Words by Marley DeRosia
Photos by Andrea Westerlund
It started as a DM.
I remember the first time that I saw Princess Kush’s page. A year ago, a friend excitedly shared a post to our group chat: a simple white background centering on beautiful pink cones, and not the kind that you’d put ice cream in. These were honest-to-goodness bubblegum pink pre-rolled cones for weed, green, the devil’s lettuce, Cannabis, marijuana. The prettiest cones I’d ever seen.
I glanced over at my little stoner’s nook, filled with coffee-stain-colored papers, black grinder, and muted smoking accessories. It was a mess of browns, greens, blacks, and whites with the occasional blue thrown in; earth and stone tones that appeal to the general populace. It wasn’t anything to write home about. The allure of something pretty, something cute, something aesthetic when it came to smoking was intoxicating in more ways than one.
And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The groupchat, many women, were enamored with the delicate pink papers and the crisp, golden calligraphy of Princess Kush decorating the boxes they came in. While any gender can love weed, it made me think that most weed accessories I’ve seen in Upstate New York have been designed to appeal to a populace that I wasn’t part of: men.
That isn’t to say that the innumerable Rick and Morty-inspired pipes you see on display are only bought by men. But whenever I enter a head shop, there’s a clear lack of pretty, elegant, or even cute pieces available. And the few that are there are typically overshadowed by two polarizing forces: muted, basic pieces and over-the-top acid-fueled patterns.
In one hand, a black grinder; in the other, an orange and blue pipe bedazzled with a child-like rendition of Spongebob Squarepants.
Princess Kush, otherwise known as Carolina Mendez (she/her), is here to break that pattern. Her online head shop specializes in aesthetic smoking accessories, including rolling papers, pre-rolled cones, pipes, and more. I was honored to sit down with her and chat about fashion, the feminine, and how it all rolls into smoking.
What inspired you to start your business?
I really wanted to get my hands on pink papers, or any papers that were aesthetically pleasing. I had never really seen pink papers in smoke shops. Sometimes I would run across “flavored” papers but never something pretty. I searched online and it was actually really hard to find rolling papers in a variety of colors or designs. I decided to do more research on rolling paper manufacturers and design my own organic vegan papers and cones.
Tell me about your products! How’s the new website for Princess Kush coming along?
As of right now, we offer rolling papers, pre-rolled cones, and one-of-a-kind bongs. I say one of a kind because it’s a 20oz tumbler! It has a down stem that attaches to the bottom of the lid, a silicone nozzle that attaches to the top, and a glass bowl. I wanted a bong that you could take with you anywhere and clean easily. Glass pieces can be a pain, and with the exception of the glass bowl on the tumbler, all the other pieces of the pipe are dishwasher safe.
The new website is coming along great! I’m hoping to add a couple more products by the time it’s ready to launch. I’ve also been working on handmade soaps and odor eliminating candles! In the future, I’d like to see myself at festivals and open a physical location down the line.
My favorite product is the Organic King Size Unbleached Brown Papers. Anyone can try them without having to worry if they’re allergic or bad for their bodies. I spent a lot of time on these papers: I wanted the tips to be just right, thin enough to be flexible and still be rigid enough to not let any Scooby snacks through.*
*For non-smokers, this refers to small bits of weed that sneak past the filter
How do you feel about the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York? Nationwide? Where do you stand on the weed debate and what do you think of weed as a whole?
I am absolutely for the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana both locally and federally. However, I would like to see marijuana be decriminalized federally, and advocate for the automatic expungement of marijuana convictions, so those that were charged with possession of marijuana can have their records cleared without having to go through the court system and petition to do so.
The Black and Hispanic communities are attacked and disproportionately imprisoned for marijuana convictions. This has affected their access to employment, education, and housing. It is only right that the government helps heal those communities by automatically eliminating a barrier they created. I would like to see the government help the Black and Hispanic communities integrate themselves and profit from the marijuana industry as it grows.
As a whole, marijuana has a lot of benefits. As a society we need to move away from thinking it’s a gateway drug or dangerous.
Let’s talk about fashion and function. How do you feel aesthetic intersects with weed culture?
Feminizing marijuana makes it more inclusive. I feel like smoke shops are designed solely for the needs of dudes. I would like to become a dispensary that speaks to women.
With legalization comes “newbies” of all ages, for a lack of better word. When I first started, I searched for a welcoming smoke shop that reflects my aesthetic. It’s important to feel comfortable when you enter a head shop. I want to leave the store feeling more educated about the drug and comfortable trying it for the first time. Marijuana, sadly, has a bad stigma. Sometimes, we think of marijuana as “scummy” and it’s not. I think feminizing the industry will also peel back some of these layers and make it more accessible to people who want to try it for the first time.
Are you as creative in other areas of your life as you are here?
Fashion is a huge interest of mine. I love putting looks together, finding one-of-a-kind pieces, sometimes vintage. I love shoes and handbags—those are my biggest weaknesses.*
*same, sis. Same.
What goes into rolling the perfect joint?
Practice. Get good rolling papers and even better filter tips. The filter tips are the base of the joint. If the filter tip is rolled too wide then it might make the joint go out faster, forcing you to relight it constantly. And if it’s rolled too tight, then it might not pull or burn correctly.
Any tips for new smokers? How do I choose the right smoking accessories?
Start with what makes sense to you. Bowls are usually great because you don’t need to spend time rolling, you can just pack and go. And compared to a standard bong or gravity bong, the amount of smoke you inhale through a pipe can be controlled much easier.
Anything else you wanted to talk about?
Thank you so much for reaching out and for the genuine interest in my small business. In general, I hope the marijuana industry continues to grow in a positive direction and with it lead the charge in social reform.
One of the first steps to making weed more accessible is identifying the barriers that turn people away. Not only is this embroiled in political conflict, but cultural ones, too.
It’s apparent that the smoking industry rarely caters to the feminine, causing greater polarization as dispensaries become more common. It’s thanks to creators and entrepreneurs like Carolina that some of these barriers are getting knocked down.
Creating safe, aesthetically-pleasing spaces could help dispel the rumors and controversy around the drug. Before you write off the importance of aesthetic, remember that it encourages feelings of safety and connectedness in otherwise underrepresented populations, especially in the marijuana industry, where women and feminine identities are not often welcomed. Let’s enter the field one bubblegum pink rolling paper at a time.
Follow Princess Kush at their Instagram: @Princessskush