Alice Campbell has short, platinum blond hair, a penchant for stripes and polka dots, a strong sunglasses game and a thing for bright red lipstick.
Onscreen, her husband, Clark, favors flannels and allover print camp shirts, which are often coordinated to slightly complement Alice’s outfits. His eyeglasses and short-cropped brown hair give him a just-this-side-of-nerdy vibe.
The Campbells — she’s 29, he’s 33 — make cannabis-themed videos, which they post on YouTube.
Their ebullient, energetic banter and couple-at-cocktail-party vibe — whether they’re test-driving a THC-infused pizza or livestreaming their cannabis-themed “Little Shop of Horrors” couples Halloween costume — telegraphs that they’re fun, authentic, relatable and approachable.
That relatability is one of the reasons their YouTube channel That High Couple, which marked its fifth anniversary last month, is closing in on 100,000 subscribers.
That might seem like small potatoes (make that “small nugs”) compared to some of the streaming platform’s other high-profile cannabis content creators. Haley420, for example, covers a lot of the same topics and has notched more than 850,000 followers since 2009, and the cannabis-themed channel of horticulturist and author Jorge Cervantes has racked up 213,000 subscribers since 2010. But the Campbells see the 100,000 number as a symbolic benchmark that could pave the way for endorsement deals, branded merchandise and weed-themed travel tours.
Their YouTube channel (which currently has 91,400 subscribers, a companion Instagram account @thathighcouple has 31,400 followers) keys into the same enthusiasm for cannabis that brought the couple together shortly after Alice arrived in Los Angeles from Coronado in 2012 (Clark had arrived two years earlier from Cartersville, Ga.). Later it was one of the shared interests that convinced them to say, “I do.” They married in December 2018.
“We met on OkCupid,” Alice said. “One of the [profile] questions was, ‘Are you 420 friendly?’ And, of course, I said, ‘Yes!’ Another question was, ‘Do you want to filter out messages from people who aren’t 420 friendly?’ And I said yes to that too!”
Messages from Clark started landing in her account shortly thereafter, and the rest is history. (Their first date involved a fully packed bong, a pizza and her favorite movie — “Rango” — on the TV.)
Hosting what feels like an intimate, ongoing video diary from the couch of their 420-square-foot, wood-paneled Hollywood apartment they’ve dubbed the Dabbin’ Cabin (smoking THC concentrates is known as dabbing), they embark on the kind of adventures that pique the curiosity of cannabis consumers.
Wondering what it would be like to smoke weed once an hour for 24 straight hours? They’ve done it.
Thinking about growing a pot plant in your kitchen? They’ve done that too.
Are you considering trying your hand at making cannabis butter, smoking a $150 8-gram pre-rolled joint, decorating a gingerbread house with 1,000 milligrams of THC edibles or visiting a weed-themed museum? They’ve been there, done that and are eager to tell you all about it. And people searching YouTube seem equally as eager to take their advice; if you search “how to roll a joint” on the site, their four-minute and 20-second tutorial tops the result, having been viewed about 3 million times.
Like many transplants trying to gain a foothold in L.A.’s creative community, the duo embarked on a range of video projects that made use of the skills they’d learned (she’d studied photography, he’d studied marketing and theater) as well as some key insight Clark had gained after landing a job in the digital strategies space.
“I was working in SEO optimization and I got YouTube certified in audience growth,” he said. “So I started looking at what was really excelling and realized that the two things people really loved were cat videos and unboxing videos.”
The result was a short-lived YouTube channel focusing on the unboxing of pet products and featuring their cat Indy.
“Very quickly we realized how much money it cost to keep buying all those cat products,” Clark said. “And we also had a star actor that didn’t want to be on camera half the time.”
Next came a YouTube channel that leveraged another shared love — the “Star Wars” movie franchise — into online children’s content (the latter of which Clark had noticed was also popular on the streaming video platform) using action figures and stop-motion techniques.
That lasted all of three months.
“I remember at one point being in Griffith Park on the hottest day of July sweating and trying to hold on to these ‘Star Wars’ toys and thinking this isn’t worth it,” he said. “No one was paying us to do this, and we just weren’t passionate enough about it.”
What they were plenty passionate about was marijuana, and in the run-up to California’s era of legal weed (recreational-use sales began in the Golden State in 2018), the couple — both medical marijuana cardholders (she for anxiety, he for sleep issues) — had found themselves exploring the wild, wild west of weed: experimenting with new products as they hit the market, attending weed-themed events and getting to know the movers and shakers who were shaping SoCal’s cannabis landscape.
Legal sales of recreational marijuana in Arizona started Friday, a once-unthinkable step in the former conservative stronghold.
“We looked online to see what other YouTube channels were covering weed and we didn’t see any couples out there,” Alice said.
“Well, except for Cheech and Chong,” Clark added.
”So we were like, ‘OK, we’re a couple. We could do that,’” Alice said. “We have access to events here in L.A. We have access to some of the best weed anywhere in the world, and we’ve got lots of things to smoke it out of. We’re not experts, but we’re educated and passionate and enthusiastic enough that we could do it consistently.”
