From a clean, bright store in East L.A., Ariel Stark-Benz is reshaping our perspective on the world of weed. The mastermind behind Mister Green Life Store, which Ariel dubs “a friendly shop for high-minded people”, Mister Green has found a global audience, providing them with everything they need for the perfect high. Since opening its doors in 2017—the day before 4/20, no less—this mecca for weed lovers has sidestepped clunky legislation and worn-out symbols of cannabis culture, with its fun, minimalist apparel.
For many, “head shops” or weed stores conjure a palette of tie-dyed, Grateful Dead paraphernalia, with lighters and bongs bedecked in babes or cannabis leaves. Amid a decade at Ace Atelier, Ariel had a moment of epiphany, spurring Mister Green into life with an idea to “remix all these elements which exist”. Intent to “not let an austere minimalism take over”, Ariel managed to fuse icons from the counterculture into his trademark clean, refined aesthetic. Mister Green’s range features light-hearted tokens too (such as its “Bong Water” mug), aka “everyday products that make you smile and bring a little bit more colour into the world”.
Hailing from Oregon, which he describes as a “utopia” for like-minded, progressive people, Ariel admits the brand has “landed in a bit of a moment”, as, across the U.S. “society is reopening itself to the plant.” Styling the brand with influences from his childhood, and infusing it with the DNA of cannabis culture, Mister Green manages to be both sleek and detailed, countercultural and accessible: “As silly as it is, it’s quite personal, and I’m glad that it’s been embraced.”
Despite the broad appeal of shops like Mister Green, no clear path towards nationwide marijuana legalisation has emerged in the U.S. yet; 13 states have decriminalised (but not legalised) it, 9 have legalised it, and 29 have legalised it for medicinal purposes. This scattershot pattern doesn’t reflect the broad consensus of American society, where 64% Americans support legalisation, nor does it reflect Ariel’s views: “This plant has been used as a medicine for millennia—only in the last seventy years has it been illegal…. In ten years there won’t be a discussion about it.” As an overdue redress to their costly war on drugs, legalisation has forced states to consider drug policy, as well as onerous sentencing which disproportionately incarcerates people of colour. Even after legalisation, with legal marijuana sales booming to $9.7 billion in 2017, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. While Mister Green may be an unlikely conduit for change, Ariel is toppling certain attitudes around the plant: “The government was supporting a narrative which was effectively jailing people of colour and demeaning liberal thought. I just feel like we’re seemingly coming out of this dark period.” This week, Semaine sits down with Ariel to get to grips with the ever-expanding cannabis industry, and to truly understand the modern-day cannabis consumer.
By Jonathan Mahon-Heap for Semaine.