Editor’s Note: Welcome to one of our newest bi-weekly columns, High Folks: the cannabis-infused version of Humans of New York, in which we take an intimate look at people’s relationships with our most beloved plant. The connection between humans and cannabis is primal, dynamic, and profound. But it’s something that’s increasingly overlooked in the new age of weed. So in an effort to combat the superficiality of cannabis in the social media-age, High Times is proud to present to you a collection of work that highlights one of life’s most beautiful gifts: connection.
What was the first thing you did when you bought your first pack of Backwoods? I went on YouTube to try and understand the mysterious art of rolling the perfect blunt. I immediately clicked on the first video I saw, and on the other side of my computer screen sat Dope as Yola. Though he had never rolled a Backwoods and he doesn’t exclusively use blunts, Dope as Yola promised to still be a valuable resource for novice blunt rollers like myself.
Thomas Araujo, better known as Dope as Yola to cannabis enthusiasts across the internet, has been creating weed content for YouTube for 6 years. Araujo sits on the other side of our screens reminding us to be comfortable with marijuana’s playful nature.
“I [used to think] ‘Oh my God, you smoke weed? You’re a drug addict,'” Araujo told High Times. “Because at school that’s all they taught us.”
Though he had fallen under the spell of America’s DARE program, Araujo still wanted to know what it felt like to get high. So in 2003 at the age of 13-years-old, Araujo smoked his first bowl out of a Mountain Dew can while binge-watching MAD TV with his older sister.
“I was just curious, but it was definitely one of the best nights of my life,” said Araujo.
His curiosity eventually led him to find communities of weed enthusiasts on social media and post his first YouTube video in 2013. Last year on New Year’s Eve, instead of smoking a giant joint on YouTube to celebrate finally reaching 50,000 subscribers, Araujo decided to give out free weed to strangers in Los Angeles.
“On my Snapchat for years I’d [give away free weed] but not so openly,” said Araujo. “Usually, I’ll get on my Snapchat and say ‘Hey, here I am. Here’s some weed […] I’m in your town.” Since I’m always traveling throughout California, sometimes I’ll stop in little towns of 2,000 people. And usually there is one person that follows me and they’ll get the weed.”
His friends at 3C Farms, Dab Ave, and Marijuana N Munchies were happy to supply around a quarter-pound worth of products for the special day. In the YouTube video, which now has 257,000 views, you can see Araujo handing out weed to the happy folks of LA.
“Anything weed related online, I’m pretty much going to be in the picture somewhere. I’m always [creating content for YouTube and Instagram]. This side of the industry is fun because I don’t have to deal with the bad parts of it,” said Araujo.
By “bad parts” he means being unexpectedly raided by the feds, going to court, or facing prison time. It’s a bag of mixed emotions for Araujo because he’s watched family and friends try and make an honest living in the industry only to be marginalized by federal laws.
The content that Araujo creates as Dope as Yola is what you would expect from a WeedTuber: endless bong rips, reviews on the latest accessories, and hilarious story times. He understands that his place in the cannabis industry is a unique one. He is the owner of the cannabis apparel company, Push Trees, but he isn’t directly involved in the production of flower or flower-derived products.
“I have friends who own companies that only go to legal states because they don’t want to be preyed upon,” said Araujo.
The reality is that America is in a space of suspended chaos, waiting for government officials to say yes to federal legalization. In one part of the country, though the threat of federal persecution still looms, there are still people making a living in the industry. But a great majority of Americans are continually being told no because of outdated beliefs.
His longtime girlfriend, Rosie Ruiz aka Stoner Dottie on IG, says that his journey is inspiring.
“The look on his face when he feels he’s on to something great truly motivates me and makes me smile. It’s like I have my very own celebrity 24/7,” said Ruiz. “What sets him apart is literally just him being [himself]. Upon meeting him you can just feel how genuine he is [about creating] great content. He’s here to create something amazing.”
“This is what I want to do with my free time. I want to smoke a joint,” said Araujo. “[Some people] want to drink. [Some people] want to do hobbies. I’m going to smoke a joint and then work on my stuff. That’s what I want to do. My hobby is [getting high], and if I want to do it I will.”
Araujo says that weed has never let him down. In fact, his relationship with cannabis has opened many doors for him, and he is committed to making cannabis enthusiasts across the internet feel good about their decision to roll up.