All Photos Courtesy of Ray Arias
Right around Valentine's Day we asked America's Cannabis Sweetheart, Rachael Arias, to chat with us and share her cannabis journey. It's a very human story of setbacks and triumphs which makes this super beauty also super relatable. Enjoy.
Rogue Paq (RP): How did the members of your household regard cannabis growing up?
Rachael Arias (RA): I didn’t realize this until later in life, but my parents were always canna-friendly. My dad went to Humboldt State University and we’d always go to the area to visit his friends that became farmers. When I was about 15-16, my dad shared this aspect of his life openly with me and it was at that point that we first smoked together. My Mom, on the other hand, started out in the wine industry but migrated to cannabis when it became legal in Washington. It was a natural move given the direct parallels between wine and cannabis: both have a heavy agricultural aspect, also both draw on the senses for evaluation like, for instance, smell and tasting notes. She went on to develop her skills as an herbalist and to make edibles and topicals. She does a lot of education and consulting on best practices regarding the products she makes. It’s important to her to ask the right questions, understand her clients’ symptoms, and then guide them through different modalities and types of healing with cannabis.
Ray and her mom
RP: We believe that cannabis is a healing plant with the potential to replace prescription medications in the proper application. Tell us about how cannabis has played a part in your overall health.
RA: I started self-medicating in high school after being prescribed Adderall for lack of focus and disinterest. What floored me at the time was the high doses of quick release medication that I was being given: 20mg at 15-16 years old. It was revving me up as you can imagine. I began losing weight and couldn’t sleep and realized Adderall wasn’t a solution but just another problem. Then I discovered cannabis. Suddenly I not only could focus, but found that I could eat and sleep as well. When I was 22 I began experimenting with tinctures and found that an 18:1 CBD:THC brought me the ideal focus.
Interestingly, despite being an herbalist and educated on cannabis, my mom was initially against my using it. We lived in Redmond, Washington where cannabis was taboo and we were already the subject of negative attention for being a single-parent family and living in the YWCA women’s shelter. My mother simply didn’t want to instigate any additional negative attention. That time period was really difficult for me because I always felt that I stuck out like a sore thumb and frankly I was bullied because of my circumstances. It feels so good that a decade later I’m thriving and being courted by major cannabis brands like Mirayo by Carlos Santana and Willie’s Reserve by Willie Nelson. As far as my mom was concerned, by the time I was 17 she fully accepted my usage and recognized its amazing benefits in my life.
Adderall wasn’t a solution but just another problem. Then I discovered cannabis. Suddenly I not only could focus, but found that I could eat and sleep as well.
RP: You are a judge in the Emerald Cup. Can you tell us how you got designated as such and also tell us what you appreciate about the competition?
RA: I was living in LA in 2012-22 and earned a Yoga certificate and became very immersed in that culture. Then one day when I was long-boarding down at the beach, I got hit by a car which resulted in a spinal injury. I was on my own and honestly I didn’t know how to deal with an injury. As I mentioned, I was pretty ingrained in the yoga world and I was being told to continue to pursue pretty aggressive positioning which, in the end, injured me further. So, I decided to step back from the LA yoga scene and move back to Santa Cruz. It was there, by chance, that I met one of the founders of SC Laboratories (which practices analytical cannabis science). He loved my passion for the plant and he offered me a job as a community manager. Basically, I would meet with famers and I’d pick up their payments as well as samples of cannabis to be analyzed. It so happens that SC does the analytical tests for the Emerald Cup (potency, microbials, terpenes, pesticides for cannabis and residual solvents like butane and ethanol, used in extraction methods for concentrates). That was my link. But what really put me in position to be a judge was that I had been taking tinctures for my injury and therefore had a lot of knowledge and experience in that area; all this at a time when they were looking to shed light on other vehicles of cannabis consumption like tinctures and topicals. That knowledge and experience coupled with all that I learned at SC plus my background working on farms was what solidified my position as judge. This will be my 4th year judging and my 6th year involved with The Cup and I’m so proud to be a part of it. A big part of that pride is that The Cup brings light to people incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes. The organization works hard to free prisoners. Not only that, but I really appreciate that it supports regenerative farming - cannabis that is bio-dynamic and grown outside in the sun. The Emerald Triangle includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties which are world famous regions for farming cannabis. The cup is held in Sonoma County which, along with Napa is known as Wine Country. It’s temperate, has lush soil, perfect sunshine, and the ocean breeze nurtures the terpenes. It’s so important to me that consumers are educated about where their cannabis comes from and how it is grown.
One day when I was long-boarding down at the beach, I got hit by a car which resulted in a spinal injury. I was on my own and honestly I didn’t know how to deal with an injury.
RP: You are a Cultural Brand Strategist. How did you make the leap from SC to this?
RA: Clients at SC were continually asking for marketing help and that’s when I branched out and began working on my own. The biggest parts of my job include social media management, photo shoot production, and copy writing.
