Search the hashtag #ganjagirls on Instagram and you'll get more than a million hits featuring photo after photo of women posing provocatively with weed.
These pictures run the full gamut from nudes (save for a couple of strategically placed marijuana leaves) to videos of bong hits and dabs set to house music. Some of the models are promoting their own businesses and products, like glassware or edibles, while others are just straight up getting high—and attempting to look seductive while they're at it.
Personally, I've never really thought of weed as being "sexy." I know its effects are meant to increase the libido, but in a literal sense, giant bags of marijuana aren't something I would expect to be included in a boudoir photo shoot. So I reached out to a bunch of Instagram's "ganja girls" to get a better sense of this strange, potentially erotic world.
Sarah Jain, 33, San Francisco
VICE: When did you start smoking weed?
Sarah Jain: Oh god, probably out of the womb. My mom said she caught my dad and his friends passing a joint to me several times when I was very, very young. But I actually started smoking myself probably at about 11 years old.
My dad refused to admit he would smoke. So I would go and take three quarters of his sack because [to] be mad at something you have to admit that it's there. So my whole youth was them finding creative ways to punish me. Then later he apologized and we started smoking together.
So how did you get started in weed modeling?
This all started almost ten years ago. I was married, I was living in shitty-ass Texas, there wasn't even Instagram, there was Myspace. I created a very, very cannabis-friendly Myspace portfolio. It also was the time the economy went to shit and I kind of lost my normal job. I started pursuing modeling, I always wanted to do cannabis modeling, but there was no such thing at the time. When I first got started and moved to LA, I got very lucky. I started doing erotic modeling. I never did full porn. I did a lot of fetish stuff. I would, at every single photoshoot, bring weed with me. I would make them take photos of me with weed, smoking it. And of course it's California, everybody loved it. Cannabis stuff has come to be about half of my income now.
What do you think it is about the combination of weed and women that people find so appealing?
I think it's just beauty. Things that people like, things that make them happy. People like to envision their idea of utopia, of paradise, and if people like weed and people like women that just mixes.
Do you ever get creepy messages from guys?
There are so many creepy comments, so many things I have to deal with. Sometimes guys will straight up say 'Send nudes, send nudes,' so I googled dick pics and found one of a bloody penis. Every time, 'Here you go dude.' They never learn unless you fight fire with fire.
Do you get free weed?
Yes, I get free weed and hash. Sometimes I even get recognized in public and then am gifted hash or weed. But I do make a point to pay for things from companies that are friends or that I like, although I do get a really good deal. I don't make a point of expecting things for free because I don't work for free and I don't expect other people should either.
Clara Barber, 27, Grand Junction, Colorado
VICE: What does your handle mean?
Clara Barber: The idea of queen bee came from when I was a beekeeper. That whole idea has been a metaphor to me and a mindset that I'm trying to empower women by. The two came together last year. May 19 was my first Instagram picture. I was in my head shop trying to advertise pictures and I started to feel good about myself, posting those pictures I was like 'This feeling is something I could really empower other people by' because when I started out I never had ever thought of myself as a model. To be able to showcase cannabis, which I love and is beautiful, or like a piece of glass art that someone has taken time to blow. It's such a wonderful industry and so in order for me to feel like it was connected to me and I just wasn't another girl, it had to be something more personal for me, so empowerment and the queen bee—it just all came together.
What message are you trying to send?
I go live almost everyday and do a show and get high and take and make fun of myself and laugh. I talk to people every day. I don't care how many followers they have. I don't care if they're following me or if they like me, I just wanna have an effect. As a business owner and a girl you can be put into categories really quickly and I didn't want to put myself in anything. There's a stigma of how stoners are. Now it's like I can be a stoner, I'm a mom, I have two five-year-olds, I have a business, I have a fiancé, I have a life outside of cannabis and I smoke weed all day.
How much weed do you smoke daily?
