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Sweet Jane Magazine: Empowering Women Through Cannabis & Removing The Stigma Of Its Use – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Katy Ibsen, Publisher & Editor…

June 25, 2019

“I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.” Katy Ibsen…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In today’s magazine marketplace there is a wide variety of titles focusing on the still controversial world of the cannabis industry. From cooking with it to the best way to grow it, the highly-touted green herb has made a wide footprint in the printed space. But Sweet Jane, a new magazine that is all about cannabis, yet zeroes in on women and mothers in particular, strives to remove the stigma that is still attached to smoking, eating, or using the plant in general, making it clear that health and wellbeing is the focal point for the title.

Katy Ibsen is the publisher and editor of the magazine and the driving force behind the title’s mission. Katy believes that cannabis can and should be used by women and mothers for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Sharing the benefits of the plant is what Katy says is the vital message of Sweet Jane.

I spoke with Katy recently and she talked about the fact that our society seems to have no problem with mothers drinking wine for relaxation, yet smoking a joint would automatically make that same mother a bad parent in many social sets. The stigma attached to cannabis is very real and Katy says that Sweet Jane strives to bring greater understanding and acceptance of the plant to people across the country.

It was a very eye-opening conversation and deeply honest, and Mr. Magazine™ thoroughly enjoyed it. And I hope that you do as well. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katy Ibsen, publisher and editor, Sweet Jane magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the concept of Sweet Jane: Sweet Jane is a publication that empowers women through cannabis. As legalization, both medical and adult use, continues to occur across the country and individuals begin to experiment, I really felt like there was a lack of education, and a need for any sort of product, whether that be a magazine or a website, in my opinion, that really helps people feel comfortable approaching cannabis and to not feel stigmatized, and to have somewhere they could ask the right questions, even if they felt taboo. So, we wanted to create a magazine that helped people answer those questions and learn more at their own pace and in their own comfortable space.

On why she felt that she needed a print publication in this digital age: Well for one I love print; my background is in print publishing. I worked with city, regionals and tourism publications for most of my career. I think once you start publishing print, it’s hard to ever walk away from it. But the cannabis industry is kind of unique, where a lot of my research into how companies are able to approach their consumers showed that the online aspect was becoming more and more difficult. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug in the Federal Government’s eyes, so because of that platforms like Facebook and Google, Instagram and Twitter have limitations of drug-related content. For example, the National Cannabis Industry Association had indicated that they even struggled publishing certain lobbying events because it’s related to cannabis and marijuana.

 On why she thinks cannabis magazines that elevate women are now becoming so prominent: I think that what we’re seeing is females happen to be one of the larger market segments who are consuming cannabis. Some have even gone as far to say that soccer moms are the largest demographic right behind baby boomers. So, right away we know that if a publication is going to be particularly successful, it’s probably going to want to appeal to women. And I think in a non-direct way people are not as comfortable accepting that a woman or a mother would consume cannabis for either recreational purposes or for anxiety or depression, pain or inflammation. There still seems to be a struggle accepting that. And I have many friends across the country who have indicated that and wanted to see something that helps them feel more comfortable talking about it.

On the genesis of the name, Sweet Jane: Originally it was a song by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, which they covered in the ‘70s. And it’s been in my rotation for a while. I wish that I could tell you that there was a little bit more inspiration behind it, but it really came from the song. And the song’s lyrics actually play a part because as parents and as women we’re trying to make ends meet. The Jane hook is obviously “Mary Jane,” but the Sweet Jane came from the song and its lyrics. But in my opinion the name provided a softness for it to be a feminine magazine. We are talking to women and to mothers.

On what “high” she hopes Sweet Jane will have reached in a year: I think greater acceptance of female and parent use of cannabis. We’re seeing more and more of the conversation about the debate of what’s more appropriate, a mother drinking a lot of wine and thinking that’s okay, that it’s very much a “Mommy Juice” or “Mommy Wine” culture and it is more accepted in our society. But if you see a mother smoke a joint, she’s a bad mom, potentially risking the wellbeing of her child. And that all stems from ignorance.

On what she believes the future of print is: I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So, even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.

On how she decided on $5.99 for a cover price: It goes back to what you asked earlier: what do we want to achieve in five years. And that’s greater acceptance of the female and mother use of cannabis for their own wellbeing. So if I price my magazine at a price point where maybe a middle or lower income mother can’t afford it, then I’m not really achieving that mission. The access to it is greater if I have a manageable cover price that a woman can say, I can buy this magazine because all of this information is relevant to me and I can keep this magazine and reference it many times for a small price of $5.99, which is still a significant price for a lot of people. So, we wanted to make sure that it was as accessible as possible.

