Earlier this year, Vox proclaimed “Stoners just don’t need this much stuff.” Published a day before 4/20, the unofficial national holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, the headline continued, “Marijuana-related products are proliferating and expensive. Do weed smokers even want all this?”
Why, yes we do, I’d argue. I could make my point all day, and one company I’d put at the top of my list to prove it is Session Goods. The San Francisco-based lifestyle brand is known for creating cannabis accessories with smartphone-like simplicity, made from sturdier materials and designed with a sleek yet sophisticated look — each piece dedicated to the ritual of the session.
Founded in 2017, Session Goods was the result of an actual smoke session. Four friends, who originally met through mutuals who were on a Tinder date (that went nowhere), found themselves centered around a bong, deep in conversation. All boasting impressive industrial tech, fashion and graphic design backgrounds, they pondered:
“Why hadn’t smoking accessories been given the same level of design attention as any other product? The attitudes and perceptions around smoking were undoubtedly shifting, but the products used to enjoy cannabis seemed deeply rooted in the counterculture of the past.”
Together the co-founders — Esther LeNoir Ramirez (CEO), Vinh Pho (COO), Sam Bertain (CCO) and Camden Foley (CPO) — saw an opportunity to embrace the changing cannabis culture and challenged themselves during marathon nights-and-weekends work sessions to develop the brand.
Four years later and personally bootstrapping the business ever since, the side hustle is now much more than a passion project for the tight-knit team. In 2021 alone, Session Goods will have launched three new products, which join its best-selling water bong ($120) and pipe ($40) — both released in 2019 and compatible with a colorful collection of silicone sleeves (from $10). A portion of every Session Goods sale is donated monthly to The Floret Coalition, an anti-racist collective of small businesses led by Broccoli magazine supporting and funding equity-oriented actions in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities.
Beyond its own e-commerce store, the brand is available through more than 50 design-minded retailers and dispensaries in the United States and Canada. Its “Essentials” page curates an edited and continually updated selection of product partners that are as “high quality, functional, simple and ultimately beautiful” as its own.
Following the July launch of the already sold-out One Hitter ($12) — the perfect, pocket-sized pick for tiny tokes or solo-sessions on-the-go — Session Goods is readying for the release of an Ashtray ($40) and Stash Jar ($40) next month. The entry into two new product categories is a streamlined solution to keeping your flower fresh and table ash-free (plus, it holds your joint perfectly in place).
Ahead of Session Goods’ next product drop — the “Ash + Stash” will launch online in September — I spoke with CEO Esther LeNoir Ramirez about her team’s approach, international influence and the evolution of modern cannabis design.
Katie Shapiro: How does cannabis play a role in your creative process?
Esther LeNoir Ramirez: For each one of us on the team, smoking cannabis unlocks a level of playstate that we tend to distance ourselves from in real life. By unlocking that playfulness it sparks creativity, It changes your perspective and opens your mind to new possibilities. It’s also a ritual or a momentary break … this break in time helps the mind wander, problem-solve or think differently, it’s a mindset shift. There is a way that cannabis allows you to rest, rethink and get weird. It also allows you to both expand and focus at the same time.
Shapiro: Where does the Session Goods team draw its design inspiration?
LeNoir Ramirez: When it comes to our design philosophy it’s about the entire experience we seek to create. It’s anticipatory in nature and based on an idea around hospitality and pleasure. It’s also centered around how both aesthetic and functionality go hand in hand. This approach to design is our attempt to inspire the feelings of comfort and pause and based on the idea of ‘omotenashi,’ which captures the way Japanese hosts pay attention to every little detail and anticipate their houseguests needs. It also encapsulates the Swedish concept of ‘fika,’ which means ‘making time’ — it’s a time to stop and socialize … to take a pause. It refreshes the brain and strengthens relationships. Every session with Session ideally achieves these experiences.
Shapiro: Tell me about the new Ash + Stash.
LeNoir Ramirez: Designed to keep herb and extra accessories safe, the Stash Jar features a press-fit, airtight silicone lid to prevent leaking and to keep the smell contained. The black-tinted borosilicate glass is UV resistant to keep color and potency preserved. These features protect cannabis from oxygen, light and moisture, which is essential to extending freshness. Additional features include a built-in bowl stand and a silicone base with three divided sections to hold any extra parts and pieces. Balancing tasteful design with premium functionality, we put a modern spin on the classic ashtray, which will keep every session classy and clean. Equipped with a removable fire-retardant debowler for clearing out pipes, it also includes special features like a resealable silicone lid to help stop the smoke and prevent smell along with a bowl stand and two tapered rests for holding pre-rolls. A silicone footer protects the body (also black-tinted borosilicate glass) making it more durable and discrete.
Shapiro: What is your perspective on the evolution of cannabis design since you set out to create Session Goods four years ago?
LeNoir Ramirez: Things have definitely changed. There are a lot more people helping evolve the space into one that is more sophisticated, respected and taken seriously. However, there is a long road ahead and not many people have done what we are doing in the way we are doing it. After recently returning from a massive industry trade show, Session Goods still stood out as a brand that didn’t look like anyone else on the floor. The sentimentalities and aesthetics of cannabis are changing and the products that are used to enjoy it haven’t evolved in step. There’s a demand for products that fit the modern smoker’s lifestyle — the definition of a ‘stoner’ has changed and we are designing the products, experiences and lifestyle that need to change with it.
Shapiro: Why are designer cannabis accessories important?
LeNoir Ramirez: We think beautiful product design elevates the ritual of getting high. [It is] no longer relegated to the shadows, but to a realm that can be celebrated, shown off, or at the very least, just recognized as normal. On the wave of legalization and changing stigmas around smoking cannabis, companies like Session Goods, which is more of a lifestyle brand than a heady smoke shop peddler, is using the same sentimentalities that designers use to create home goods, fashion accessories and technology to actually change the way people see, feel and partake in casual or medical cannabis use.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.