A Conversation with New Smokers’ Soren Gray

Soren Gray is the Editor-in-Chief of The New Smoker, a magazine that wants to “put the class into grass.” Anyone who’s read the magazine (and we recommend you do) will see that it doesn’t look at all like the High Times and other magazines of that ilk. (Not that they’re a bad ilk – they’re fantastic magazines in their own right.) The ratio of “bud porn” to articles is low in The New Smoker, and there is definitely a far more literary bent.

How and why did you get involved in the world of cannabis? What made you want to start working in this industry?

As a child who grew up in Marin County, which is pretty much one of the green capitals of the world, I grew up with it all around me – parents’ friends and so on – and then started experimenting with cannabis as a teen. I mean, I liked it more than alcohol, and it stuck with me ever since.

Eventually, I ended up managing a dispensary and was able to bring all my knowledge to that. And then from the dispensary – that kind of showed me what was needed in the weed world. That was the start of The New Smoker. I was “Hmmm … Not classy enough.”

bud pin hole

Image sourced: https://www.irieweddingsandevents.com/home

How does cannabis culture differ now when compared to the past?

Big question that! I mean, tremendously, obviously. Going from a scary notion to a feeling that’s almost validated. The only thing I can compare it to in general is the Civil Rights movement, in particular, gay rights, where it seems like there’s a cultural legitimacy and some acceptance, even if some people don’t like it. People “come out of the closet” and be proud of it, not ashamed of it … I feel it’s becoming more and more like that.

So that’s a big change – from cannabis being shunned to being accepted. It also helps that there are a lot of quality items out there today, and not just the clichés. I mean, that’s the whole thing about The New Smoker. It’s about bringing “class to grass” and staying away from the clichés. The dynamic has changed for the better recently and in the last three to four years cannabis has become more “classy” and professional – less “hippie-dippie, rasta, thug” stuff. This has helped make it acceptable to some extent.

So do you think the “headshop vibe” will die out?

No, it’ll never die out. There’s always a market for it. But the new people coming into it – I think they’ll get more into it in a sort of “wine” way than a “moonshine” way of the old days. There’s always going to be a culture for all of the elements, but my feeling is that “those people are spoken to and spoken for”. They’re not needing to be convinced to smoke weed.

But what about the other people who haven’t tried it? What’s helpful for them? Is it a good alternative to drinking, can it be used medicinally and all the different ways cannabis can help? So those are the people we’re talking to. The New Smoker is about talking to people who aren’t smoking but are at least maybe a little bit curious. The “headshop” vibe will always exist, but it will be the minority instead of the majority.

There seems to be a sort of “culture war” between the old cannabis and the “new wave” …

There’s a lot of little subcultures and that’s always one of the precarious parts of professionalism. You get big business involved and we’re all a little bit sceptical when big business gets involved. But at the same time, I think this helps give legitimacy to it all. Also, capitalism is what get things legalized. If big money starts putting huge money into lobbying, it’ll help move it to a legal motion. On their terms, of course, and that’s the problem!

A lot of people think that cannabis is being “taken away” from them … Is this an accurate idea?

Relatively … California is a good example of the microcosm of legalization. We’ve been struggling for years, and it’s because we’re one of the major growers, many don’t want to legalize because then they get the government in their face. They’re like, “Naw, I just want to grow stuff like I used to and just put it out there.”

So that “old guard”, you know, don’t want the change. They’ll basically either have to adapt or die. But the way I see it is that you’ll get your Marlboros, Budweiser and your Camels, but you’ll also have your microbrew grows, special batches … Things that are a bit more expensive but a lot better quality. Organic, no GMO, all that kind of stuff.

So that market will always be there, and in the weed world even more so. People have been wanting that more and it might even force some of the big companies to adapt and be more “green” about their operations. There’ll be a place for the small, refined, high-quality stuff. Of course, there’ll also be the corporate crap.

As per usual, we talked about all sorts of things with Soren, including why Coachella was “Slowchella” this year, beautiful hand-produced underground magazines from the 70s and a few obligatory sentences about meeting his wife (we heartily recommend people talk about their spouses in our interviews). Oh, and some simple, wise advice for those new to the world of medical marijuana from Soren: “Take it slowly.”

  • Featured image by: Rick Proctor image from How I Get High™


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