On what her plans are for the frequency: I’ve always felt that a four times per year frequency is good. Again, for justification of the reasons, the connectivity, people making time for a print product; all of that. I think publishing more than that can be costly and maybe not necessary. Currently we’re twice a year for 2019/2020. We’re hoping to increase our frequency to four times a year in 2021. We’re underwritten by advertising and our newsstand and cover price sales. We’ve built a very lean business model financially to continue the project through 2020 in hopes that we will increase our advertising enough to move to four times per year.

On anything she’d like to add: The other thing that I think is just really fascinating about the cannabis industry is that it has more opportunities for women. And states that don’t have any form of legalization yet aren’t seeing that, but I think just in general, a lot of the innovation that comes with cannabis is advancing a lot of industries, not just print publications. As we continue to see these magazines pop up and we’re very proud to be one of them, across the board greater acceptance of cannabis might actually become a reality. Putting our necks out there, Kitchen Toke, MJ, and many others that are also in the legacy of High Tines, my hope is that we are a small step toward greater acceptance and greater legalization. And I’m using my journalism background to do that.

On the biggest misconception people have about her: I lost my publishing job two years ago to take a sabbatical and spend time with my husband and start a family. And I knew at some point I would start a new project. Honestly, I don’t think that I would be pursuing a print publication if it weren’t in cannabis because of the opportunity that the print platform provides for the industry and for its consumers. And I think trying to explain that to people was challenging at times.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: To be completely clear, I live in a prohibition state, so I don’t have legal access to cannabis. So while I have experienced cannabis in my life and I currently use CBD for wellness, you wouldn’t catch me smoking a joint because I legally cannot. But you would catch me either running with my daughter  or enjoying a glass wine, because I still do that with my husband. And listening to some music, watching her play and grow. My daughter will be one soon. We laugh that I had a baby in a year and I had a magazine in a year. (Laughs) I only had one birth, but it feels like two. So, when I get the chance to just sit down and catch my breath, I take full advantage of that with my family.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m building a business and Sweet Jane is the largest piece of that pie. But I still service a lot of publishing clients; I do a lot of contract editing and publishing consulting and so, if anything, what keeps me up at night is how to get it all done. I am the primary child-caregiver in my house, so I balance everything that I do while raising my daughter. And it’s hard at times and things fall through the cracks, but I think what’s keeping me up at night is what’s the next priority and how do we accomplish that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katy Ibsen, publisher and editor, Sweet Jane magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the concept of Sweet Jane.

Katy Ibsen: Sweet Jane is a publication that empowers women through cannabis. As legalization, both medical and adult use, continues to occur across the country and individuals begin to experiment, I really felt like there was a lack of education, and a need for any sort of product, whether that be a magazine or a website, in my opinion, that really helps people feel comfortable approaching cannabis and to not feel stigmatized, and to have somewhere they could ask the right questions, even if they felt taboo. So, we wanted to create a magazine that helped people answer those questions and learn more at their own pace and in their own comfortable space.

Cannabis comes with a lot of taboo stuff. And because of that I think we find that people aren’t comfortable talking about it; they’re not comfortable searching certain terms or asking other people about it, especially if they happen to live in a prohibition state. And by creating a magazine, a print magazine, that was a way that we could help people get that information and consume it however they wanted to.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel that you needed a printed edition in this digital age?

Katy Ibsen: Well for one I love print; my background is in print publishing. I worked with city, regionals and tourism publications for most of my career. I think once you start publishing print, it’s hard to ever walk away from it. But the cannabis industry is kind of unique, where a lot of my research into how companies are able to approach their consumers showed that the online aspect was becoming more and more difficult. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug in the Federal Government’s eyes, so because of that platforms like Facebook and Google, Instagram and Twitter have limitations of drug-related content. For example, the National Cannabis Industry Association had indicated that they even struggled publishing certain lobbying events because it’s related to cannabis and marijuana.

But because of that there’s actually a little bit of  a print resurgence in the cannabis industry because they are limited in digital ways to reach consumers. It kind of created a good opportunity to actually use print.

Samir Husni: Suddenly, it went from one magazine, such as High Times, to a host of magazines about cannabis. At last count, I was up to 22 different titles. Why do you think cannabis magazines that elevate women are now becoming so prominent? We have had MJ Lifestyle, which elevates the feminine voice in cannabis and its culture; we have had Broccoli: Kitchen Toke; is that a unique selling feature of the magazine, aiming at cannabis and women? Or what’s the difference between cannabis and “people” and cannabis and “women?”

