Is Your Kush Mascara Problematic?

By Natalie Hill

Will this weed mascara make my eyes get high? No, it will not make your eyes — or any other part of you — get high. In fact, it doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), just cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is derived from cannabis but will not produce a “high.” “Kush Mascara” by Milk Makeup hit stores April 20, 2018 — the day of the unofficial holiday dedicated to celebrating marijuana. Based in New York, Milk has successfully attracted their target market of edgy millennial cool-girls “who do their makeup quick.” It comes as no surprise that they jumped at the opportunity to release the first-ever weed-infused makeup product. While other CBD-infused beauty products, ranging from lotions and facial serums to soaps and hair products, have existed for years, Kush Mascara is the first CBD makeup product to appear in Sephora, Urban Outfitters, and of course, on the biggest beauty influencers’ Youtube channels — including the likes of Claudia Sulewski, Samantha Ravndahl, and of course, Jeffree Star.

Maureen Dougherty for Glamour Magazine

Maureen Dougherty for Glamour Magazine

Before it was even released, Milk’s Kush Mascara was all over the Internet. Bloggers, Instagrammers, and the rest of us all wondered about the benefits of CBD in our makeup; popular Youtube makeup star Jeffree Star released a video review on the day it dropped (which has since amassed over 2.2 million views). According to Milk, “Kush Mascara’s dynamic formula will give your lashes major volume with heart-shaped fibers, while simultaneously conditioning them with cannabis oil. It’s one hit for hiiigh volume.” Jeffree seemed to like the product, and in turn, Milk recently decided to expand the Kush line with Kush Lip Balm, Lip Glaze, clear and tinted Brow Gels, and a merchandize lineup including makeup bags, stickers, and pens. Milk has also been carrying “Roll & Blot Hemp Papers,” which are oil-blotting sheets that double as rolling papers, since 2016.

The growing presence of marijuana in the beauty industry reflects a cultural shift in attitudes toward pot. As more states legalize cannabis for recreational use, a new economy has erupted — both around weed itself and around new products like THC-infused drinks and edible CBD oil to add to your milkshake. Investors have noticed, too; startups and cannabis corporations alike are growing at rapid rates. Constellation Brands, the parent company of Corona beer, recently invested $4 billion to a Canadian marijuana firm, making it the largest investment by a major U.S. corporation in the cannabis market to date. Altria, which produces Marlboro cigarettes, has followed lead, pouring $1.8 billion into pot producers. According to Arcview Market Research, a cannabis-focused investment firm, consumers are expected to spend $57 billion worldwide on legal cannabis by 2027, and those numbers are growing exponentially. As attitudes about pot change, so does the nature of the market for it. The very streets that used to host informal, illegal transactions are now lined with shiny, glass-windowed dispensaries and espresso bars selling $7 CBD cappuccinos.

Domingo Rodriguez on Instagram (@domingorodriguez)

Domingo Rodriguez on Instagram (@domingorodriguez)

The people that buy and sell weed have changed, too. Nixon-era “War on Drugs” policies have left a disproportionate number of black and Latinx people incarcerated for minor, non-violent drug offenses. More Americans are arrested for cannabis possession than for all violent crimes combined - in 2017, that was 1,632,921 arrests, 85% of which were for possession only. Over 200,000 students have been denied financial aid on the basis of these charges. What happens to those who were charged with possession in places where it has since been legalized? The United States is one of just 22 countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee “retroactive ameliorative relief” - i.e., reduced or eliminated sentences. Any pardons (or criminal record wipes) have to be considered individually on an appeals case. Ironically, in many states where the substance is now legal, those with past cannabis convictions are unable to legally acquire a license to open a business. Instead, the door is left wide open for wealthy white people to hurriedly start monopolies on the plant. Powerful businessmen are gearing up to launch companies and profit off of marijuana, but at whose expense?

Our society is at a critical juncture. We must decide how to navigate legalizing weed and emerging markets in an equitable way. Is it the responsibility of companies, like Milk Makeup, to advocate for sentencing reform as they reap the benefits of legalization? As a consumer — of the drug itself or of CBD beauty products — it is critical to stay informed so as to not contribute to a system of injustice. Does this mean you can’t see if CBD oil in your mascara really helps your eyelashes pop? Not necessarily, but as with every consumer choice, where you put your dollar counts.