Weed is a touchy subject, Danielle Olivarez knows this, and especially touchy for womxn. But this 24-year-old yoga teacher and cannabis advocate is working to change that.
“There’s so many layers to it, it all comes down to machismo and misogyny, and it comes down to how men have treated us forever about anything really,” Olivarez said while sitting outside of Brooklyn Blend in between sips of an iced oat milk cortado, explaining the stigma surrounding womxn and weed.
“Like, ‘oh, a girl can play soccer? A girl can write? Oh she’s funny? She’s smart and beautiful?’ It’s as if everything is a whole big surprise,” and a womxn smoking, she continued, is just an extension of this.
Olivarez is originally from Miami, where weed culture is abundant and finding community with like-minded individuals felt effortless. This changed when she moved to New York a little over four years ago, where she noticed a different more elitist attitude around cannabis, saying that people gave her the impression they thought it was “low-grade” or “low class.” She denotes this to the lingering racism around cannabis and people of color.
“People of color are stigmatized in general for being people of color,” she said, so intrinsically a person of color will be seen differently around issues concerning cannabis use.
“Police are still trolling these neighborhoods looking for people smoking weed, while white people are smoking joints and hitting vapes in Clinton Hill on their stoops and cops are saying absolutely nothing,” she said. Between looking for community in the city and bearing witness to the disparity she described, she could’ve buried her head in the sand, but she didn’t. Instead, she held her head high and made her own space and called it “Highlites.”
Highlites is a one-year-old grassroots organization founded by Olivarez, making space for “cannabis loving womxn,” as her Instagram bio reads. The intention is to highlight womxn in cannabis and create online content to destigmatize its consumption –– she’s currently working on a website that will showcase the writings of hers and others, and will feature pieces like “best ‘munchies’ spots along the G line.”
She is also making this destigmatization accessible through curated events where she will guide attendees through yoga flow and invite others to contribute to healing and wellness, like her past event at Hemp Lab NYC that took place July 27, called “make the habitual a ritual,” a key component in smoking weed with intention.
“Its really cool that we’re all stoners and it’s really cool that we all love to smoke weed, but how are you consuming your cannabis? And, do you understand where it’s coming from? Do you understand what role it plays in your life?” she reflects. Intention makes a tool out of weed, a plant with a long history of demonization and misconception, as well as medicinal value.
“When I started to use cannabis recreationally I noticed little things like, it helped my stomach stuff feel better because I have chronic IBS. I noticed it helped me sleep or it made my thoughts slow down. It equals me out, it very much grounds me,” she shared, adding that she also self-medicates for anxiety and fibromyalgia.
In the past year, she shared through misty eyes, because of Highlites, she’s found her tribe. Something that has also been healing for her, only further fueling the intention of creating space for womxn to become vulnerable and meet others who are in a similar position.
Olivarez sees a connection between allowing yourself to become vulnerable and smoking: A part of the practice allows one to reflect without judgment, making space to talk about wellbeing.
“When you’re vulnerable and safe within your vulnerability, you allow yourself to feel without judgement. No more does the negative voice in your head muddle up the way you truly feel in your body,” she said. Vulnerability and reflection is an important part of self-growth and self-love.
Tying it to the bigger picture, Olivarez said, “If we want to successfully dismantle the oppressive systems that try to control us, we have to acknowledge that ignorance and fear are what controls them.”
Cover image of Danielle Olivarez by Andrea Aliseda.
All other images courtesy of Highlites.
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