After New York legalized cannabis on March 31, Humble Bloom founders Danniel Swatosh and Solonje Burnett, were the first to jump at the opportunity to bring their signature flair to New York’s first legal cannabis-centered public consumption event. The event, which took place in mid-August, was cheekily named THC: The Happy Camp.
Following a particularly emotionally isolating year, Humble Bloom, a creativity and social justice-focused cannabis collective, wanted to reemerge and set the stage for what New York cannabis events would entail going forward. The pair collaborated with The William Vale, a Brooklyn-based luxury hotel, to set up an outdoor picnic, marketplace, and comedy show at the venue’s elevated outdoor space called Vale Park. Comedy duo Kofi Thomas and Chris Daniels from Auntie’s House performed along with a host of other acts.
The playful atmosphere of The Happy Camp was an intentional aspect of this historic event. Upon entering the lush green landscape of Vale Park, the air vibrated with excitement and a sense of familiarity that helped attendees make fast friends. Guests filled the air with smoke and laughter as they gathered on blankets or round tables to enjoy the comedy show and smoke together. They snacked on food provided by Vale Park’s Mister Dips as they danced the night away to the tunes of DJ L3ni. Other guests wandered amongst the tables of the marketplace, picking up goodies to take home from cannabis-related brands like Her Highness, Tonic, Rebelle Dispensary, PrestoDoctor, Come Back Daily, The Brooklyn Botanica, Get Lifted, Calm Better Days, Kind Fine Jewelry and Acapulco Gold. Since the hosts mingled with the crowd while encouraging networking and making connections, attendees left with much more than a memory of a great party, and amazing cannabis products. Though, the VIP gift bag that included pre-rolls, infused beverages, chocolate, intimacy products and eco-conscious items like Soma water bottles and Coconut bowls definitely didn’t hurt.
“Curating with intentionality and advocating for equity, we created a space that amplified small BIPOC/femme/LGBTQ+ business owners allowing safe interaction and engagement with attendees and the plant,” Burnett said of The Happy Camp event. “Reflecting the diverse community we want to see in our rapidly blooming industry.”
A sponsorship from the Feuerstein Kulick law firm and Etain, New York’s first family/women-owned medical dispensary, allowed Humble Bloom to create the Fair Play Fund to allow 20 people from communities impacted by cannabis criminalization to attend the event for free. The initiative expressed the company’s dedication to creating equity and paths for those from the cannabis legacy market to transition into the legal market, in addition to connecting small minority-owned cannabis businesses to others in the legal industry.
The Happy Camp exemplified the wealth of experience and intentionality that Swatosh and Burnett bring to cannabis experience curation. They attribute their successful team dynamic to their different professional backgrounds. Burnett commented, “As a team, we blend well. Our experiences from art and music to design and sponsorships make for a beautiful balance. ”
Burnett is a brand strategy and equity consultant as well as creator and educator. She handles many of the forward-facing responsibilities and the operations side of the business. She is dedicated to elevating the marginalized global majority in the cannabis industry through bringing women and BIPOC people together with industry insiders. Her work reaches deep into the community through performances with the creative protest group Resistance Revival Chorus, a seat on the Cannabis Control Industrial Advisory Committee at Excelsior College and advisory work as a member of the Virtue Project’s Business Equity Council.
Swatosh’s background spans from art to plants, people and entrepreneurship, having launched an artist in residency program as well as a raw juice and tincture company with a cult following. Her approach to brand strategy, as she says, is “Creative and cross-pollinating; with care and collaboration at the core, I tell stories rather than sell.” Swatosh continues to work in art and also co-founded a non-profit called Breaking Bread: Feed the Community Fuel the Movement. She sits on the Cannabis Control Industrial Advisory Committee at Excelsior College with Burnett. Together the pair have combined their extensive experience to create a shining example of what is possible with cannabis legalization.
In the pre-Covid era, Swatosh and Burnett made a name for their company by curating holistic inclusive and intersectional cannabis events such as their HB Field Trip to Aster Farms in California and the week-long Winter Solstice at The William Vale. They pride themselves in bringing their diverse network together for events that foster an environment of collaboration through uniquely conceptualized activities that celebrate the joys of cannabis. Their events are immersive and inclusive and intentionally collaborative.
Along with food, cannabis and entertainment, Humble Bloom encourages intentional conversation and networking during their events. Burnett said, “We use cannabis as an opportunity for connection, collaboration, community building and for all of the different ways that you can utilize the plant to come together and intersect.”
“Cannabis touches on all things, is intrinsically intertwined with our evolution, and is an opportunity to create real change, flipping paradigms,” Swatosh said, “We have to act fast though, once federally legalized, and we have interstate commerce, big corporations with their distribution, manufacturing, production, land, politicians and so on. Their hands are already in their pockets.”
Going forward, the pair are keeping their eye on New York's potential as a burgeoning cannabis market, both in the business sense and the political sense. Swatosh said, ”As we break the chains of prohibition, we have to look at why they were there in the first place, the systems of inequality, oppresion and slavery that has been upheld. There's an opportunity within this wave of cannabis education that has never been in any other industry before and we can’t let it get whitewashed away.”
Beyond creating equity for marginalized groups in the billion-dollar industry, they also take into account introducing sustainability into the conversation about cannabis. They talked about analyzing the cultivation, consumption, and even packaging practices of cannabis companies. Burnett wants that responsibility to lie with the larger entities, instead of putting the onus on small cannabis businesses and consumers. “It's on the major corporations and our legislators to have rules and regulations that are sustainable,” she said.
When asked about what the future of cannabis should look like in New York, Swatosh said it should reflect the culture of the city. They also mentioned equity, accessibility, sustainability and community collaboration as potential pillars. Swatosh said, “When you empower people, giving them access to resources, they have a newfound respect for those resources, themselves and their community. In this time, I’ve found that my self-care is in community care.”
Starting Sunday October 3, Humble Bloom is presenting Más Xula—“a coming out from CDMX to New York, with a week of cross-pollinating celebration, eco-over-ego education, and herbal manifestations.” This collab with Xula, a Latina and Black-owned brand based in Mexico City, consists of three activations over six days opening with Femme Sessions on Sun. Oct. 3 in the Vale Garden Residence at The William Vale. That event will be followed by Herbs, Healing + Human Potential at Pollyn Tuesday October 5, and a closing celebration Fiesta Despedida on Friday October 8 at Ideal Glass Studios.
Check out The Happy Camp recap video!
Featured image: Humble Bloom co-founders Danniel Swatosh (far left) and Solonje Burnett (left center) with friends, including Oleg MaryAces, Director of Education at Lock & Key Remedies, at The Happy Camp. (C) Justin Oppus