We’ve all heard for a while now that print media is a dying form. And even the New York Times agrees—except when it comes to cannabis. According to a NYT profile piece, cannabis magazines tailored to a stylish, sophisticated consumer—not “stoner Steve”—are on the rise and doing well.
And when you look at a publication like MJ Lifestyle, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. With its inviting images and accessible content, which shows an aspirational lifestyle normalizing the plant and empowering women, it’s no wonder the magazine is flying off the shelves (and off virtual shelves online, too).
The woman behind MJ Lifestyle is Jennifer Skog, a fashion photographer and creative director who has turned her sights onto cannabis. As a long-time cannabis consumer, Jennifer now focuses on inspiring women in the cannabis space to create an inclusive, diverse and positive community.
I spoke with Jennifer about why she started MJ Lifestyle and how she hopes the publication will inspire women in the future.
Pamela Hadfield: MJ Lifestyle (MJ) advocates the benefits of cannabis for women and is about women. But, who the hell starts a magazine in this day and age?
Jennifer Skog: Yes, this has been a huge undertaking, but sometimes you have to take a jump into the unknown. Had I known just how difficult this was, I probably would’ve never considered it.
MJ started with a close friend and former business partner who had a vision for me. As a cannabis consumer for the past couple of decades often clouded by the shame of my consumption, she knew that this was something I was meant for long before I did.
I actually shut the idea down a few times until a fellow boudoir photographer asking to start a magazine for women/boudoir/body positivity approached me. It was then I realized maybe I do have something I can share with this dark world.
Once we entered the cannabis space, which started off as a secret Instagram page, it was quickly evident that women weren’t properly represented in the cannabis space and our mission evolved.
As a photographer, I’ve had visions of how I’d create a magazine, paying close attention to not only the quality of content and materials used, but also a piece of “herstory “ in the making.
PH: Your magazine is truly stunning. It has a dreamy quality and feels like a work of art—I want to keep it on my coffee table forever. You’re a professional photographer and creative director by trade. How has your experience shaped MJ Lifestyle?
JS: Thank you. I believe that I’ve been unintentionally conditioning myself for this work my entire life. I can go way back, but I’ll start with college and the desire to go to art school for photography. I was the oldest of three to very hardworking parents both without degrees, so art school wasn’t exactly on the menu. Instead, I got my business degree in marketing, so I could learn to sell my work.
As a wedding photographer, standing by the bride’s side on her most cherished day has shown me life through so many personalities and cultures. My wedding photojournalism turned to fashion-inspired wedding photography. I began photographing women more intimately and eventually reinvented boudoir photography and taught other photographers how to photograph women.
I’m addicted to photographing women, getting them comfortable in front of the camera, so I can capture the unprepared, effortlessly beautiful vision that she is. As women, we can be ruthless to ourselves. I love showing a woman how I see her.
I’m a recovering sarcastic person; sometimes I feel the only way I’m understood is from my art, it’s important to me to keep those elements of authenticity continuous in the magazine, especially because it’s meant to be cherished on your coffee table.
This magazine is made for all women, so we try to have something for every woman.
PH: You cover a variety of cannabis content from living and wellness to the industry and culture. What are your thoughts on how cannabis spans all of these topics?
JS: It’s crazy entering this industry as a consumer; cannabis seemed to be all about smoking weed and making money. As you dig a little deeper, you find the introduction of the ECS (endocannabinoid system) and CBD (cannabidiol) that is literally saving lives, the necessary education and standardization of laws.
We’ve got constant policy changes, men and women still fighting the war on drugs, small cannabusinesses losing everything in the California fires, because they can’t be insured, and the looming dark cloud of the inevitable attempt for big pharma/tobacco to take over and destroy the industry.
All of these topics are things women care about or might care about if they were more aware. Enter MJ Lifestyle.
PH: There are a variety of luxury brands that are highlighted throughout the magazine and your site. How do you select brands to represent?
JS: Of course, we’re attracted to pretty packaging and clever branding, but we all know what happens when we judge a book by its cover. For us, it’s about the quality of the products and the people behind the brands. We’re only interested in companies that align with our business ethos and our priority to spotlight social responsibility.
PH: You interviewed me for your recent issue, and we had a lot of fun hanging out together. I like that we’re turning the tables, and I’m interviewing you. In interviewing so many women in the cannabis industry, are there any consistent themes you’ve seen emerge in what people are talking about?
JS: It really depends on who it is that I’m speaking to, but the biggest priority for most of us is fighting for social justice for the many men and women of color who’ve been so dramatically affected by the war on drugs.
Additionally, as women with small businesses, many of us are concerned about big money attached to misogynistic and dangerously rich men entering the cannabis industry. They see big money, and often big money doesn’t serve the consumer or the community.
PH: Where do you want to see MJ Lifestyle in two years?
JS: MJ has evolved in such a short period of time that it’s hard to envision where it will take us. It’s our hope as self-made women to inspire a sisterhood of women around the world, sharing our talents and resources for something greater.
We at MJ hope to be self-sufficient too; we’re self-funded, so we’re most excited about building dynamic partnerships in the coming year. Issue 2 has been picked up for retail in the U.S. And in the next year, we hope to be internationally selling and starring on “Ellen.” But really there’s no limit we can’t reach together.
PH: How often is MJ Lifestyle published, and where can people buy it?
JS: We publish three times a year, every four months. Issue 2 has actually already sold out online. But it’s coming to select Barnes & Nobles and retail stores around the U.S. very soon.