Cannabis and protest music have always gone hand-in-hand, and today that is even more important, as LGBTQ folks, people of color and cannabis enthusiasts are fighting to protect and expand their rights. We talked to passionate advocate and activist Jessie Standafer about her new music and protecting people in 2018.
How did you get started making music?
Music feels like it has been a building block of my DNA from even before I was born. My grandparents on both sides are musicians, specifically big-band and jazz musicians, and my parents played in a rock n’ roll band together when they were first dating I have my mom’s tambourine from that era, and they have the white boy perm pics to prove it!
Who are some of your biggest influences?
I grew up with a lot of jazz and classical music. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to the current pop music on the radio as a kid, so I would obsessively listen to Ella Fitzgerald and classical music. Eventually, the first CD I ever bought for myself was Alicia Keys “Songs in A Minor,” and it blew. My. Mind.
But I’ve gotta say, lyrics and intention behind a song are equally as important as the music, and my influences there come from social activists and justice warriors like Audre Lorde, the work of Dorothy Pittman Hughes and Gloria Steinem and the incredible activists currently on the front lines every day. To me, these people are my muses.
Do you have anything exciting to announce as far as recordings, tours, etc.?
I sure do! My music video and newest single, “HIGH,” will be released April 27. The music video was created in New York City by a team of brilliant female filmmakers, and the song is a collaboration with an incredible MC, Alsace Carcione.
Much of the U.S. will be celebrating Pride Month in June, so I’ll be announcing several shows for what my friends and I like to call the gay holiday season. Stay tuned.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m excited to be an ambassador for LAMBDA Legal, a civil rights organization that uses impact litigation & public policy work to support the LGBTQ community. Being able to share the important work that LAMBDA is doing makes my little activist nerd heart super happy.
What inspired the song “HIGH,” and why did you write a song about cannabis?
Listen. Things are bonkers on all sides these days. But as our lady Michelle Obama said so perfectly, “When they go low, we go high.” This way of being in the world that she speaks to, going high and refusing to devolve, is inspiring to me on all levels. I think that cannabis, both the movement to legalize and de-stigmatize use, and the use itself, is such a wonderful metaphor for this idea. When we feel trapped, we’ve gotta stand together in solidarity, and zoom out to a higher perspective—be it through smoking a jay, meditation or music. There we will find the win-win solution.
How do you feel cannabis activism ties in with LGBTQ activism?
Let me tell you something; those fabulous lesbians in their flannel shirts and trend-setting Birkenstocks, home-brewing kombucha and being hipster as all get-out, have been growing their own flower on the D.L. for years! But in all seriousness, I believe that activism holds the most power when it is intersectional. The LGBTQ community uses cannabis! Cannabis growers and users are queer! When we work together and allow those with the most cross-sections of identities and experiences to lead, we are most effective in our causes. When I stand in the truth that your liberation is bound up with mine, we go high—which is the message of the song.
How do you feel about legalization so far? What could be done better or differently?
I’m a pretty savvy biz lady myself, so I can understand why legalization is really exciting for both users and entrepreneurs. But we have to remember that, through legalization, we have the responsibility to acknowledge the consequences of cannabis being criminalized in the past. This is a pivotal moment. At this point in history, while the tides are turning, we can seek economic justice for the communities of color who were disproportionately impacted. We can vote people into office, such as Cynthia Nixon where I live in New York, who are advocates for pardoning people incarcerated for cannabis possession, and introduce laws to prioritize people of color in the industry. The Minority Cannabis Business Association, the city of Oakland and the city of Portland are all excellent examples and resources for opening doors to minorities within the cannabis industry.
“This is a pivotal moment. At this point in history, while the tides are turning, we can seek economic justice for the communities of color who were disproportionately impacted [by the ‘War on Drugs’].”
How has cannabis impacted your life or creative process?
I didn’t actually even think about cannabis at all until after college. I think I was about 23 when my girlfriend at the time introduced it to me. She was using it to treat symptoms of a chronic illness, and to witness a person’s suffering being alleviated through this plant was absolutely incredible. To be clear, I also have many friends who use cannabis recreationally, which is equally incredible!
I use it for both. Cannabis for pain relief, pleasure and healthy sleep patterns is absolutely a part of my adult life. Plus I roll a tight joint.
What is your favorite strain or cannabis product?
My absolute favorite vape kit is created by Bloomfield Co, an incredible woman-owned cannabis farm and company. The kit fits in my palm, and holds four adorable mini vape pens, so I can easily carry different strains with me. I’m obsessed with the beauty and functionality of the design, and feel v. fancy while using it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m excited to share my music with you all!
Love, your toke-in gay girl!
Artist Name: Jessie Standafer
Location: New York, New York
Most Recent/Upcoming Album: Rise Up