NYC’s Flamer is so much more than a queer cannabis brand

flamer brand

Activism, cannabis, and the queer culture are at the heart of New York City’s Flamer pre-roll brand. Co-founders Wyatt Harms, Matias Alvial, and Khalil Acevedo met through NYC’s gay community and discovered they shared a passion for activism during their involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement during COVID-19.

As the world began to shut down and all social activity paused, living in a crowded city became oppressive. This prompted Acevedo to head to California to work on cannabis farms in Humboldt County (ground zero for superior weed) and ended up managing five pot farms. Harms followed soon after to help during the harvest season, and this is when the allure to start a weed brand began to blossom.

Meanwhile, back in NYC, bars closed, and nightlife seized. Congregating indoors wasn’t allowed, and the question became: where does the queer community meet since so much of their culture centers around bars and events like drag or lip-sync? People began to gravitate towards parks to socialize. Matias, a known nightlife photojournalist, began documenting the gatherings where so much of it involved smoking joints.

As the pandemic started to wind down and New York state’s legal cannabis industry started to rev up, the friends launched Flamer.

A Nod To Gay Tradition

The name Flamer came about when the trio Googled gay slurs to brainstorm a name for their new brand. It used to be somewhat derogatory and meant flamboyant, but it didn’t necessarily mean gay. It just meant over the top.

The trio chose to wrap their joints in red rolling papers as a nod to queer history, where they’ve always used signifiers or codes to let someone know they are gay. Back in the day, it was a handkerchief or a piercing on a specific ear. It was a way of functioning within the greater society without having to out themselves and face discrimination.

Older Queer Folks And The Last Generation

New York in the 1980s was brutal for the gay community as they fought for their rights and battled the scourge of the AIDS epidemic that killed so many. It’s known as the last generation within the queer community because so many died from the disease. Older queer folks who survived the destruction now feel the need to mentor and educate the younger queer folks about its history and how their rights today are the result of the fight for gay rights and acceptance.

Flamer’s brand image may skew to the younger set in terms of visuals and aesthetics, but the elderly are embracing Flamer’s red joint and see it as a revival of their youth when using code to identify their sexual preference was a big thing.

The Flamer Ethos

There’s a reason why Queer people flock to New York City: because it’s a beacon of acceptance and has created a space for the community to thrive. And there’s always space for people to experiment and try other things and for that to be perfectly okay. It’s estimated that eight percent or maybe more of the population in New York identifies as queer.

Flamer founders are building a community that acknowledges the history and how it is evolving. What was queer back in the day may not be queer now. Two men holding hands used to be shocking. Today, we see men kissing on the big screen. What’s queer now? Non binarism? Trans culture? The ethos behind Flamer is about being incredibly inclusive of everyone, to allow self-expression, self-liberation, and be who you are.

Flamer is an outgrowth of NYC’s queer community, where smoking cannabis and sharing a joint is a big part of the culture- puff, puff, pass, the bigger the circle, the better the atmosphere.

“Queers recognize the authenticity of the Flamer brand and see themselves as a part of that project to support the community,” said Harms.

The Love Story Of Two Counter Cultures

The queer community has always had a special relationship with cannabis, where some studies show they consume 2.5 times more than heterosexuals, most likely because of the stress and trauma they have endured defending their sexuality.

When you look at the people who pioneered the medicalization of cannabis, it was people who directly responded to the AIDS crisis, like Brownie Mary- she popularized pot brownies she baked for AIDS victims.

Dennis Perron led the effort to get weed legalization on the California ballot because of his experience with his partner passing away from AIDS. It’s people like Dennis that have led this movement, especially the medicalization side of it, that are deeply tied to the queer community.

The Flamer Brand

Flamer collaborates with a NY family-run queer farm, Janes Garden, under Acevedo’s watchful eye, where they use regenerative farming practices. The trio specifically supports family-run farms and plans to work with different craft cultivators as the brand expands. Anytime and Silly Goofy are the first two strains that Khalil chose to launch Flamer because it complements the queer culture of creativity, partying, and fun, not sleepy and subdued.

“A lot of my friends use a Flamer J to flirt. ‘Hey, you got a lighter?’ And then they pull out the red J. ‘You smoke?’”  laughed Alvial.

Flamer’s goal is to become synonymous with NYC. They strive to be on everyone’s New York bucket list. For example, in California, you seek out an In-N-Out Burger. In New York, you come to see your first rat, get a pizza slice, and light up a Flamer J.

The queer community is a globally tight-knit group that is banned together as a result of the history of suffering they have endured just to have the freedom to be who they are without discrimination, backlash, or violence because of their sexual orientation.

“All it takes is a text to a few friends to find you a welcoming home in a far-flung place,” Alvial said.

Flamer plans to expand their brand and message across the globe to uplift and celebrate the queer culture.

We do not speak to everyone, and we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. We are who we are, and the people who get it will support us full-heartedly, and that’s who we’re going to grow with,” said Harms.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The statements within do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState, Hearst, or its subsidiaries. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Pam Chmiel is a contract marketer, publicist, podcast host, and a published writer specializing in the cannabis industry. She is based in Manhattan, NY.