During the third season of Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss' Peggy Olson surprises herself and her colleagues when she declares, "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana." She's working on a Saturday and she's creatively blocked, so why not try something new? It's a delightful moment and one that made Peggy into, as Moss has noted, a stoner icon.
Of course, there's no question that this fictional bit is far from the only time agency creatives have used weed to get inspired. And over the past few years, with states across the country legalizing marijuana, it isn't as taboo as it has been, which has made it easier for marketers get involved.
But for freelance art director Monica Lo, weed isn't just a cure for creative woes, it's also her burgeoning part-time business.
Since December 2015, Lo has been running Sous Weed, a cannabis recipe blog and catering company for high-end edibles. With Sous Weed, Lo tries to use cannabis as a "versatile, nutrient-dense vegetable" that is "treat[ed] as a culinary challenge like any other."
In less than a year, the site's audience has grown from just 976 to more than 27,000, according to Lo. Now she's hosting private catered dinners, too, which can cost consumers up to $3,600.
Lo says her current side gig came out of her rekindled love of cannabis.
After eight years in New York, working as an art director for shops like Publicis, TBWA\Chiat\Day, OgilvyOne, and kbs+, Lo decided to move to San Francisco to freelance. It's there that she rediscovered weed, though it wasn't until she started working as a creative director for a slow-cooking gadget company called Nomiku that the idea for Sous Weed came about.
Sous vide is an increasingly popular cooking technique that seals uncooked food in a bag, immerses it in water and then slowly brings the food up to the right temperature. Fans say it creates food that's more flavorful and evenly cooked.
"The sous vide technique lends itself perfectly to cannabis cooking because of the ease and discretion—the cannabis is sealed in an airtight container or bag and cooked underwater," Lo explained. "There's no smell! I started my latest blog Sous Weed and began documenting my recipes."
Now, less than a year later, Lo spends roughly five to eight hours a week on her side hustle. (She's also a freelance senior art director for a San Francisco-based creative shop.) Those side job hours are spent cooking, shooting, blogging or managing Sous Weed's social media.
She uses skills she's honed during her years as an art director to push her business forward. "I've learned how to run photo shoots and design on tight timelines—which is how I am able to churn out content like a maniac," said Lo. "I also had to learn how to be my own project manager and producer to balance my work load and my passion projects."
In taking on the project, Lo said she's also developed skills that are applicable to her day job.
"My time management skills have greatly improved," Lo said. "I'm also a happier, more focused employee. My passion projects bring me joy and that's something no client can take away from me. I believe that makes me a better creative."
Over the last year Lo has, with the help of chefs Scott Peabody and Jose Rodriguez, whipped up recipes for everything from pumpkin pie (Krunk Pumpkin Pie) to chimichurri (Fresh Cannabis Chimichurri).
"Let's be honest, advertising can be soul-sucking at times," said Lo. "My [Pratt Institute] professor used to tell us when it comes to the real world, sometimes you'll have to 'kill your babies'—your precious designs will change and morph through revisions and client feedback. There will be so many cooks in the kitchen that the end result will be nothing like you imagined. I needed some of my babies to survive, to be my own client, and to have the freedom to create what I want."