She’s a stoner who loves to party and play dress-up with her friends. She’s also a creative entrepreneur on her way to taking over Portland’s increasingly competitive cannabis landscape. Get to know Harlee Case of Ladies of Paradise—a woman who, whether packing a bowl or packing a bag, shines as brightly as the disco ball in her living room.
Harlee Case is the kind of friend we all deserved to have in high school. There’s something about her wide-eyed enthusiasm that makes me feel 15 again—which explains why, when she asks if I’ve “dabbled” in psychedelic microdosing, my voice gets all squeaky and I stutter, “Ummm, like, not yet, but I want to.” Omg. I’m so lame.
Lucky for all involved, Case isn’t 15. She’s 28. She may eat mushroom chocolate every day and drink diluted acid like it’s juice (okay, that one’s an exaggeration), but she doesn’t care that I don’t.
After gabbing about Ladies of Paradise—the cannabis-oriented creative agency that she cofounded in Portland, Oregon—I feel convinced: If I’m ever subject to a Freaky Friday–like body swap and suddenly have to do high school over again, I’ll choose to do it with Case in the alternate universe that is the Pacific Northwest—where the popular girls wear pink cowgirl hats, openly identify as feminists, and flash little rhinestone studs on their teeth every time they smile (which is often).
Mouth jewelry aside, Case really is an unlikely cool kid—if only because she doesn’t seem to have a judgmental bone in her body.
Here’s what she does have: the open, trusting, and high-functioning manic energy of a cult leader—or at least a very enthusiastic cult member. Ladies of Paradise, however, isn’t so much a cult but a lifestyle, and an appealing one at that. “Our mission is about collaboration, empowerment, and creating safe spaces for people,” she says. “Kindness is a part of what we do.”
“Kindness is a part of what we do.”
The company grew, in part, out of her boyfriend’s farm and dispensary in the same part of southern Oregon where she was raised. It was here that she and her friend Jade Daniels began conducting photoshoots with oft-overlooked women weed-growers (featuring plenty of wigs and sequins). “It meant so much to them that someone was coming and spotlighting them,” she says.
From there, Case and Daniels started in on more “fashion-meets-cannabis” shoots, something that she says the industry had never seen before. “From the beginning, we had a lot of buzz. We got in there at just the right time.” That was 2017—for reference, Oregon had only legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 and begun granting licenses to retailers in 2016.
Now, along with the release of their first line of products (impossibly cute pre-rolled joints and vape cartridges with names like “Lady Js” and “Day Trip”), Case, Daniels, and the other four ladies of paradise who have since joined the team are known throughout Portland for their elaborate cannabis parties and their enduring message of women’s empowerment.
In fact, it’s the female stoner gaze that has proven to be their greatest marketing tool—allowing Ladies of Paradise to really pop, in all their zany glory, against an otherwise homogeneous and male-dominated backdrop.
“None of us wants to spend our days not doing what we love.”
And though she’s found success as an entrepreneur, Case is living out a teenager’s fantasy, throwing parties, smoking weed every day, and working alongside her best friends. “I just love really crazy, eccentric things, and I’ve figured out a way to make a really crazy, eccentric business,” she says. “Every single thing that I get to do, I’m like, ‘How wild can we make this?’ Nothing ever has to be, like, tame. It’s really fun.”
And the party never stops: From the disco ball in the living room to the glitter-trimmed baby-pink velvet lampshade in her bedroom, the inside of her northeast Portland apartment—and, I come to find, the inside of her suitcase—is a perfect extension of her work.
But don’t let the partying and the sparkles fool you. Case is all business. She just happens to be in the business of fun.
“None of us wants to spend our days not doing what we love,” she says.
Here, Case shares everything she packs in her bag for a good time, plus what it’s really like to be a lady entrepreneur in the cannabis wonderland that is Portland, Oregon.
Do you have a favorite party from the Ladies of Paradise archives?
