It begins like a lot of unboxing videos: With an eager YouTuber cutting open a parcel and teasing a dramatic reveal.
“Whoa!” says the young woman in the blue-and-yellow tie-dye shirt, pulling out one item after another: a pink cord, a large copper-colored coil, a giant jar.
“I guess I should start explaining this,” says the woman, a 27-year-old who goes by the YouTube name SilencedHippie. “These are Mason jar… bongs, essentially.”
The video speeds up as she assembles the piece in her kitchen; then it cuts to her bedroom, where she sits on her bed and christens the bong, taking a couple puffs and blowing smoke at the camera.
More than one million people have watched SilencedHippie, whose real name is Sasha, unbox and smoke her Mason-jar bong since she posted the video in 2016. But smoking pot and geeking out on paraphernalia isn’t all she does in her videos. She also talks about how her father battled lymphoma, how she switched majors from teaching to communications, how she started having panic attacks because she didn’t feel like she was doing what she was supposed to be doing.
That was before she found her calling. Sasha since has become a new kind of influencer: a weed influencer, someone who spends their days in front of a camera getting high and experimenting with cannabis-related merchandise — while racking up millions of pageviews and getting paid. As SilencedHippie, she makes wake-and-bake videos, films do-it-yourself projects like making a “stoner bar cart” and documents the occasional fiasco. One video features a group hotbox session (friends smoking in a confined space with no ventilation) that goes awry when the Airbnb’s fire alarm goes off.
Apart from being the ultimate stoner dream come to life, the emergence of weed influencers a sign of how many Americans are looking for someone to reflect their experience of smoking pot recreationally outside the star-studded, meticulously scripted realm of stoner comedies. And, contrary to pretty much every popular archetype outside of the sitcom “Broad City,” some of the most successful weed influencers (and many of their fans) are women.
“It was like three years ago that I found her and I’ve been watching her pretty consistently since then,” says Kayla Thibodeau, a 21-year-old waitress living in Vermont. She says SilencedHippie is relatable.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans support cannabis legalization, according to the Pew Research Center, and 25 states have either legalized it or permitted the distribution of medical licenses for consumers. And the majority of pot smokers across the country — 53 percent — are women, according to the Cannabis Consumers Coalition.
“I would say probably about 80 percent of the engagement is from females and 20 percent are from male followers on Instagram,” said Koala Puffs, another weed influencer (though she dislikes the term “influencer”), who has almost 700,000 followers on that platform. It’s a similar story on her YouTube and Twitter accounts, says Koala, whose real name is Anjela.
She thinks legalization has made women more comfortable immersing themselves weed culture. Illicit market marijuana was risky; some women were leery of getting high on mystery pot brownies or cannabis sold by a random man on the street. If women know the source is legit, however, getting high in social settings might seem safer than drinking.
For some weed influencers, though, cultivating a sense of danger around smoking pot is part of the pitch. On the YouTube channel CustomGrow420, Joel Hradecky, who goes by “Jolie Olie,” undertakes challenges involving smoking “dabs” — small globs of THC concentrate that you smoke by lighting them with butane torches. They’re known as one of the most powerful ways to get high from cannabis.
“We’re gonna try to do these things as fast as possible,” he says at the beginning of a 2018 video, titled “25 dabs in a row!!!!!!!!” By the end of the video, Hradecky is crying and coughing. His face is red and streaming with so much sweat that he uses a towel to wipe his face and blow his nose. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this high in my life,” says Hradecky, who did not respond to an interview request. (That video has since been deleted, as have others on his channel.)
Male weed influencers aren’t the only ones doing dabs for the amusement of viewers. Mackenzie and Joya, the hosts of a YouTube show called “Two Girls One Bong,” have also incorporated dab-smoking into their programming. Those videos have sometimes mirrored the “gross” challenges men were doing in dab videos. (In a video titled “We took too many dabs!!!,” Joya and Mackenzie talk about the tools they’re using to smoke dabs and where to get them before taking more than 25 dabs between the two of them.) But Joya says the women put their own feminine spin on it. “I think that we were able to kind of, you know, combine the challenge aspect make it funny and keep it cute,” she said in an interview.
On a relatively recent, chilly Saturday evening in Washington, D.C. Sasha, Anjela and a few other female cannabis influencers held an event to meet their fans in a warehouse. There was a joint-rolling station, large-format Jenga, and an hourly raffle for free gifts like top-of-the-line bongs. More than 300 people registered. Before the event began, they formed a line around the brick building, hoping to get stoned with — or, at least, near — their online idols. Sarah Celani, 24, traveled from Pennsylvania for the event.
“We’re going to meet people that are our people,” she said.
A common theme among her Celani and her friends was this idea of being free-spirited. Whenever Koala Puffs was brought up, the three girls and one guy gasped about what they think her and her friends do on a daily basis.
“They’re just free spirits,” 23-year-old Emily Lathrop said in the chilly weather. “They do whatever makes them happy.”
Loren, who declined to give her full name because she was worried about what employers might think of her attending the event, told The Post that she believes all of the light and positivity Koala and her friends radiate is doing a service for the stoner image.
“They’re great influencers for their time,” she said.