Pictured: Emily Eizen; Photo by Emily Eizen
"That's when I fell in love with cannabis and learned the multitudes of ways people use it," says multimedia artist Eizen. "The people who use cannabis are so diverse, but that wasn't being reflected in the marketing or the imagery of the industry."
From budtender, she was promoted to social media manager and creative director, which reinvigorated her artistic mind. Since then, she's remained perched at the intersection of art and cannabis activism.
As California's cannabis industry evolved from medical to adult recreational use, Eizen says, the subsequent money grab felt disconnected from the cannabis community, and the marketing of marijuana was dominated by a straight white male lens. As she ventured into photography, she set out to change that.
Pictured: @tracee.wolff and @earthwindandflowers_; Photo by Emily Eizen
"I started merging cannabis and art, and I realized that people really liked my more feminine, artistic take on cannabis imagery," says Eizen, who also works in the mediums of painting, sculpture, modeling, and performance. "My lens as a queer woman is very much apparent in my work."
Eizen's '60s psychedelic-inspired artwork pays tribute to the long, rich history of cannabis culture and activism. She uses her platform to highlight people who have been disproportionately affected by cannabis criminalization and also to recognize the work of people in the queer community, such as Dennis Peron, who led the fight for legalization in her home state.
Pictured: Emily Eizen; Photo by Chuck Pea, direction by Roze Volca
She's attracted to artistic projects that advocate for cannabis reform, including her photography series for the social impact brand 40 Tons, which appeared in HoneySuckle magazine. The inspiration behind 40 Tons comes from CEO Loriel Alegrete's personal experience seeing both her husband, Anthony, and her close friend, Corvain Cooper, incarcerated on cannabis charges.
Eizen's latest project is her first foray into packaging design for a cannabis brand. To bring awareness to the need for cannabis reform, House of Wise and Last Prisoner Project commissioned Eizen to design the packaging for our limited-edition Justice For All CBD Gummy Sampler Box, available now. She also created an NFT, which will be auctioned off starting April 15 (sign up for the special waitlist.)
The proceeds from both items will benefit Last Prisoner Project's Family Support Fund and Sean and Eboni Worsley, whose lives were interrupted when they were arrested with 10 grams of medical cannabis. Eizen also shot the stunning portraits of Sean and Eboni that accompany the campaign.
"Sean and Eboni's story moved me on so many levels," says Eizen. "I feel a sense of responsibility to help spark change by using my art to amplify Sean and Eboni's story. I'm enraged by the unfairness of it all, that there are still people in jail for something that's exploding in such a big way."
To create the Justice For All designs, Eizen spent two hours getting to know the Worsleys and exploring every aspect of their journey. She says she wanted to create something that was "eye-catching and colorful but still translated the seriousness and urgency of their story."
Pictured: Sean and Eboni Worsley; Photo by Emily Eizen
Sean Worsley is a decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Years later, a medical marijuana prescription helped with the insomnia, paranoia, and night terrors caused by his PTSD.
But when he and his wife were traveling through Alabama with 10 grams of medical cannabis, the Worsleys were charged with Class C felony for possession of cannabis with intent to distribute. Sean endured almost a year in prison and five years of probation, not to mention thousands of dollars in lost wages and fines.
Eizen's Justice For All artwork incorporates a camouflage print to represent Sean's military service, with elements of purple to highlight Sean's Purple Heart and green to show gratitude to the help he gets from medical cannabis. On the box, the camo design is reflected symmetrically, like a Rorschach inkblot test, "to highlight the serious mental health consequences of Sean's service and the impact of his incarceration on his mental health," she says.
Pictured: Emily Eizen; Photo by Lauren Nolan
The packaging design also features imagery of broken chains, which is a motif often used by Last Prisoner Project, to "draw attention to the immediate need for change and reform in the American criminal justice system," says Eizen.
She continues: "I'm very privileged and lucky to be able to do what I love. That's not lost on me. I try to use my position to open doors in the cannabis industry for people who didn't have such an easy way in."