It was 1994 in Amsterdam, Holland, and Mila Jansen realized she was on to something. She watched her kids’ clothes tumble and spin in the dryer. Little did she know this mundane experience would revolutionize the art of separating “hash from trash,” and inspire one of her famous catchphrases.
In an industry where women’s contributions are often overlooked—and at a cultural moment when this is beginning to shift—it’s essential to know our weed herstory, in which Jansen is at the center. Her recent autobiography Mila: How I Became the Hash Queen chronicles these historic entrepreneurial endeavors; and illustrates her intimate relationship with cannabis through the lens of a transglobal adventure.
Hash making’s been around for years, so there’s an array of methods to separate trichomes from the plant. But Jansen’s dryer-inspired invention made it simple. The Pollinator machine’s screen-covered spinning drum allows the crystals to gently separate from the leaf and collected easily from the tray at the bottom of the box. To say this invention single-handedly altered the course of the industry is an understatement: it’s a defining moment in the modern history of western cannabis.
Jansen steadily built a company based on the equipment she designed for solventless extraction, causing her to blossom into an international icon and mentor to a new generation of hash makers, one of whom is Nikka T of Essential Extracts. She was also named one of the top 100 most influential people in cannabis by High Times Magazine.
Growing up in the enchanted gardens of her childhood home in England, Jansen always had a green thumb. As a young woman, she worked in greenhouses but quickly found her calling growing the mother of all sacred plants. In marijuana greenhouses and secret urban gardens around Amsterdam, Mila was part of the burgeoning underground that made the city famous for weed. During the thick of prohibition, Mila and her fellow clandestine gardeners grew and tragically lost thousands of plants due to busts. But that didn’t stop her.
While the newspapers heralded the Nederweed explosion, police tracked electric bills and suspicious warehouses and often found the hidden grows they were looking for. Carefully tended for months, gardens were often confiscated just at harvest time—a disaster many American growers can relate to, pre-legalization.
Looking innocent riding her bicycle around town, Jansen often went out as a scout—with a bunch of leeks in her basket, as though headed home to make soup—to check if the grow had been compromised. She developed the street-wit to discern whether cops were staking out or if it was already busted. In true revolutionary spirit, for every lost crop there was another underway. Somehow Jansen and her crew managed to successfully grow a plethora of stellar weed, which meant plenty of great trim—an opportunity only a hash queen would recognize.
Her love of weed—more specifically, hash—sent her on a mission around the world to taste and procure the crème de la crème. The profound knowledge she gained from her travels ultimately paved the path to becoming cannabis royalty.
In 1968, she jumped in her van with her small daughter and a few friends, and decided to join the migration of people headed East. They set out overland through Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and into India. They hitched a ride in the back of a truck in Ladakh, only to discover they were bouncing around on boxes of explosives. Jansen had pounds of cream hash tucked into her backpack as she and her friends casually crossed borders. She bartered the drab clothes on her back for ornate embroidery with villagers who had never seen Westerners before.
Finally, they arrived in India—a place Jansen connected with so deeply, it became her home for 14 years. She got to know sadhus and smoked chillums of hand-rubbed hash. She spent time in Tibetan monasteries and even took robes as a Buddhist nun for a time. She trekked with horses in some of the most arduous parts of the Himalayas, slept under the stars, and was welcomed into nomads’ camps. A true citizen of the world, Mila raised her kids and made her many business ventures flourish despite life’s many challenges.
In the 24 years since the invention of the Pollinator, Jansen has added an array of products to her company. She was the first to produce Ice-o-Lator bags and invented the Bubbleator, both of which make cold water extraction an easy process for home and professional use.
But Jansen is now famous to a whole new scene of young cannabis enthusiasts thanks to Dab-a-Doo, intimate dab connoisseur competitions she organizes around the world. At the most recent event in Mexico, some participants traveled as much as 5000 miles to attend. These gatherings have quickly become one of the coolest fam-vibe celebrations of all the cups and canna-fests, as it so faithfully maintains the root culture of the cannabis community.
“It is normal to want to always push farther in terms of refinement,” says Jansen, who prefers to puff dabs in joint form. “Hash culture grew out of the weed culture…I guess it is the same with dabbing culture being the next step after hash. It’s the progression of things, we have to move with the times. The most important thing is that we are a community and we love this plant.”