Chris Voag spent age 19 being treated for Stage 1 testicular cancer, along with the constant nausea that his treatment gave him.
The top thing that helped him find relief? Smoking weed.
“I never knew of any medicinal properties or believed any of that mattered until I did a month of chemo, about four months after my surgery,” Voag said. “It helped me very much through the anti-nausea properties. I actually never got sick.”
Voag, a 2016 business administration alumnus, founded Sir and Lady Cannabis, a marijuana-themed apparel line. The online shop, which Voag operates out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, formally launched this month after the pre-order period ended Feb. 24.
The apparel features artwork of the two characters, Sir and Lady Cannabis, and includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, beanies and snapback hats. Voag hopes the clothing spreads awareness about the valuable uses of both medicinal and recreational marijuana, like reducing pain and alleviating anxiety, and destigmatizes people who use it.
“I hope to accomplish highlighting the versatility of the cannabis plant and bringing a better image to cannabis use through our clothing by showing Sir Cannabis in an active, regular lifestyle,” he added.
Actor George Lopez endorsed the line in December 2016 after Voag launched the brand’s Instagram account. Lopez originally contacted Voag through Instagram, when the clothing line’s account only had about 40 followers, and collaborated with Voag to create a sweatshirt and tee featuring his image.
“George pretty much [direct messaged] me, like, ‘Send me out a hoodie bro, I’ll rock it, I’ll spread the message,’” Voag said. “And then from then on, we built a friendship.”
While marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Gov. Tom Wolf legalized medical marijuana in Pennsylvania in April 2016. Last February, dispensaries began opening for people with qualifying medical conditions, like epilepsy, cancer and glaucoma.
In addition to his own cancer, Voag watched his father receive treatment for stage 4 oral cancer in 2016. He, too, found relief from his treatment through cannabis.
“When the radiation was ripping his throat apart, he couldn’t speak, not even for two seconds,” Voag said. “And when he drank the [THC] tea, he was able to communicate with me and tell me what he needed help with.”
At this time, Voag was finishing his last semester at Temple University. Strategic management professor Dwight Carey encouraged him to market the THC tea his father was drinking.
Instead, Voag decided to create his clothing company to de-stigmatize marijuana usage.
“His idea in cannabis is just going to be able to spread from state to state like the legislation has spread over the last five or six years,” Carey said. “He’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s going to spread beyond clothing.”
To create the Sir and Lady Cannabis characters, Voag enlisted the help of 2017 advertising alumnus Billy Mahoney, who had graphic design experience.
“He basically told me [he] had this idea…to start this clothing company to debunk all the negative stereotypes of stoners,” Mahoney said. “I was all for it.”
Voag continues to raise awareness through social media. The line’s weekly Instagram Cannabis Warrior Series highlights people with diseases, like cancer and the genetic disorder Huntington’s disease, who use marijuana to manage their symptoms.
One of these “warriors” is 23-year-old Philadelphian Olivia Sullivan, who has had lupus since she was 17. Sullivan experiences flare-ups like rashes, join paint and memory problems. For six years, Sullivan has been on and off medications that caused stomach ulcers, painful muscle cramps and weight gain. Cannabis use allowed her to stop several of her medications, including a narcotic, Sullivan said.
After obtaining her medical card through the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program, dispensaries helped Sullivan find the right strains of cannabis for her symptoms, she said. The OX strain helps treat her pain and muscle spasms, while Bloo’s Kloos alleviates stress and headaches.
Voag wants his clothing line to help others benefit from cannabis the same way he, his father and his Cannabis Warriors have.
“Cannabis doesn’t limit you in life,” Voag said. “Cannabis can help you in life, like it helped me get through cancer, and it helps many other people, from autism to PTSD. That’s what I’m just trying to highlight.”