Danielle Morgan discusses High Minds, a design-focused lifestyle store that produces goods which complement cannabis. While “highness is welcomed but not required”, Danielle is using the project to alter people’s perspectives on weed culture through considered goods and community-first events.
Why did LA and Portland have such a profound impact on your outlook on the cross-section between design and cannabis?
As anyone who has ingested weed in any way in Ireland you know that it has probably been super high in the psychoactive part of the plant: THC. It’s also more than likely not that fresh or you don’t know its origin/tracing/grower or even what the strain is.
For me, I love to know how things are grown, made, and created. It almost brings me closer to the product and makes that experience circular.
So as you can imagine in places like LA and Portland the sheer quality of cannabis and craft cannabis grown is impeccable and the product, in turn, is very different to what we get here in Ireland in an unregulated system. Whether it’s obvious things like the strain, the ratio of THC to CBD, where it was grown, or who it was grown by.
And then you bring in the retail experiences and products that are sold in places in both Portland and LA, it’s just brought to another level, every single detail accounted for, and I suppose all these things collectively really resonated with me!
You reference Tina Snow Le’s project ‘Earth to Her’ as an inspiration that “challenges the visual culture of cannabis”. Is that something you want to achieve too, to change perceptions or at least breakdown stereotypes around weed?
Absolutely! There’s a chance here to challenge the normal stereotypes around cannabis. Not that there’s anything wrong with what is in place now, because different visuals resonate with different people, I just wanted to bring my own visual and detail-orientated experience element to High Minds that wouldn’t normally be associated with cannabis and hopefully open it up in minds that wouldn’t normally be either.
In what way does cannabis need to be recontextualised, especially in Ireland?
This answer could be a book really! But the main one I’ll touch on here is language. I’ve seen some rather inaccurate words used to describe cannabis like narcotics, toxic, and people overdosing. These words were all used in Irish media in very recent times and to talk about cannabis in this way could not be further from the truth. This is a plant that is ready to help millions of people’s daily lives and could be helping a lot more, not the opposite. Our education and regulation need to set a solid foundation to start making bigger changes.
From being involved in GAA to growing up at an orchard, you’re certainly immersed in more traditional aspects of Irish culture. But is it exciting for you to be at something of a pioneering stage for cannabis in Ireland, as it’s not a culture that has a mainstream accessibility?
Even growing up in those more traditional parts of society, I’ve always kind of gone against the flow. And for sure I’m excited, I see it as an opportunity to build something really special, that has all my main interests at the centre of it: weed, design, experiences, and food. And with some of those things, they normalise weed and put it in conversations that they may not have been before.
How do you feel views on weed changed in Ireland over the past 10 years?
With regards to weed, I’m not sure older generations have moved their views that much, at least not publicly. I do think that younger people are less apprehensive about weed due to American legalisation and certain platforms like Instagram and TikTok (even if they ban cannabis content) feature weed quite heavily and normalise the plant.
The other side of it is the heavily marketed hemp and CBD products. It definitely has pushed people to open up their minds to that side of the plant that little bit more, but at the end of the day the psychoactive part of the plant is still heavily stigmatised, and because of that people will keep that side of their life quite private and not chat about it. We have a long way to go to shift mindsets in that direction but that will be a hard sell without education, a change in Irish media view, and legalisation.
Your High Gathering event brought together some talented people across food, photography, and design. How important was it to have that moment of real-life connection and introduction to High Minds?
Super important! Weed to me on a macro level is all about connections and there isn’t a better place to support that than sitting around a dinner table with like-minded people, talking and sharing an experience over food and wine.
I knew when I was dreaming up this event that I wanted it to set a precedent of what High Minds was about: considered, relaxed and different. When I asked my dear friend Cúán Greene to join me it was one of the main things we had chatted about when planning it – showing the possibilities of how, culturally, weed can be thought of in a different way in a different context.
Collaboration is commonplace through your products and your events. With an ethos like ”Getting weird, getting high and with no apologies”, how important is it to find not only talented but like-minded collaborators?
When drawing out the first plans of what High Minds may or may not entail, something that I wanted to do was work with some of the best people around in making these experiences and products that would really resonate with people. It’s not so much important that we are like-minded but more that the individuals I am working with are people who think a little differently and tend to generally be people I am naturally drawn to anyway. So it happens very organically and nothing feels forced or out of place.
Is the common thread for the High Minds community a love of the plant, or is there another thread that binds the minds?
High Minds is, of course, a cannabis lifestyle store, but I think there’s an obvious shared love of experience, design, art, and food that just happens to have a common theme of weed as its vehicle here. It’s worth saying that High Minds is not just for cannabis-oriented individuals – it is for people that are in any way interested in any aspect of it whether it be the design, the experiences, or the company as a whole. One doesn’t have to ingest it to appreciate High Minds. As I say, highness is welcomed but not required.
Speaking of collaborations, you just recently sold out your first batch of an herbal blend you worked on with Barry Connolly from Purer Are Organics Farm and for the High Gathering you mentioned your work with Cúán Greene to forage seasonal food for the meal. How important is a love for all things green, not just what’s in the stash case?
As was mentioned earlier, I grew up on the apple orchards of Armagh, so I think when you grow up in an organic farming family and you can see the blood sweat, and tears that go into that side of agriculture, it doesn’t matter what is grown, you just understand the love and passion people have for it. So, that’s why it’s so important to me that through every strand of High Minds whether it be the herbal mix or the dinners or if we do an edible down the line that it is made with the absolute best produce and supports those growers behind it.
Finally, what’s in store for the immediate future of High Minds, and what are your loftiest plans for the brand?
I’m pretty excited for the coming 18 months of High Minds, having the ability to keep that collaborative nature alive is very important to me and will continue to be a thread within High Minds. On the product side of things, there will be a range of bongs and pipes released in the future as well as some other products that are a little bit more adjacent to weed. Building up our catalogue of external designers and makers also, with the likes of Waterford based J Hill Standard pipes designed by world-renowned designer Aldo Bakkar and California-based Summerland Ceramics.
And on the events side of things – I’ll be running a pop-up shop in Indigo & Cloth at the beginning of December and hopefully a few more before Christmas. But beyond the new year, there are some dinner events and pop-up shop plans being thought out, not only in Dublin but further afield, possibly in London and another major European city.
And as for the future, I would hope that there may be a more permanent space for High Minds whether it be a store and maybe even into dispensary land, there are loads of ideas floating around and it’ll be a blast!
Pop Up 4/5th Dec @indigoandcloth
Words: Eric Davidson