Still to this day I think our first party was the most fun. We did a cowboys-versus-aliens costume party, and all the costumes were really over-the-top. People showed up dressed to the nines, looking for an excuse to get together, because stoners haven’t really had places to go hang out like that. So we threw this really fun party for, like, 300 people, with live music and tons of different cannabis to try. And now, I meet so many amazing women and men at every party. People come up to me saying, like, “Dude, the people that we meet at your parties are some of the coolest, [most] down-to-earth people. We actually hang out afterwards.”
What role has the city of Portland played in the shaping of Ladies of Paradise?
We’ve started to do parties now in L.A. and Denver because [our parties] really have created such a rad community, but working in cannabis in places like Denver and California is just not like it is here—it is really special. People are genuinely so nice and supportive. I am a better person than I was before moving here because of the people; [living here] has changed me. And for us, I mean, we’re a community brand. Even when we become the best pre-roll company in the world, it will still be all about the community. And community is wild here.
Speaking of community, Portland’s known for being a very white one. And race is also a major point of contention in the cannabis industry, where people of color tend to be punished more severely for the same or lesser charges even as more states continue to legalize. Is this a conversation for Ladies of Paradise?
In the cannabis industry, people are really holding people accountable. Do we get people saying that we’re just a group of white girls? Absolutely. But we try really hard to diversify… We just had an event called Conversations, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to the ACLU [and the legal fees] for these two men who were incarcerated for [the possession of] two joints for the rest of their lives with no parole. We’ve written letters back and forth, and it’s literally the most insane thing I’ve ever experienced—you sit down and read these letters and you’re like, “Wow, this is so unjust. How am I able to sit here and make money… and this man’s in jail for the rest of his life?” I think that the cannabis industry has a great opportunity to do things better than other industries have. And people are looking to [Ladies of Paradise] as this new, cool outlet, so we cannot just be representing white girls. I want to involve everyone. I want everyone to feel like they can come and have fun with us.
In particular, your team sources from female farmers and shines a spotlight on other women in cannabis. Why are women at the forefront of your mission?
I mean, I’ve been an entrepreneur for a minute now and I never get taken seriously. Trolls on Instagram say, like, “Oh, the boys wouldn’t let you play the games so you had to start your own game? Poor little girls.” Like, yeah, you wouldn’t fucking let us play. So yeah we did, that’s exactly right. All of our marketing is directed towards women because cannabis is never traditionally marketed towards women. We’ve been neglected, you know. I think coming from a small town and then moving here and learning so much, I’m just going to be loud about it.
When you’re traveling for work between farms or out of state, what do you always bring with you?
CBD obviously I can take to other states, and that’s something I never leave home without. One of my favorite things ever is an inhaler—it has different herbs in there plus CBD, and I’ve never had anything work so fast. If I’m having an anxiety attack, I just, like, go off alone and smell it for a little bit, so it always goes in my purse. I love tinctures because you can take them on planes, on trains, driving. I have different CBD tinctures, like face serums and body butter. I always bring a nug tool, it’s basically the Swiss army knife of weed and drug use. I always [bring] a disposable camera every time I go on trips. I’ve been reading this book on lucid dreaming and it’s all I can think and talk about lately, so I bring my dream journal. I really love to read things that are inspiring, and self-help. I just really want to live the best, happiest life ever.
- 1Nug Tools Nuggy Hybrid, $29.99
- 2Nalgene 32oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle in Pomegranate, $11.54
- 3VidaKush Fuck You, Be Kind Nameplate Necklace, $54
- 4420 Science X-Large UV Screw-Top No Bad Trips cannister, $23.99
- 5Trades of Hope Expedition Journal, $36
- 6Make & Mary Calm inhaler with cannabis essential oil and terpenes, $22
- 7Haus of Giobbi & Ladies of Paradise Collab Silky Shirt, $90
- 8Ladies of Paradise Beanie, $26
- 9Fujifilm disposable camera, $15.99
- 10You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, $8.99
- 11Double Blind Magazine, $12
- 12White Fox Nectars CBD Tranquility Tinctures 300MG, $55
- 13Ladies of Paradise Lady Jays Pre-Rolls
- 14Ladies of Paradise Day Trip Cartridges on Kandypens base