By Chris Roney

“Once you’re labeled as a societal failure, you gotta cope somehow!” says artist and organizer Matías Alvial of why queers, like us, love cannabis so much. He says this wryly, but it cuts to the heart of something serious: stress hurts! It hurts our minds and bodies — on a cellular level, actually — and more profoundly than we know. So, it’s no wonder queers smoke some 15 percent more than non-queers, or why people across margins take comfort in weed, among other so-called vices: a joint is like a pressure valve, and most of us could do with a release.

Alvial and Wyatt Harms, another New York City organizer, know all about the connective, curative power of weed. Together, they’re two of three co-founders of FLAMER, a new queer-owned and operated cannabis brand that has chic red Js flittering between the fingers of a growing community of New York creatives. Go to a FLAMER function, and you’re just as liable to see model boyfriends share a kiss as you are to see organizers talking through actions, MUAs rubbing shoulders with photographers, or writers sweet-talking actors — all with Js in their hands. Sh*t’s cool! Imagine a scene from a Renaissance painting, except f*ggy and full of weed smoke.

So, we gathered Alvial and Harms alongside Brooklyn drag artist HAZYL, poet and model Brian Alarcón, sapphic party thrower Chloe Philips, and Housing WorksElizabeth Koke, to talk weed, queer weed culture, and why there’s always room for one more in the circle.

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial

CHRIS RONEY: Tell me what you love about weed.


It’s the exchange. It’s the, “Got a light?” When you share a J with someone, people lower their defenses and become silly… sometimes goofy. We talk shit. We laugh. We share our stories.


I didn't smoke weed until I moved to New York and met my queer friends who shared their spliffs with me. Some of the stupidest nights I've had are running around the city, high, laughing my ass off with my friends, and some of the best nights have been sharing a J and playing [Settlers of] Catan. What I love about weed is it's always been about community. Weed brings people together.


People take their lives too seriously, too. Look at the stars! We are so small. I like the senselessness of it all; I like daydreaming. Problems matter less when you feel insignificantly small in this funky universe. Weed helps me value the small things, like friendships or the most beautiful of sunny days.

Hazyl (C) Matias Alvial @matialvial


Weed is a huge part of my everyday life. It’s easy for me to overthink, and as someone with ADHD, sometimes that spirals into paralysis from sensory overload. Weed helps me get out of my head, slow things down, and relax.


I'm naturally very high energy, to the point that before I started smoking weed, I would have hyperactive lash-outs that I couldn’t control. Smoking has helped my personality slow down, and helped me focus my energy in the right places. Mostly I smoke to work out, and although I lose most of my social skills, I gain a more powerful body. Because weed helps me block out pain, stress, I can push harder and enjoy the experience better. Then when I get home I can really relax, with a psycho-sized meal and perhaps another joint as a digestif.

Weed has definitely made me worse at reading too, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Poetry can be so dense, and it’s hard to take a path that isn't academic or in straight-up literature, and even I'm bored by that. Instead of spending my day reading the latest scholarly masterpiece by an agonized Midwesterner, I'm on that Silly Goofy biking to the depths of north Queens, where the ladies at Pollos Mario or the guys on the handball courts have a much more inspiring rhythm.


A couple years ago, I said to my therapist: “My goal is to become the person I am when I smoke weed, just as my overall default vibe.” I feel like regularly consuming weed has pulled me out of a prison of anxiety and depression and allowed me to be more patient and forgiving, with myself and the world around me.

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial

How would you begin to describe queer weed culture?


We queers just know how to elevate anything! A gay has never invited me over to hotbox their room with, like, a bottle of Hennessy or something. It's always at a picnic, or a rooftop, or the Nowadays [bar's] backyard. Like, how are we so smacked dancing techno right now? And it always calls for pictures. I can't tell you how many group pictures I'm in where my eyes can't even open. But we're intentional about it. I personally like to invite my friends to explore places we've never been. A bunch of boy-slash-girl-slash-they scouts, violently high.


It’s sexy! Smoke is sexy, getting high is sexy. Queer stoner babes are dreamy creatures. But also ingrained in cannabis culture is a spirit of sharing resources — insert dream blunt rotation meme here — and the value of envisioning our individual and collective potential when supported by the magic and medicine of plants.

