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Proud Endeavor

By Sensi Contributor
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When you grow cannabis, the key is to empower the female plants so they will blossom and bloom. California-based Stone Road, which recently launched here in Massachusetts, is doing the same thing for its consumers—no matter their gender, pronoun, race, or sexual preference. One of the country’s only openly queer-led companies actively supporting the LGBTQ community, Stone Road is committed to harvesting and creating accessible, affordable cannabis products for every kind of smoker. From its home in the funky West, the brand is steadily growing presence on the East Coast. It arrives with a simple mission: Stone Road simply wants everyone to be able realize the multiple benefits of cannabis.

Sourced from its 57-acre, off-grid biodynamic farm in Nevada City, California, Stone Road’s line of sustainably grown cannabis products—including pre-rolls, flower and concentrates—is targeted for a new age of conscious consumers, “each joint potent, pure and hand-rolled with love.” And the brand is focused on taking that same message, as well as its products, east: in March, it launched a partnership in with Solar Cannabis Co. at its two Massachusetts retail locations. And as many as 15 more collaborations are the works. Stone Road also has plans to expand into New York, which legalized recreational cannabis last year and promises to be a fertile market.

Consumers are aboard 100 percent with Stone Road’s first batch of products— including its 10-pack pre-rolls and 1-gram singles, which sold out within 11 days at Solar.

“Since launching Stone Road in the Massachusetts market, we’ve had a hard time keeping its products on our Somerset and Seekonk dispensary shelves,” says Solar marketing director Derek Gould. “We sought out to launch this venture knowing that our brands’ likeminded ethos—sustainability, quality, affordability, diversity and inclusion—would connect with an untouched demographic. It has.”

For Stone Road, the move represents a foothold in what is quickly becoming an important market. “Massachusetts is our first East Coast state and is the best market in America right now,” says Stone Road owner Lex Corwin, who founded the company at age 23 in 2016. “It’s helped us expand our national presence. Places like California and Colorado get all the attention, but the East Coast market is going to be enormous.”

The new Solar stores in Massachusetts are part of Stone Road’s more than 300 retail outlet partners nationwide, including 30 new ones in April alone in its home state of California. The catalyst behind the growth: Stone Road’s product and brand messaging resonate.

Nature, Minimalism, and Inclusivity

Corwin created Stone Road as a family-run brand committed to harvesting and creating accessible, affordable cannabis products without sacrificing style. Raised in New York City, Corwin moved west for college and began working as the co-manager of a boutique, family-owned medical cannabis cooperative in Portland, Oregon. Cutting his teeth in the legal cannabis space with roles in cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution while working towards his degree, he has since propelled Stone Road to become one of the fastest growing cannabis companies in the California, Oklahoma, and, now, newly minted Massachusetts markets.

“It takes a lot of time and energy, but I’m six years into it now and word is starting to get out,” Corwin says, adding that the next frontiers for the company are out of state. “Everyone wishes their business will take off and ours finally is. We’re filling a gap we felt was missing and are going to build our momentum across the country, especially on the East Coast. We’re taking a California brand and farm and transferring that to new markets.”

Driving its engine is Stone Road’s premium, sun-grown flower sourced from its biodynamic farm in Nevada City. “It’s entirely off the grid and is the story of our entire brand, producing high-quality craft cannabis for the masses,” says Corwin, adding that the brand also collaborates with more than 20 partner farms in California. “Our main branding is based on nature, minimalism, and inclusivity,” he says, “and a lot of inspiration comes from our farm and the gorgeous landscape that surrounds it.”

Creating and perfecting the farm, Corwin adds, was a “years-long process,” requiring building an entirely closed-loop system, from composting to internal wells that pull from an internal, 460-foot-deep artesian well, at the ideal pH level of 6.4, which allows them to use water straight from the earth. The farm is completely self-reliant,” he says. “But it doesn’t happen right away. Things like making a good compost takes years.” All this hard work has created a “farm-to-table” cannabis vibe that’s proving popular from the Pacific to its new market in Massachusetts. This ethos is even reflected on Stone Road’s home page, where animated butterflies remind visitors of the brand’s tie to nature.

The packaging for Stone Road’s products is equally sustainable, with everything 99 percent recyclable and made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled goods. The company also uses a rice protein isolate to create the shrink wrap around its pre-roll packs, and reclaimed ocean plastic for lids on its recycled glass flower jars. The packaging’s photography, which depicts the farm, was created by New York designers Santiago Carrasquilla and Alex Stikeleather, the lead designer for Snoop Dogg’s Leaf by Snoop line.

All of these steps were hard to implement, Corwin says, but essential for the brand. “We work with several specialty manufacturers to get the most environmentally friendly packaging we can,” he says. “It’s important for us to have the smallest environmental footprint possible, while still remaining commercially competitive.”

Uplift Everyone

The heart of Stone Road’s ethos and its inclusive mission really comes alive in the unique marketing messaging it uses to reach its consumers—much of which includes “avant-garde” campaign imagery centered around the LGBTQ community.

“We strive to push content that elevates our brand and the cannabis industry at large,” he says. “Just because we sell cannabis flowers doesn’t mean we can’t create a brand that inspires and uplifts people.”

Corwin’s embraced this ethos from the beginning, with a grassroots effort that resonated instantly with consumers.

“The brand started by people willing to make high-end, user-generated content for us, which worked really well on social media platforms like Instagram,” he says. “People are constantly over-stimulated; you need something that grabs their attention and elicits an emotion.”

He then carried that theme over to Stone Road’s house-generated marketing content, including a shoot a couple of years ago when it put out a casting call to people who liked snakes. The response was overwhelming, he says, with the campaign eventually featuring a Black person smoking a Stone Road joint with a huge snake around his neck. “People are still commenting on that,” Corwin says, adding that Stone Road’s Instagram page (@stoneroadfarms) has been instrumental in helping tell the company’s story. Other campaigns have followed a similar suit, featuring members of the LGBTQ community posing with Stone Road products—including a campaign featuring a series of still-life photos with renowned photographer Kate Sweeney.

Photography by Kate Sweeney

Fostering pride is as important to Corwin and the brand as its marketing efforts to consumers. During June’s Pride Month this year, Stone Road will be donating 10 percent of all profits to New Alternatives NYC, a resource center dedicated to the care and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV+ homeless youth in New York. It also rolled out Pride boxes across California and goes out of its way to highlight queer talent in its imagery, creating content that reflects the diverse spectrum of cannabis users in the LGBTQIA+ community. Its website description reflects this as well: “Cannabis is nature’s best unifier, bringing people together from every place, background, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion.”
“Every brand needs a core audience,” Corwin says, adding that Stone Road is very popular among women and the LGBTQIA+ community. “It’s all about accountability and support.”

Stone Road”s Founder Lex Corwin

Corwin sums up Stone Road’s approach in an interview in Forbes: “I founded Stone Road because I saw a dearth of high-end cannabis companies marketing to an upscale demographic. Prior to legalization, most marketing consisted of women in thongs taking dabs or the psychedelic route. I just knew that as an industry, we could do better. I want the cannabis industry to be approachable and to be taken seriously. To do this, we needed to elevate the image of who is partaking in cannabis and why.”

And now Corwin’s taking that attitude and philosophy to Massachusetts, where the cannabis world appears to be his oyster.

“Their launch here is going great,” says Solar’s Gould. “Stone Road has been widely welcomed within the Bay State so far.”

Which just goes to show that empowering people and respecting everyone is always the best way to succeed.