It's hard to think of a website with a tighter link between title and value proposition than NakedWeedReport.com. The design is spartan, save for a video player in the middle of the screen. A series of women—all dressed in basic lingerie or nothing at all—read a weekly news bulletin on the art, culture, and minutiae surrounding the marijuana industry. The clips aren't particularly horny, or even all that sexy; instead, the site comes off like a high-concept media property designed to mine clicks from a very niche community of lonely stoners interested in weed headlines and a simple, absent-minded striptease. It's not the cleanest business model in the world, but Bree Whitehead, CEO of Stoned Media Group, the company that owns NakedWeedReport and a number of other verticals, remains resolute. Vices sell vices, and if you want an apology, you'll have to look somewhere else.
"I get shit all the time about being a bad feminist," says Whitehead. "I find humor in the people who get mad or call our sites cheap, because we bust our asses for this. The women we work with are some of the most brilliant people I've ever met in my life. The woman who was on the cover of my calendar last year speaks four languages and owns three businesses. You can't make that up. She just also happens to be insanely hot and free with her sexuality."
Whitehead was born in Southern California, but today she lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina. After graduating high school, she bounced around a number of marketing jobs, but in 2013 she entered the marijuana industry with an eager investor. Together, they broke ground on an ill-fated company called Stoned Hippo, which was intended to sell vaporizers online. Their wholesale supplier was connected to about 20 head shops around the country, but one summer day she woke up to learn that the DEA had rolled her production line after discovering that those shops were selling a pill that could be used to make bath salts.
"It would be like prosecuting Duane Reade or CVS for meth production," she says of the investigation, "so we lost our supplier, and my investor didn't want the drama so we shut down."
After that, she knew she had to get creative. "Basically I thought, What gets rid of all the risk and exposure but still keeps us connected to weed?" she says. "Oh yeah! Naked chicks smoking."
Whitehead started Stoned Media Group in 2014, and it currently boasts five websites that accrue about three million hits per month. There's Stoned Girls, which posts miscellaneous photoshoots of—you guessed it—pretty girls and weed. Stoned Tube aggregates marijuana-related YouTube videos; Stoned Insider does the same thing for written content. There's also the fantastically titled High Finance Report, a buttoned-up, Bloomberg-style episodic broadcast focusing on the economic side of the weed industry. However, the flagship product seems to be the aforementioned Naked Weed Report. It's silly and puerile, but at least it's unique.
"[Naked Weed Report] is one of my favorite brands," Whitehead says. "It's the one that takes the most out of us in terms of resources, but it's our farthest-reaching property, and it's also really quirky. It's the voice of me and my business partner. It's just funny to us."
If you're wondering, yes, for certain people there is a persistent erotic wrinkle associated with women smoking weed. It's not something that has a name, and it's certainly more understated than many other kinks, but it's surprisingly popular. The very NSFW TreesGoneWild is Reddit's home for girls and pot, and it hosts about 70,000 subscribers. Maybe it has something to do with the natural phallicity of a giant bong, or maybe it's a little more sinister and predatory, like the troubling fetishization of dazed, incapacitated women. Either way, this is a real market.
"I think it's just because of the taboo," says Whitehead, when she talks about Stoned Media's appeal. "It's no different than why certain guys like tan lines. I just think it's something about how you were told [weed] was bad and you're not supposed to do it, so watching that hot, chill girl smoke is totally worth it."
Stoned Media doesn't come from any deep political advocacy; although she's succeeding in an industry that is often considered hostile to women, Whitehead isn't trying to be anything more than an entrepreneur. She's a businesswoman equipped with a knowledge of the culture and the resources to make some money. From that perspective, you can't fault her. It may be wrongheaded, but it's easier to feel OK about male-targeted smut when it's being created and arbitrated by a woman.
But it also doesn't change the fact that the representation of women and marijuana is stuck in the same lustful, dewy-eyed, weed-as-aphrodisiac vamp that sites like Stoned Girls profit from. Last month, Broadly published a story about Ophelia Chong, a photography professor working to unload weed's Instagram-filter sultriness and return it to reality. Whitehead isn't interested in fighting that battle. But to be fair, she knows you're allowed to be offended.
"If you're offended, generally I'd say, 'Change the channel,'" she says. "If you're really bothered and it's actually adversely affecting you, it's a totally different thought process, but most of the time, if you're offended I think you should be able to say, 'Well that's stupid and this person is an idiot' instead of trying to save the world one meme at a time."