who he is as a human being.
Kendall: An impossible question! I would probably say Billie Holiday. I'd love to smoke a blunt and hear her rip apart Harry Anslinger!
Jenny: I just want to have a cannabis pool party with every woman we’ve met from Women Grow! They are an incredible and supportive organization of thought leaders and really fun too.
What are your favorite ways to consume?
Annette: I love edibles, a good joint or a really nice bong like Session. I also have to say my Pax 3 is my favorite for most days because it’s so easy to use and looks beautiful in my home.
Kendall: I moved to Portland, Oregon this year and am delighted with the safety, quality, and variety of products available to me and am still exploring! I love 1:1 edibles and a classic joint! Living apartment life with a husband who doesn't really use cannabis has made me fond of the discreteness of vaping live resin.
Jenny: Water bongs, all the way.
As we mentioned earlier, Mercury Road Media is a boutique full-service production house that works as an agency to create videos and branded content for cannabis brands. It started with the aim to bring more representation to female storytellers, directors and create more incredible roles for women. “We’ve brought our unique blend of intersectional feminism and quirky humor to everything we’ve created: from working with mainstream clients on branded content, creating an award-winning film about the Me Too movement, producing a musical commercial for the bong company My Bud Vase (that actually played in Times Square!), and now premiering High Herstory. We have many more TV series & films in the pipeline that tell historical fiction stories through a relevant lens - and of course, fun + educational shows about cannabis!”
The brand creates commercials, develops original shows, digital content, brand photos for social media, websites, advertising, and investors. “We created the series “High Herstory” to tell the stories of women in history while showcasing incredible brands. This kind of turn-key native advertising is the best way to make your brand a household name without being beholden to the social media gods.
Think about ET & Reese’s Pieces. The filmmakers pitched Mars first to feature M&M for the integration moment where they lure ET out of the closet with candy, but they passed for fear of association with Aliens and didn’t like the script. Hershey’s saw the value and plopped its brand new product into the ET storyline. Reese’s Pieces sales jumped over 65% within 2 weeks of the film's release. That investment choice has been paying off since 1982, and Reese’s still uses that evergreen footage in their marketing today. “
Part of what initially drew us to the brand was how they prioritize education and empowerment around women and cannabis. “Both cannabis and women have historically been misrepresented, suppressed, and villainized. When we discovered that only .5% of women’s history has even been recorded, well we got pissed off! We really set out to create something that would captivate audiences while giving them enough of a taste of history that they would want to go research and discover more. Empowerment is key to repairing the generational work done to strip women of their power! Seeing as how we won’t see equal pay for all women until 2277, if we keep going at this rate. Any work to pick up the pace is desperately needed. At the same time, we wanted to create something funny and something that de-stigmatized female cannabis consumption. We felt like we had been watching the same bro-type cannabis comedies our entire lives and we saw clearly there were a multitude of other stories, even more, interesting stories to tell. We want to show female-identifying cannabis consumers for what they are: smart, sophisticated, and ambitious people who just happen to also enjoy a little flower.”
We are super excited for the 4/20 Launch of The High Herstory series, which features female-identifying cannabis consumers telling little-known stories from women’s history which is re-enacted and blended with animation. “We are so excited to be launching this 4/20 on Social Club TV - “the Netflix of cannabis” - available to 150 Million international homes, to what really is the largest cannabis audience possible. You can find the app on your smartphones and TVs via Roku, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and other OTT platforms.”
The vision and mission of the project is rooted in representation and equity within the space. “It was easy to see early on that women were going to make a stand for a leadership stake in the cannabis industry, that equity would need all the support it could get, and that advertising would need to be agile, creative, and moral as legalization becomes federal. We always envisioned this series as being an answer to many problems that face not only the current brands' ability to advertise in a mainstream way but their need to stand for equal representation. It was always meant to be something fun and empowering for people to watch while also breaking stigma by the familiarity of seeing women smoking without consequences. There are simply not enough shows about women made by women and we have to work towards that balance. We want to partner with courageous change-making brands to tell stories about trailblazing women! The world needs this energy in their life - It is made with a lot of heart, silly, scrappy, and full of amazing characters!”
