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420 Recs: Box Brown, the Cannabis Cartoonist Behind “Legalization Nation”

The illustrator is known for his ongoing comic that explores that many flaws, barriers-to-entry, and bureaucratic headaches that plague the cannabis industry. Here, Box explains his motivations behind the series and details his love of solventless hash and designer glass.

Cash Only’s 420 Recs is an ongoing series where interesting folks offer recommendations for all things 420 — what strains they like, what weed products are blowing their minds, and what they like to do once stoned.

Brian “Box” Brown is an award-winning illustrator and cartoonist who focuses his pen on the cannabis industry and the deep-rooted effects of prohibition. 

The Philly-based artist first caught my attention with his non-fiction graphic novel Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, which explores why weed became illegal, emphasizing the racially-biased motivations behind the plant’s criminalization. For anyone who’s interested in entering the legal industry, I highly recommend you first read the book as a primer. If you don’t know the history of prohibition and the War on Drugs, you can’t “really consider what should be fair in legalization,” as Brown noted in our interview. 

Now, Brown publishes a regular comic called Legalization Nation on Patreon that details the numerous flaws, barriers-to-entry, and bureaucratic headaches that plague the cannabis industry on both the recreational and medical level. Both informative and acerbic, the series covers legalization “from a ground-level perspective,” and fearlessly discusses topics like corporate malfeasance, the interplay between the underground and legal markets, and other ongoing problems that many in the weed scene would rather sweep under the rug. 

Recent bangers include Brown debunking the claim that an open and free weed market would crush legacy (aka “black market”) operators; an expose on how corporations are manipulating and dominating state systems; a look at price-gouging in medical cannabis markets, and much more. These comics are often supported by original reporting, and the digestible format makes these complicated topics more accessible and comprehensible for anyone curious about the state of legal weed. 

Brown is an interesting guy with good taste, and he generously made some time to talk about his pot preferences with Cash Only. Below, the artist discusses his love of solventless hash, the motivations behind Legalization Nation, and his dream blunt sesh featuring a famous wrestler and a particular weed icon. Thanks Box!

How would you describe your relationship with weed these days? Are you a regular consumer? A “pothead”?

Box Brown: I sometimes call myself an “enthusiast,” sometimes I just call myself a patient or user.

What’s your current favorite strain and how do you like to consume it? 

Pretty much been on a diet of solventless hash rosin for a while now. Although, occasionally I’ll smoke flower, too. But, I just prefer dabs and I think it’s honestly better for my asthma to vape. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still cough my ass off after a big dab, but smoking makes the coughing last longer for me. I like gassy strains, but have been getting into banana terps, too. Never turn down cherry or grape terps, either. Grape Pie and Cherry Pie are both just classic strains I never turn down. But I recently grabbed Helios’ Honey Bananas and it rocked my world. 

Do you have any favorite makers of solventless hash rosin or other concentrates? Anyone you want to shout out?

Oh lots of small processors, but def my friend @the_highlander_cannabis and Helios and Hidden Forest hash. All of these are Maine processors. Love when I can get my hands on their stuff. It’s a rare treat. 

Do you have any favorite weed products right now — whether a particular edible, topical, or even paraphernalia?

So, I was hitting a friends’ Evan Shore Slurpee banger and that thing was fucking ripping. Definitely now on the look out for one of those. The shape and function sends the concentrate up the glass on the sides and gives you a really nice full hit. Now my regular bangers aren’t cutting it. 

You’re a professional illustrator whose work often focuses on the cannabis industry (and its many flaws). I’m curious if you like to get stoned when you’re working. In other words, how does being high benefit your creative practice?

Oh yeah, most of my use is at the studio. It really helps me focus. I think when people hear stuff like this they imagine an artist just getting blazed and thinking about weird shit and working — and while I admit that’s part of it — the real benefit is just the ability to focus intensely on a piece. Really my strip Legalization Nation was born out of Pennsylvania’s shoddy, uncompetitive, pricey medical market. It really radicalized me.

Do you have a favorite cannabis-focused comic from your archives? Which piece would you recommend as a good starting place to get familiar with your work?

So, my book Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America would be a good spot for a noob, especially if you’re curious about the history of cannabis law in America. I don’t think you can really consider what should be fair in legalization without knowing that the entire history of cannabis prohibition has been a racist farce. I really wanted to do a book about the current legal struggles, but it’s moving too fast; by the time that became a book, it would be outdated. If you’re interested in current events, Legalization Nation is where you want to go. The strip is kind of weird because it has a readership that goes from interested non-users to deep industry people. I try really hard to make it accessible to all the newcomers just noticing cannabis existing, as well as cater to people who are very involved. It’s kind of a difficult line to walk. 

The cover of Box Brown’s book, which you can buy here

What activity do you like to do after you’ve gotten really stoned?

Oh well, besides drawing and making comics, I love playing video games. I will get obsessed with a weird little game on Switch or iPhone for weeks. I just finished playing Garden Story, which is kind of like if Link from Legend of Zelda were a Grape. I also love Kairosoft games for iOS which are all little management games, like you manage a bunch of 7-Elevens.

Can you recommend something to watch while high?

I’ve probably watched Century of Self, the Adam Curtis documentary, a half-dozen times. But it’s kind of a downer. I can never get enough of The Sopranos, too. 

Can you recommend something to listen to while smoking?

OK, so I really like the Great Moments in Weed History podcast [Editor’s Note: read the Cash Only interview with GMIWH co-host Dave Bienenstock here]. I also recently discovered that the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack has a ton of bangers on it haha.

Can you recommend something to read once stoned? 

Oh sure, plenty of comics. I highly recommend to any cannabis user reading some of the works of Olivier Schrauwen. It’s the kind of blow-your-mind stuff only comics can do. It can not be turned into a movie or TV show. It has to be enjoyed in comic form, and it’s like nothing else. I’d start with his book Parallel Lives, published by Fantagraphics. It’s a collection of short, weird-as-hell stories. 

Who’s in your dream blunt rotation? Alive or dead. 

Oh I saw a photo of legendary pro-wrestler Dusty Rhodes hanging out with Willie Nelson in the ‘80s and I thought that was perfect. That would be the dream rotation right there. Willie Nelson and Dusty Rhodes, alongside me and a friend to witness it all. 

Follow Box Brown:
Legalization Nation Patreon
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Zach Sokol

Zach Sokol is a writer, editor, and founder of Cash Only. He works at Bullish Studio and is also a co-editor of Sex Magazine. Previously, he was the editor of MERRY JANE, an editor at VICE, and has written extensively for publications like Playboy, Penthouse, i-D, and more. Visit his website www.zachsokol.com