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial


Queer weed culture is inclusive. Queer weed culture is the literal angel that finds you alone, out back away from the dance floor, and offers you a J while you recuperate at 3 a.m. somewhere in Brooklyn. It’s that moment at the club when you step outside for some air and walk through a hazy cloud of freshly blown smoke, and gravitate towards the source and end up making an entirely new group of friends. Queer weed culture is asking everyone’s pronouns when joining the circle. Queer weed culture is passing a J down the line as you march the streets of Manhattan in protest.


FLAMER culture is anyone and everyone who pushes up against society's boundaries to imagine a better future. It's kind, it's creative, it's dirty, it's queer. It's the energy that brings people from around the world to New York and gives them a home when no else would. It sees another world is possible and is living it out today.

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial


Once you’re labeled as a societal failure, you gotta cope somehow! This world is a shitty place for some of us. Trauma! That is why I think there is a universality that glues us together. We’ve had vastly different experiences, yet being true to one’s self is the little thing that helps us hold space. There is power in numbers. There is power in mutual care. There is power in community.


Weed brings people together. It’s often a communal activity that encourages us to share and connect with one another. There’s always room in the circle for one more. It opens the doors to conversation and understanding, or just letting loose. Weed is a portal to an unknown world waiting to be discovered.

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial


I think it is the live and let live mentality, but also that weed helps with the trauma of not being accepted. Weed consumption, for me at least, has chilled me out so much. As I've gotten deeper into the plant, I've realized a lot of [my] latent anxiety was directly linked to my queerness — not being accepted by the culture I came out of. Weed creates community; it reduces stress; it connects people. It opens your mind [to] all of these things queer people especially crave.


You know, I actually heard a statistic today that queer people are 2.5 times more likely to smoke, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Weed allows people to unlock and explore new parts of their minds in a way that empowers self-expression. When I think about my queer journey, unapologetic self-expression has been my inspiration and validation.


For Colombians, the word “mariguanero” is an umbrella term for users of any drugs, especially if they look poor and/or are a part of a counterculture. Although weed was villainized so extremely around me, I was never scared of it. I could tell, even as a kid, that if us queer people were also so unwanted by the "main" society, then I was more like these "potheads" than the very people in my family. As queers and weed-smokers lucky enough to be in progressive New York, we not only see the similarities of the struggles and stigmas between the two movements, but can also feel like we are on the right side of history. Plus, I've smoked joints with all sorts of people, and even in the most mismatched of smoke seshes, everyone is willing to share saliva through a joint, like a kiss. ;)

For more about FLAMER, visit

(C) Matias Alvial @matialvial


Chris Roney is an award-winning journalist, editor, and advocate for human rights. Based in Brooklyn, New York, he is the author of POPSUGAR’s Representation Style Guide and Vox Media’s Lifestyle Group DEI Style Guide, among other editorial guides designed to produce journalists and storytellers who practice an ethic of care toward others. As a working editor of nearly 10 years, he has trained more than 200 editors across the US, UK, and Australia, between Group Nine Media, Vox Media, and Val Morgan Digital properties. He specializes in fact-based, ethics-driven news reporting. As POPSUGAR’s first-ever standards and ethics editor, Roney oversaw the evolution of editorial standards across Vox Media while directing DEI initiatives across the US and UK.

For his work that “anticipates, welcomes, and embraces change“ and for “encouraging smart risks,“ he won a Spark award in 2021. He was also awarded an APEX award of excellence for exceptional interview writing in 2021. His bylines include POPSUGAR, PAPER, InStyle, and HuffPost, among others. Roney has given commentary to NPR, MTV, Crooked Media’s flagship daily news podcast “What a Day,” Entrepreneur, and Selena Gomez’s Wondermind. He is also a 2022-2023 fellow at the Witness Institute, dedicated to continuing the work of human rights activist, holocaust survivor, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. In 2021, he was an organizer of Queer Liberation March in New York City. He is a two-time juror of the San Francisco Latino Film Festival. For more information, visit


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Matias Alvial

Wyatt Harms

Chloe Phillips

Housing Works

Elizabeth Koke

Chris Roney


Featured image: Collage of the FLAMER community (C) Matias Alvial @matialvial