RP: Given your role, what do you feel is the single most important thing that can be done to convey strong brand identity?
RA: Cultivating your unique voice and story-telling. Be yourself. Develop your own voice. Have a solid message. When you have a story and an ethos, you will develop a strong community. Brands who make this a priority will have more success in the long run even if the burn is slower.
RP: What is your favorite ritual?
RA: I absolutely love French press iced coffee in the morning along with a tincture. I do a high 5:1 tincture if my day is more loose and creative and when it’s more intense, I opt for a 18:1 tincture. I always wait until lunch or later to indulge in a full THC joint or dab.
Cultivating your unique voice and story-telling. Be yourself. Develop your own voice. Have a solid message. When you have a story and an ethos, you will develop a strong community. Brands who make this a priority will have more success in the long run even if the burn is slower.
RP: What is your favorite strain and why?
RA: I don’t discriminate. I’ve long moved away from the sativa/indica/hybrid framework because that simply refers to weed plant leaf structure and fails to convey how strains actually make a person feel. It’s much more about the terpenes and essential oils present in the plant. For me, I always lead with my nose. If it smells good to me then I will enjoy it. I gravitate towards orange creamsicle smells and also, on the opposite end of the spectrum, stinky cheese smells.
RP: What are the top 5 questions a consumer should ask when shopping for cannabis at a dispensary?
- Is it single sourced? Meaning does the purveyor of the cannabis own the farm versus white labeling the flower.
- How is it farmed? Is it biodynamic? Was it raised outside, in a greenhouse, or mass produced indoors? Let me qualify by saying that Ember Valley is an indoor farm and they make an incredible product so any of these methods can yield a desirable output. Since we are talking brands, other brands I love are Coastal Sun Farms and Talking Tree which are both single sourced family farms.
- Do they test their terpenes? If the answer is yes, you can be assured that they care about creating a great product and are keen on showcasing that aspect.
- What kind of papers do they use on their pre-rolls? You’ll notice that if they use bleached and cheap processed papers the cannabis is usually inferior. If you are a farmer and are proud of your flower, then you‘ll want to use high quality hemp papers like Raw or Elements (rice papers), for instance, in order to really highlight the superior nature of your weed.
- This isn’t a question but I urge you to really inspect the label. If you find a ton of rich information, not just hype branding, you’ll know the product is good enough to brag about and that it was grown with care and pride.
RP: What sets your soul on fire?
RA: Knowledge - I love to learn and to educate. Knowledge is power and to be informed is imperative - especially now. I come from a line of healers, thinkers, and activists which makes it extremely important to me to be out in my community, of service, and always helping to educate.
I’ve long moved away from the sativa/indica/hybrid framework because that simply refers to weed plant leaf structure and fails to convey how strains actually make a person feel. It’s much more about the terpenes and essential oils present in the plant.
RP: What's your favorite book and why?
RA: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - I’m fascinated by the themes of censorship and combating fascism. More generally, it’s a beautiful story about how one young woman can alter the course of so many lives. It’s been incredibly impactful in my life.
RP: Do you prefer to be in front of or behind the camera and why?
RA: What I love most is the production of a shoot. I love creating the visual aspects, conceptualizing the vibe, hiring the photographers, and casting the models.
RP: What was your favorite photo shoot of all time either produced by you or someone else and why?
RA: Produced by me was at my old house in my clawfoot tub surrounded by 60 of my houseplants.
Produced by someone else was David LaChapelle capturing Tupac in the bathtub. Also, there’s a famous shoot of Madonna somewhere in California walking nakes in heels smoking a stogie. For the life of me, I can’t find the credits for the shoot.RP: When you’re in the mood to create, what is your go-to medium?
RA: Words - I love storytelling and writing poetry.
RP: You are a California girl but you have dreams of one day living in NY. What does your ultimate NY life look like?
RA: I would love to live in DUMBO (with my own driver because the train sitch there would drive me bonkers); I’d be in my own bubble working in cannabis to help emerging cannabis brands find and develop their brand voices.
RP: We know you’ve been a life-long fan of the People Magazine segment What’s in your bag? So, tell us what’s in yours.
RA: Wild Beauty Cosmetics tinted lip balm
Stick of selenite to neutralize energy
Bunch of gold jewelry
RAW rolling papers - black organic 1.25
MIRAYO weed by Santana
De la Rosa candy (a yummy peanut marzipan candy)
Second Wind mask
Palo Santo spritzer
Navy Vianel lighter
Kurvana Calm Tincture 12:1 tincture ashwagandha, blue tanze and lavender
Rohto eye drops
Rebecca Campbell oracle Cards
RP: What’s in your Rogue Paq Ritual Case?
RA: A few kinds of weed - Beard Bros Farms + Talking Trees + Coastal Sun
Tiny vial of alcohol
Concentrates by Bossy Farms [Doc Greens] and Blue River
RAW rolling papers
Rogue Paq #SendNudes matches
Holy Palo Santo wood by Sacred Wood Essence