Katy Ibsen: That’s a great question and all of those publications that you named are phenomenal and founded by women. I think that what we’re seeing is females happen to be one of the larger market segments who are consuming cannabis. Some have even gone as far to say that soccer moms are the largest demographic right behind baby boomers. So, right away we know that if a publication is going to be particularly successful, it’s probably going to want to appeal to women.

And I think in a non-direct way people are not as comfortable accepting that a woman or a mother would consume cannabis for either recreational purposes or for anxiety or depression, pain or inflammation. There still seems to be a struggle accepting that. And I have many friends across the country who have indicated that and wanted to see something that helps them feel more comfortable talking about it.

Broccoli, Kitchen Toke, MJ Lifestyle are all perfect examples of advancing that conversation, but Sweet Jane’s differentiation is that we are focusing on the parenting/mother aspect of it, as well as the educational aspect. So, while we certainly profile women who are doing unique things, or things that are happening in the industry, we’re also trying to provide a healthy dose of really basic education that has been vetted and is from professionals who can help new cannabis users learn how to incorporate cannabis into their lives should they choose to.

And I think that’s something that really gets overlooked, especially as the legalization continues to happen and is even happening in the Midwest. Illinois just went recreational, Missouri has Amendment 2, which is the implementation of their medical program, Oklahoma went medical a year ago. And so you have a lot of Midwesterners, and especially, we’ll just say suburban housewives, who are curious, but don’t know what to do to start to incorporate it or even research or understand it.  And as those states start legalization, their staffs and individuals that are working in dispensaries will also have a learning curve about how they talk to consumers about cannabis.

We’re hoping to be a support and an intersect there to help women feel comfortable going into that dispensary in the Midwest or wherever the next legal state is going to be and asking the right questions to make sure they get the right product to have the best cannabis experience for whatever they’re wanting to use it for.

Samir Husni: And when you said the magazine provides a “healthy dose,” there’s no pun intended, right? (Laughs)

Katy Ibsen: (Laughs too) No pun intended. It seems basic, but some women would probably prefer to use a vape pen or an edible, but those are two very different experiences. And so we want to help them understand what those experiences are before they just blindly try it and have a really poor experience and decide that cannabis isn’t right for them or that plant medicine isn’t something that they believe will help them.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of the name, Sweet Jane.

Katy Ibsen: Originally it was a song by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, which they covered in the ‘70s. And it’s been in my rotation for a while. I wish that I could tell you that there was a little bit more inspiration behind it, but it really came from the song. And the song’s lyrics actually play a part because as parents and as women we’re trying to make ends meet. The Jane hook is obviously “Mary Jane,” but the Sweet Jane came from the song and its lyrics. But in my opinion the name provided a softness for it to be a feminine magazine. We are talking to women and to mothers.

But anybody who knows Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground is attracted to the name. We have had many compliments on it from middle-aged men. (Laughs) So, saying it’s specific to just women maybe isn’t the case, it’s specific to a couple different spaces. It works because ultimately, while we’re appealing to women, a lot of the content that we’re incorporating is gender neutral. Everybody needs to know the difference between flowers, concentrates, vaporizers and edibles. It’s not necessarily specific to women, albeit women may have a different reaction than men. But the information is basic in its form for all genders.

Samir Husni: If I ask you to put your futuristic hat on for a moment and you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me Sweet Jane has accomplished in that year? What “high” will Sweet Jane have reached a year from now?

Katy Ibsen: I think greater acceptance of female and parent use of cannabis. We’re seeing more and more of the conversation about the debate of what’s more appropriate, a mother drinking a lot of wine and thinking that’s okay, that it’s very much a “Mommy Juice” or “Mommy Wine” culture and it is more accepted in our society. But if you see a mother smoke a joint, she’s a bad mom, potentially risking the wellbeing of her child. And that all stems from ignorance.

If we at Sweet Jane, in the company of Kitchen Toke, Broccoli and MJ Lifestyle can show that cannabis is actually a very safe alternative, it’s a healthy alternative with less consequences than drinking. And I think the research is coming out more and more to prove that. So if we can help achieve conversations and greater acceptance then I think we’re on a path to success five years from now.

Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that because of the subject matter you feel there is a resurgence for print with cannabis-related topics, but what do you think the future of print is?

Katy Ibsen: I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.

And there are examples of other individuals, entrepreneurs or publishers seeing a need for somebody to want to be involved in this niche and be engaged with it in this form versus a digital form. And with supporters like Barnes & Noble who are taking a risk on these publications and giving them an outlet to be consumed, there’s potential for it to keep growing. If we put content in our publication that people can’t find anywhere else then there’s a reason for people to seek out our print product. So, I think there’s a future.

