Cannabis encourages us to express our vulnerabilities. For those of us, who, through trauma and pain, have hidden from ourselves and the world, the plant has encouraged us to dive deep into ourselves and heal the pain that we’ve run from most of our lives. When Lisette Barajas, better known as Mehndi420 on Instagram, first started smoking in 2009, she didn’t know that the plant would help her heal from childhood sexual assault and allow her space to discover her passion for art therapy through henna.
“Unfortunately, I was sexually molested by my neighbor when I was 5-years-old,” Barajas shared with High Times. “That experience created a lot of shame and confusion.”
When she was younger, Barajas attended therapy but it was to address the domestic violence issues she was experiencing at home. “I never addressed the molestation because my brain created a defense mechanism known as childhood amnesia,” she said.
In 2009 while working on obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles, Baraja’s began to use cannabis recreationally. Around this time she was also taking a sociology course, which forced her to accept that her molestation was real.
“Although I started using cannabis recreationally, it transcended into something more than that. Through cannabis, I have been able to cope with and process childhood trauma.” she said. “Smoking helped me deal with some of the emotions and triggers that come with working through abuse. I decided to become a social worker and now [I’m] transitioning into [art] therapy because of my lived experience.”
It wasn’t until 2018 when cannabis became legal in California that Barajas began to take her henna hobby seriously and design cannabis motifs.
“I have always doodled and loved to draw on myself. Henna allowed me to do just that minus the toxic chemicals of a [marker]. I first began by making my own paste, then I practiced elements, then [I] developed my own design style. My style is unique [because] I use the cannabis leaf as a motif and that isn’t common in the henna community,” said Barajas. “I began to apply henna designs with paint onto my personal smoking accessories. I started with a lighter, then a bubbler, and now I’m doing bongs.”
She hopes that her work will help break the stigma of the plant and usher in more feminine energy into an industry that is heavily dominated by men. The cannabis industry is a boys club, and artists like Barajas want to shift the aesthetic to one that celebrates the feminine energy of the plant and the women who also indulge in marijuana’s goodness.
“The [cannabis] industry is heavily dominated by men. Due to this, a lot of smoking accessories aren’t very appealing, some even look like penises. I want to smoke out of a piece that is pretty and that makes me feel good. Most pipes and bongs are just for function, and I want function and aesthetic,” she shared with High Times.
Scrolling through her Instagram you will see her feminine designs grace the curves of bongs and women. “I want to feminize the cannabis industry and make it more female-friendly. Whether that be through designing bongs or doing lingerie-style henna on influencers. I want to bring out the creativity that cannabis inspires in women,” she wrote over email.
Through her relationship with cannabis, Barajas has become aware of herself in so many ways. Her henna designs exemplify so much. She uses the traditional henna art form on cannabis accessories to illustrate how, if we all continue to search, we can find various ways to explore our vulnerabilities and heal our pains.
“Cannabis has helped me cope with the triggers that come with abuse. It has helped me relax and reflect on my trauma, thus helping me connect with other people with similar experience,” shares Barajas. “Combining cannabis and henna to practice mindful meditation through art therapy has helped me heal and I want to share that with others.”
She is preparing to go back and get her masters in Art Therapy, and she plans to incorporate all forms of cannabis and plant medicine into her her future work. Currently, she is working on collaborations with MAV Glass and Functional China.