Growing up with Jamaican roots, Adrian Farquharson did not see cannabis as a recreational herb. Instead, the New York City-raised creative always saw the plant from a holistic standpoint.
Today, the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the MARY brand brings that approach to his work with the company’s magazine and the Mary Creative Agency (MCA). Under MCA and MARY Magazine, Farquharson and the company’s team create a wide array of high-quality online and physical content in addition to experiential events.
Farquharson has always had a love for print media, something he credits to growing up in the 80s. He would eventually study business management and earn internships with several publications, including Esquire.
It was when Farquharson moved into the full-time professional phase of his career that cannabis would take more of a role in his life. “In high school and college, [cannabis] wasn’t something I really used, but it was more so when I started working in advertising and working in the world and dealing with that sort of stress,” he said.
From 2008 to 2016, Farquharson ran a blog focused on modern world culture. Subjects ranged from travel to fashion to music. Around 2014, a conversation in the lead up to Art Basel Miami would plant the seed for what would eventually become Farquharson’s current endeavor. There, he was chatting with a photographer friend about the progress of the cannabis industry in places like California and Colorado.
The conversation led to Farquharson realizing that there was no premium coffee table magazine for the burgeoning space. He wanted to change this while offering up a solution to the industry’s image problem. “There were all these portrayals of who use cannabis [that] had this sort of negative image. It was this degenerate society…like whoever was using it was the lazy stoner portrayal. That didn’t ascribe to anyone who I knew,” he explained.
With that in mind, MARY Magazine endeavored to provide quality both online and in print. This can be felt by images that go beyond the standard, dull, homogenized stock photos of the cannabis space. Farquharson also holds a standard that ensures the readers don’t get standard, copy-paste-esque articles that are becoming more common as search engine optimization (SEO) grows in priority.
The same can be said for the content in its yearly print releases. Each 180 to 200-page edition centers on a theme. The latest delved into food. “We want to keep [each edition] as a certain collectible item. Something that you feel comfortable having on your coffee table or reading in public.” He said that it takes 35 to 40 people to complete each edition, including the 10 core members of MARY.
MCA serves as another outlet and revenue stream for Farquharson and the team’s creative, business-minded energy. The first event came about in September 2016 with a dinner party for the launch of a new line of products from PAX. The event led the MARY team to realize that there was a need for a company to provide people and brands with a specific aesthetic for their gatherings and creative work. With a team of New York-based graphic designers, strategists, and media marketing people already in-place, MARY got to work launching its creative agency.
The company now has several other projects in the works to help expand its name and generate revenue. They include MARY Talks, a panel discussion on topics that intersect with cannabis; subjects have included sex, culinary arts and performance.
Farquharson said that audiences have been positive with their feedback regarding visuals and its creative direction. They also remark about its size. “The first thing I feel like when people see it is there this shock about the size of it…the thickness of the magazine. They’re like, ‘Oh wow, this is pretty much a book.’”
The next step for MARY is one many in the cannabis space seek out: funding. MARY now aims to expand its offerings while speaking with potential sponsors, investors and venture capitalists. In the meantime, it generates revenue through events and presales for the magazine.
With such varied tasks to juggle, Farquharson mentioned that it can be “a lot”. He credits his resolve to having a high level of persistence and dedication to reaching goals. He lives by a motto: “Plan your work. Work your plan.” This means creating whiteboards at any hour of the day, providing the leadership he wants his team to have as well as doing whatever it takes to attract more people to the brand.
That said, he stated that it takes patience to grow a brand. “You definitely want to be here for the longevity of the industry and the culture. So, slowly introducing things and seeing how the community reacts or how the industry reacts to it is very key.”
Now, with New York warming to legalization, MARY has begun doing more events in its own backyard. Panel discussions are more frequent. Though, dining parties stay away until adult-use gets the green light. He noted how being in New York benefits the print edition of MARY. “We have a lot of good relationships with bookstores or places that want to carry the magazine. We can easily just go and shake hands, meet and build relationships with these people because it’s real.”
Now, with New York teetering on legalization, MARY does the same on reaching the next level of success. Farquharson believes the two are aligned for growth. If executed correctly, MARY could end of finding itself as the standout media brand for the state of New York, just as how he’d like it to be.