In Lloyd Kanchan’s tiny twisted world of weed, a Ninja Turtle crashes on a couch as Master Splinter pinches his stash. In another diorama, painter Bob Ross adds Kanchan’s version of “happy trees” to a painting. Toy figurines of celebrities are paired with film, cartoon, and animated characters seshing, conspiring, and recreating to medicate together.
“I’d seen toy photography before and was always a huge fan of a show called Robot Chicken on Adult Swim,” he shared. “The show used Claymation, but it planted the seed of recreating favorite scenes from TV and film in a funny way. When I added cannabis everything came together perfectly.”
Kanchan grew up in South Central Los Angeles, but now makes his home in San Bernardino, referred to as the Inland Empire of Southern California, with plans on relocating to the high desert.
South Central is infamous for what are now referred to as the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, after a jury acquitted four white police officers of beating Rodney King, a Black construction worker-turned-activist.
Kanchan said he was just five years old at the time, but remembers seeing the city on fire, hearing police sirens everywhere, and witnessing pure chaos.
“Growing up in a rough city makes or breaks you,” he shared. “As a kid, you don’t really pay attention to the negative stuff going on around you. Yes, there were daily murders, a constant police presence, gang activity, drug use, and homelessness everywhere. I also had strict parents that kept me focused on sports and my school work.”
Playing with toys and video games was an escape from the harsh reality of his daily life. But, he also cites sports for playing a huge role in his life—namely, basketball and football.
“You never saw me without a ball in my hand,” he said. “With all the trauma, I wouldn’t change growing up in Los Angeles for anything,” he added. “The people, the culture—everything in that city made me the person I am today and I’m proud of it. The fact that I am street smart and well educated makes me a double-threat, in my mind.”
Cannabis: The Working Man’s Meds
In 2005, he injured his back while playing middle line-backer in college football at the University of Oregon. The injury preempted a herniated disk, with Kanchan dropping out after his first year, stating, “I didn’t want to keep putting my body in jeopardy.”
He was initially prescribed Vicodin, but said he felt numb and unable to focus.
“I always felt like crap on the pharmaceuticals,” he said. “My pain was still there and my productivity was low.”
Today, he smokes flower, dabs, and uses a vaporizer to medicate for the pain.
“I could take an over-the-counter medication for pain relief, but I don’t like what they can do to your liver in the long run,” he said. “And I’m not too big on CBD only because I don’t get the adequate pain relief I need without the THC. The long lasting effects of dabs make concentrates my go-to way to medicate.”
Cannabis, he said, helps him get through the workday pain-free and feeling comfortable, as his day job as a laborer in a retail warehouse involves heavy lifting. But, company policy dictates random testing for drug screening, and Kanchan said he’s putting his job at risk every day, as THC stays in the system long after the high is gone.
“It’s worth it for me to continue to medicate with cannabis, because it works,” he said. “I have more focus on the job than when I was using pharmaceutical pain killers.”
With cannabis, he said, there are literally no side effects or feelings of dependency—and that’s what he loves about it.
“I take pride in always being one of the hardest workers at my job. My production numbers are solid and I’m medicated while doing it,” he surmised. “I’m living proof that cannabis doesn’t make you lazy or slow you down in the workforce. It really depends on the person and their work ethic.”
Diorama as Stash
His stash is interchangeable as his dioramas. Filled with some of his favorite products of flower and dabs – all enjoyed with intrigue and humor in every situation he creates.
“I medicate and recreate with action figures because it adds humor to my life,” he said. “Typically, I medicate with flower using a bong when I work on the dioramas, because the high isn’t as intense as with the concentrates. When I medicate before I start shooting the ideas start flowing and I get lost in my zone.”
As a social media influencer, many of the dioramas feature products he loves by companies he admires.
One diorama sees Jim Carey as Ace Ventura enjoying two large buds of Banana OG from Good Ole Boys Farms of California; another has the Pet Detective seshing with Will Ferrell as Buddy from Elf.
Iconic stoners Cheech & Chong are seen together and alone in several scenes. One shows them being handed dabs from Maniac Meds of California, by an intimidating dabtender, Kratos, from PlayStation’s God of War. Another shows Chong holding a dab, hanging with a disappointed Carey, captioned, “you call that a dab, Mr. Chong?”
A favorite stop-motion animation is also his first, featuring Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story hanging with stoner teddy bear, Ted, from the fan-favorite stoner movie featuring Seth MacFarlane as Ted, with Mark Wahlberg playing Ted’s sidekick John Bennett.
The dioramas themselves, or the backgrounds of each scene, are made by friends. The miniature glass pieces are made by idab Glass of Orange County, California. The celebrity figures are purchased at retail shops, collectible shows, and online markets.
Medicate to Elevate
Kanchan said much of the creativity and play in preparation to build the dioramas is done ahead of time in his imagination.
“I can be at work, listening to music, or watching TV, and have an idea for a scene come into my head,” he explained. “Then I’ll be in the photo tent for a few hours creating different scenes and working on getting the perfect shot. The whole process is a stress-reliever from the rat race – work, bills, family, relationships, and friends. Just trying to find happiness can seem so overwhelming at times.”
The Ninja Turtle diorama shows a funny, yet underbelly side of weed, with Master Splinter taking liberties of a sleeping turtle’s stash. It’s a relatable real-life scene that’s no doubt been played out in housemate situations as long as the herb’s been sitting on a coffee table unattended.
“The Ninjas are easy characters to use, as they are always seen as funny, stoner-type personalities,” he said. “Their favorite saying is cowabunga, so I titled this diorama, cowa-bong-a.”
The Bob Ross diorama adds a certain normalcy for partaking, depicting PBS’s favorite TV painter, immortalizing the plant as truly one of his self-proclaimed “happy trees” on canvas.
“Years ago I came across Bob Ross’s videos on YouTube, and always admired his chill and relaxed personality,” he said. “I loved how he always talked about painting happy trees, so putting this shot together was really fun. With both our art combined, it’s easily one of my favorites.”
His Instagram posts have been shared by celebrities he portrays, including Cypress Hill, Dizzy Wright, and Jay & Silent Bob.
“I only tag the celebrities I know use cannabis,” he added. “The ones I do tag seem to love being featured. It’s flattering when people consider me an Influencer. At first I didn’t like the title, because some Influencers were half-naked models and people doing crazy bong hits. Now, I take pride in it because I didn’t have to do those things to get attention.”
Aside from the adulation for his innovative work, Kanchan said at the end of the day, his stash is all about play and the plant.
“I never realized this was art until people started telling me they loved my work,” he surmised. “Then I realized anything created is art, no matter what it is. All I can say is, I’m humbled by the love and appreciate the positive responses received. It keeps me motivated and pushes me to continue creating. And I’m really happy to have cannabis in the mix—in my work and in my play.”