I wake up in the morning, I'll give the kids breakfast, I'll come up to into my office and smoke a bowl, check my emails, or maybe I'll smoke a joint or a blunt—it's really just what i'm in the mood for. I'm a medical patient. I do smoke cannabis for anxiety, I smoke it for my back, I have slight scoliosis, and I had a car accident. It's pain, it's nerves, it's my well being, and my attitude.
What types of photos get the best response?
I've noticed unfortunately if I'm showing more skin, more people are going to like it, but everybody does that, so what am I trying to show? That I'm like everybody else because I want all the attention? I like feeling sexy, it's natural for me to be a tease—it's just in my personality—but I don't want to get caught up in just promoting sex. For my own Instagram page there needs to be a balance of Clara, the funny, goofy, not perfect looking girl and the sexy. I still want to be taken seriously.
Courtney Weis, 21, Pueblo, Colorado
VICE: How did this all get started?
Courtney Weis: I was living in Wisconsin, that's where I'm from, born and raised, and I wanted to take pictures of my weed or weed products or me smoking, but being in an illegal state, people don't really care to see that kinda stuff. So I made a separate Instagram account and I was going to keep it private so I could post my weed pictures there. Ended up getting kinda sick of it so I closed that account down. I moved back to Washington and popped it back up, moved from Washington to Colorado, and when I got to Colorado it just took off.
Why do you do it?
Basically I want to prove the world wrong. I want everyone to know the medicinal value of cannabis. People shouldn't be denied their medicine just because of the state they live in. It's extremely unfair. I've seen firsthand what cannabis can do as a medicine. I also want to break that stigma of the stoner stigma—unproductive, unsuccessful. And I want to do it in a professional, classy manner. I just started posting continuously every day and eventually people started asking if they could send me stuff. Here I am six months later. I have 25,000 followers.
What was your personal experience with cannabis?
Three years ago I got into one of the scariest car accidents of my life. Me and some of my friends were going to Florida for Spring Break. We got into a car accident and I was ejected and landed on the yellow line. I was airlifted to a hospital in Alabama. I spent 18 days there. For the first 14 days, I laid on my bed and did not move. I have a fractured vertebrae and two braces in my back. I actually didn't smoke weed at the time and I had some friends talk me into smoking weed again because they said it would help my back and it did. I smoked one day and I couldn't even feel my back. I was so blown away. They had me on morphine, they had me on oxycontin, so many pain pills.
I've noticed your photos tend to be more scenic than some other accounts.
I'm actually a photographer as well so I'm kinda on both ends of the camera. I started out doing nature pictures. Me and boyfriend spent six months last year traveling. We traveled 25 out of the 50 states. But yeah, mostly that's where it comes from. I have a connection with mother nature.
What's been your most liked post?
I was up in the mountains in a place called Royal Gorge. It was beautiful. I was smoking Shine papers—they make 24-karat gold papers and blunts and stuff—it's pretty high class. I was up in a really gorgeous area. I had my little sweater hanging off one shoulder. It was kinda sexy but it wasn't too revealing. I want to be sexy and whatnot but I'm not about taking my clothes off and showing the world that side of me. But yeah, I think that was probably one of my most liked ones, it had 1,600 likes.
Makena Pederson, 18, Maui
VICE: What's with the name?
Makena Pederson: I came up with the name ganjjagoddesss when my friend used to refer to the hits I would take as "goddess hits" so I started called myself ganjjagoddesss on Instagram because it seemed fitting.
How did you get into weed modeling?
Growing up my dad was a photographer so I had my picture taken all the time and when I started smoking it just seemed natural because I was used to being in front of a camera. I just figured I'd put my own twist on my pictures to make them more unique.
Do you think smoking weed is sexy?
I don't think the aspect of smoking weed is necessarily the sexy part. To me the sexy part of smoking weed would be having the confidence to be who you are and to do what you love even if that's just smoking a little weed.
You're pretty young—do you worry at all about being branded as a stoner and having that reputation follow you around?
I am very young but I'm not worried about being branded a stoner or anything because this is who I am and my mom always raised me to be proud of who I am and of the things I like to do.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.