Viewers can expect a lot of laughs, a little education, and some trippy visuals. “We really wanted to create a show that appealed to everyone and something that would be loved universally. Our series features stories that have been left out of the historical dialogue, from the first transgender person to defend themselves in court to the first Latina astronaut. We really wanted to showcase women achieving greatness because if you can’t see it you can’t be it.”
The theme song for the show was created by Harlee Case (Ladies of Paradise co-founder) and Josh Smith of New Constellations! “Josh and Harlee also composed original music for our episode about Ann Richards. They are super talented and we love jamming to their single “Hot Blooded”.”
The team also chose to partner with the Youth Empowerment Project in New Orleans, which provides resources to underserved communities and helps amazing artists get connected to jobs in digital media, to hire their graduates as animators. “Louisiana has one of the worst incarceration rates in the country because of cannabis arrests so this is a way for the cannabis industry to provide opportunities in a state where the war on drugs feels very much alive.”
When it comes to the future of cannabis, the three look forward to an end to the war on drugs, which has disproportionately affected people of color. “In our society, some people are in jail for a plant that has been used as medicine for over 4,000 years and has been prohibited for about 40 years. We’re excited that people who need access to cannabis medicine will be able to get access to a natural wellness product.”
We are so excited about how the team continues to break down stigmas about cannabis and advocate for how awesome the community can be! “Cannabis industry folks work hard! They are dealing with constantly shifting regulation and compliance issues, overcoming hurdles in banking, and not being able to advertise in traditional ways because of social media/billboard/TV restrictions. Being shadowbanned is a constant worry for those of us in the industry on social media and it can be really daunting to have to see all the hard work people put in just be gone in a flash.”
If you are looking for ways to get more involved in advocating within the cannabis space, the trio had the following advice. “Get and stay educated on the science and Herstory of Cannabis! Speak from a place of love, not fear, and try to expand to meet the very real fear and racism people might need to overcome personally around this subject matter. Change takes time, be patient and consistent. If the hardest thing being asked of you is to endure some hard conversations or judgments from judgemental people then suck it up and push for what is right! Vote with your money 💰”
When it comes to inspiration in the cannabis space, the list is long for the group. “Ladies of Paradise, Lizzy Jeff, Lauren Yoshiko, Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey, Cannaclusive, the women who wrote ArcView/NCIA’s White Papers on gender equity within the industry and all of the advocates working towards responsible legalization.”
The team is already working on creating High Herstory Season 2 - which will carve out episodes to feature the contributions of women in the cannabis industry. “We’re hoping to go into production on that later this year and may even be taking production to the road to interview women across the country. We’re also developing more TV series & films in the pipeline that tell historical fiction stories through a relevant lens - and of course, fun + educational shows about cannabis!” We can’t wait to see more!
When it comes to what can be learned from the cannabis community, we were inspired but the vision and opportunity for normalization and stigma change. “She is a very potent green ally and a blast to hang with. Cannabis is a very loving plant that encourages self-care, listening and being present. We think we can all benefit by freeing her of the stigma of the past so she can help us build the infrastructure for the future by setting right the wrongs done in her name. We are in a pivotal spot as a country and we need to do better. Every state in this country could use the extra tax revenue to better the quality of life of its people. We hope that as people continue to work on themselves, and society continues conversations about wellness and mental health being a priority, that more and more people will be able to utilize cannabis as they would any other helpful herb.”
To learn more about High Herstory and Mercury Road Media follow them on Instagram at highherstory and check out their site https://highherstory.com/. Check out the premiere of the High Herstory TV Series (women’s history + ouid) for free on Social Club TV, on Roku, Apple TV, Samsung, Amazon, and on your web browser or on your phone if you download their app. Or visit thesocialclub.tv to watch it on your laptop.