Bess Byers, otherwise known as Cannabess, has become a force in the cannabis industry as a staunch activist and social media influencer. I first came across her Instagram feed last summer, when I was conducting research for my online shop, Allume. The minute I saw her content, I was enthralled by its beauty and purity. Finally, I thought to myself; what a refreshing representation of cannabis culture.
But let’s throw it back to the beginning. Like myself, Bess never expected she’d work in the pot industry. Before taking the plunge, she majored in public relations and minored in Mandarin before moving to China, around the time the US borrowed the trillion dollar stimulus. That’s when she became active in politics, which in turn opened her eyes to the intricacies of the economy and how it comes into play. After returning to her hometown of Eastern Washington (or as she calls it, “farm town”), Bess was unfulfilled and jetted off to Los Angeles to focus on market research.
In March 2015, she was set to move again, but this time, to Washington DC for an opportunity in politics. As fate would have it, a friend who owned a grow-up in Washington State swooped right in and made a better offer she couldn’t pass up. From there, Bess flourished in the cannabis community and now runs her own creative digital agency, Blaise Creative.
I couldn’t wait to chat with this bonafide badass about her unique career path, activism, cannaroutine and more!
Tell me more about how your passion for cannabis emerged.
I think it’s always kind of been there! Tying it back to my politics, I don’t believe a government agency should be telling people what they can and can’t do with their bodies. If people want the freedom to consume a plant as alternative medicine, who are a bunch of politicians in suits that are horribly out of touch to tell us what we can and can’t do?! Then, I started looking into pharmaceutical lobbying, and how much politicians are receiving from the industry. It really angers me that there seems to be an agenda, like Oh pot is bad, let’s push this narrative…meanwhile, we’re giving people a bunch of synthetics that have a boatload of side-effects. Being in the industry for the last 3 years, connecting with medical patients and growers, you see how government taxation and regulation hinders business growth, which is in line with what I believe it: freedom, liberty and limited government.
How does it feel to have such a strong presence in the cannabis community as a creative and an entrepreneur?
First off, I feel so appreciated! Never in a million years did I expect to a) be working in the industry, and b) be someone that people refer to as an influencer or inspiration. Some days, I’ll read the comments people leave and they bring me to tears! It also brings up a lot of responsibility, since people are looking up to me for recommendations. It’s inspiring, motivating and makes me want to continue advocating. Having such a big platform is easier to do that!
Have you ever faced any backlash?
A little. I’ve been name-called by other women in the industry, called a conspiracy theorist. I’ve been bullied for my political beliefs, but if people want to criticize, let them criticize! At the end of the day, as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, you’re a good person making a difference in the community. That’s all that matters.
Evidently, stoner stereotypes still run rampant. How do you think we can shift the narrative?
I like to show that I’m an active consumer! I love to smoke weed and go for runs, take a hit off my vape pen and go to dance class, smoke and cook with girlfriends. Though sometimes I don’t smoke every day; it can give me anxiety if I have a lot of work to do. As long as we’re continuing to be responsible, by not dabbing and driving for example, or posting sponsored content of yourself smoking and driving. I’ve seen a lot of influencers do that, which is what we need to break away from. So overall, being a responsible and conscientious consumer can help crush stereotypes.
Do you feel cannabis is often glamorized?
There’s a bit of a gray line. I think we just need to show responsible consumption. For example, no offence to those who make dab videos, but I wouldn’t take a 3 gram dab, just like I wouldn’t drink a fifth of vodka and black out. To me, cannabis enhances experiences and I personally don’t want it to ruin them.
Let’s talk #womeninweed. Are female cannabis influencers often over-sexualized?
I think it’s important to not build your brand solely around sexualizing yourself. If it’s 100°, you’re on a trail and smoking a joint, that’s natural! But taking a bong rip doggy style isn’t natural. What’s even a little more frustrating is seeing some of the male-owned brands that are doing this. Women can be sensual, sexual and beautiful, but still respectful; it’s all about execution. I think we can sell products without selling our bodies.
What advice do you have for women entering the industry?
I would say connect with other women! But first, discover what you love to do and figure out how you can apply your talents to benefit the industry, whether you love to grow, do marketing and sales. Go to industry events, reach out to brands you might want to collaborate with. I think that’s the biggest thing: just connecting with other people. That’s been integral to my growth. And know your worth. Don’t let people take advantage of that.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been doing a lot of video content and a few other things I can’t talk about too much yet. But I’m really excited about what’s coming! I think the biggest thing on my plate right now is my new agency, Blaise Creative. At this stage, I have clients from Washington and California, and as the industry expands, I hope my client roster and team will follow!
Indica or sativa? Sativa
Smokeable or edible? Smokeable
Favourite strain? Super Lemon Haze because it’s the first strain I ever grew.
Your first time smoking was: My junior year of high school at my friend’s brother’s going away party. We were with a circle of friends smoking, I hit the pipe and started coughing a ton! My friend ended up driving my car home. I remember looking out the windshield and feeling I was in the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios, where everything is like a dream and you’re just going along for the ride.
Weed essentials you can’t live without: Definitely flower, my RAW cones, and my 9 to 5 grinders.