Seth Rogen might be an unexpected sight in the pages of your favourite Toronto food mag.
But this is a man with several strings to his professional bow: comedian, actor, writer, producer, director – and now owner of a cannabis brand, Houseplant, with his co-founder Evan Goldberg (also a screenwriter, producer and director).
This, of course, isn't technically that much of a surprise. Rogen has often played the stoner in his big-screen roles, and has long been an advocate of cannabis.
Together, he and Goldberg wanted to create a brand that would educate and inform consumers about cannabis to give them the best possible experience. The result is a line of sparkling cannabis drinks that look good and taste good. You could think of them as a bit like hard seltzers and sodas, but spiked in a different way. It's also recently expanded to include pre-rolled joint.
They tell us about living healthy cannabis lifestyles, weed's racial connotations, and why Canada's approach to legalization isn't perfect.
On healthy cannabis lifestyles and removing the stigma
Seth: We grew up in Vancouver, B.C. and weed has been an integral part of our day-to-day lives for the last 20 years.
As I became someone with more notoriety, I was always happy to talk about how I didn't think that being a successful, functional and emotionally available member of society and being someone who smokes weed all day, every day were mutually exclusive.
Me and Evan had a lot of feelings about what a weed brand could be if we focused on design. We joke that it's something that you generally hide under your coffee table, but maybe Houseplant [their weed-infused sparkling water] could be something that you display on your shelf instead. That just spoke to the overall desire we had to treat weed with reverence, not as some inferior product.
On cannabis drinks as an entry point
Seth: People reach out to me on social media saying, "I want to try a cannabis product, but I don't like smoking and vape pens have been freaking me out."
Then there's this sparkling drink that could not be a more easy way in. They're incredibly new products designed to feel like something that you've had a million times before. A lot of people are trying to introduce people to cannabis beverages — which are new — and a flavour they've never had before. For us, that was too much.
If you have something that's innovative, it's good to anchor it into something that's incredibly familiar. And grapefruit and lemon are two of the most ubiquitous flavours.
Evan: When someone's been given a bong and flowers, you would sit down with them for a while and walk them through it. But with Houseplant, it's a format that's easy for people to understand, and the units are measurable — so there's really nothing to explain to them.
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On the drug's racial connotations
Seth: In America — and that's not to say it's great in Canada — there are people who will spend their entire lives in prison for menial cannabis offenses. It's important to us to really do whatever we can to acknowledge this.
Weed should have never been illegal in the first place. It was only illegal for racially motivated and racist reasons, to control minority populations. We can't pretend we're in an industry that has not lived in that shadow for a long time.
One problem I have with Canada's language around legalization is that it's treating it like a concession. This is a righting of wrongs, not a concession to some illicit market.
Evan: We're very proud that Canada legalized it, but it's been done in a way where there is a financial barrier to entry. Everything is very difficult for people who aren't giant corporations. There's a lot of work in Canada that still needs to be done.
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On cannabis not being a vice
Seth: Weed allows my life to be more livable in the exact same way that this sweater I'm wearing allows my life to be more livable because without it, I'd be cold. I don't view this sweater as a vice, I view it as something I need to live in a functional, comfortable way.
There's a niche stigma now around drinking things like this, where people link it to alcohol. People in the alcohol business talk about 'occasion' — that's making an excuse to drink something unhealthy.
Our drinks have no sugar and few calories, they don't bear the weight that alcohol does on your system. To that end, one does not need the same excuse to enjoy it.