Samir Husni: When I look at the cover price of all of your competitors, you’re at $5.99 and they’re at $18 and $20 an issue. How did you reach the decision to charge $5.99 per issue?

Katy Ibsen: Well, it goes back to what you asked earlier: what do we want to achieve in five years. And that’s greater acceptance of the female and mother use of cannabis for their own wellbeing. So if I price my magazine at a price point where maybe a middle or lower income mother can’t afford it, then I’m not really achieving that mission. The access to it is greater if I have a manageable cover price that a woman can say, I can buy this magazine because all of this information is relevant to me and I can keep this magazine and reference it many times for a small price of $5.99, which is still a significant price for a lot of people. So, we wanted to make sure that it was as accessible as possible.

Samir Husni: Your next issue is coming out in November. Are you starting as a quarterly or plans to move to six times per year? What are your plans for the frequency?

Katy Ibsen: I’ve always felt that a four times per year frequency is good. Again, for justification of the reasons, the connectivity, people making time for a print product; all of that. I think publishing more than that can be costly and maybe not necessary. Currently we’re twice a year for 2019/2020. We’re hoping to increase our frequency to four times a year in 2021. We’re underwritten by advertising and our newsstand and cover price sales. We’ve built a very lean business model financially to continue the project through 2020 in hopes that we will increase our advertising enough to move to four times per year.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Katy Ibsen: The other thing that I think is just really fascinating about the cannabis industry is that it has more opportunities for women. And states that don’t have any form of legalization yet aren’t seeing that, but I think just in general, a lot of the innovation that comes with cannabis is advancing a lot of industries, not just print publications. As we continue to see these magazines pop up and we’re very proud to be one of them, across the board greater acceptance of cannabis might actually become a reality. Putting our necks out there, Kitchen Toke, MJ, and many others that are also in the legacy of High Tines, my hope is that we are a small step toward greater acceptance and greater legalization. And I’m using my journalism background to do that.

Samir Husni: When you told people you were doing this, that you were launching this magazine, what was the biggest misconception they had about you?

Katy Ibsen: That’s a great question. I lost my publishing job two years ago to take a sabbatical and spend time with my husband and start a family. And I knew at some point I would start a new project. Honestly, I don’t think that I would be pursuing a print publication if it weren’t in cannabis because of the opportunity that the print platform provides for the industry and for its consumers. And I think trying to explain that to people was challenging at times.

And not necessarily because of their ignorance, but because they would look at me like, why would you do a print magazine? Aren’t those dying? (Laughs) Then they’d say, what are you going to write about with cannabis? There’s not a whole lot to it, but they’d come to find that there’s a great deal to it. And if we don’t educate the ignorance continues. Or if we don’t use our voice to help with criminal justice reform, then legalization continues to create a lot of social injustices.

So, we had, and my family had, an opportunity to shift that conversation. And I think we’re seeing it happen more and more and now people see it. Those who have loved the magazine since it’s been out have given us great feedback and they’ve been extremely complimentary.

My graphic designer and I laughed a little bit that we were some craft between The New Yorker and Real Simple, because we felt that the magazine was wordy, but it was a lot of useful, do-it-yourself information for cannabis. And people want to use cannabis. And the biggest compliment that people keeping saying is how beautiful the magazine is. (Laughs) We’re happy we achieved that, but our mission was ultimately that they walk away with more power based on the knowledge they learned from it. It’s a good bonus that they think it’s beautiful as well.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Smoking a joint; having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Katy Ibsen: To be completely clear, I live in a prohibition state, so I don’t have legal access to cannabis. So while I have experienced cannabis in my life and I currently use CBD for wellness, you wouldn’t catch me smoking a joint because I legally cannot. But you would catch me either running with my daughter  or enjoying a glass wine, because I still do that with my husband. And listening to some music, watching her play and grow. My daughter will be one soon. We laugh that I had a baby in a year and I had a magazine in a year. (Laughs) I only had one birth, but it feels like two. So, when I get the chance to just sit down and catch my breath, I take full advantage of that with my family.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Katy Ibsen: (Laughs) I’m building a business and Sweet Jane is the largest piece of that pie. But I still service a lot of publishing clients; I do a lot of contract editing and publishing consulting and so, if anything, what keeps me up at night is how to get it all done. I am the primary child-caregiver in my house, so I balance everything that I do while raising my daughter. And it’s hard at times and things fall through the cracks, but I think what’s keeping me up at night is what’s the next priority and how do we accomplish that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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