That’s an important consideration no matter what the topic is, according to Clark, whose day job focuses on helping YouTubers leverage their fame into stardom and income. (He’s a digital strategic manager for a multichannel network that represents social media influencers.)
“The whole thing that I knew about YouTube is it’s about consistency,” he said. “It’s not about what’s the next viral hit. It’s about whether or not you can upload something every single week for several weeks. That’s why we’ve tried to upload something every single week for the past five years. We’ve missed a couple of weeks, but that’s it.”
For the first two years, the channel, which had started as the High Hipsters but became That High Couple after they got engaged, grew steadily to 28,976 subscribers, buoyed by the Campbells’ passionate approach to pot and their understanding of YouTube algorithms. But no relationship — not even one forged in the crucible of cannabis consumption — is completely without drama.
In early 2018, Alice and Clark very unexpectedly found their labor of love in genuine peril. “It was the night before [stoner holiday] 4/20,” Clark said, “And we got three strikes in a row [from YouTube] within five minutes of each other with no chance to appeal, and our account was just gone.”
Clark said that, under normal circumstances, if YouTube perceives a violation of the site’s community guidelines (there are more than a dozen touching on topics such as nudity, hate speech and cyberbullying), it issues a warning, known as a strike, to the channel’s owners, who have a right to appeal. Channels that earn three such strikes over a 90-day period can be terminated.
“We’d gotten strikes on the channel before for things like putting links in our posts, which you can’t do if it’s to a cannabis-related business,” Clark said. “But all of sudden we got three strikes in a row on three different videos, and our account was suspended. We appealed it like crazy, but it took a month of emails before we were fully back.”
He said in this instance YouTube was vague about how That High Couple had run afoul of community guidelines, but in an effort to avoid being kicked off the platform permanently, the Campbells decided to delete the first two years’ worth of content (some of which has since been re-uploaded) and start fresh, making sure their content moving forward was labeled as age-restricted. (Recreational cannabis is legal in California for those 21 and over.)
Three months after what Alice considers the darkest days in their channel’s history, That High Couple was back on the couch in the Dabbin’ Cabin beaming a “State of the Union Sesh” out to their fan base. Even now, nearly three years later, the possibility that the channel will be suspended still looms large.
In response to The Times’ inquiry about the 2018 incident, a YouTube representative said that the channel had been terminated in error and reinstated, but in response to questions about the streaming platform’s attitude toward cannabis content, the person pointed to the site’s policy on harmful or dangerous content, which includes a section on drug use.
That’s cold comfort to That High Couple. “We’ve had strikes on the channel since then for the same sort of vague reason,” Alice said. “So if YouTube’s excuse is that it’s just an error, then they keep making the same error over and over again — with our channel and other cannabis channels that are also in the same boat. What I wish they’d said is, ‘It’s a mistake, and we’re fixing it in our fine print.’”
Clark has a hunch that the strikes — both in 2018 and since — may have something to do with the use of artificial intelligence to make the call. “A human might say it’s an error, but if the system keeps putting the error forward, I feel like that’s still what’s preventing us from seeing this as a real, long-term viable thing.”
Since the setback of the weedpocalypse, That High Couple (the initials spell THC, which is also the abbreviation of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis) has steadily grown their subscriber base and their influence in the cannabis space. But they say they’re still at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to monetizing their side hustle.
“So many full-time YouTubers have the benefit of being able to collect [Google] AdSense money as well as through links,” Alice said. “But with cannabis, you can’t do any of that. None of our content can be monetized [that way] because it’s not federally legal. So that makes it challenging to be a cannabis content creator.”
Deprived of affiliate-link and AdSense income, most of the money they make comes from the brands that hire them to feature their products or services in Instagram posts ($100 and up) or YouTube videos (starting at around $1,000). In addition, they net about $200 a month from their presence on the crowd-funded platform Patreon.
They won’t divulge exactly how much their efforts bring in but did share that it has allowed them to keep upgrading their camera equipment as well as salt away a little bit of money to travel, which is another passion they share.
Cannabis delivery service Emjay, which launched in L.A. in early 2019, has tapped them several times, including having the Campbells reprise their joint-rolling tutorial for the site’s Bluntly blog.
“They’re very thorough,” said Adam Mead, Emjay’s director of growth. “The piece they did that reviewed our delivery service went above and beyond. They brought a camera out and interviewed a courier. They reviewed every single product they got and they’re really committed to answering people’s questions. That was the first time we’d worked with them and we were like, ‘Wow!’ They’re also a good resource whether you’ve been smoking weed for a while and want to learn about a new brand or if you’re brand-new [to cannabis].”
Timothy Cotter-Patenaude, marketing director for West Hollywood-based Grenco Science, maker of smoking accessories such as the G Pen line of vaporizers and Stündenglass gravity bongs, was similarly impressed by the stoner couple holding court on their couch.
“Before I got to know Alice and Clark, I didn’t realize they both had full-time jobs,” Cotter-Patenaude said. “By the way they carried themselves, I just assumed they were YouTubers full-time because of how they were running the channel. You know when their videos are going to drop. Their title cards look professional, and they’re really good at SEO. They were doing it exceptionally better than most cannabis influencers.”
He said that there is something else that made That High Couple unique.
“They’re just authentically kind of telling you their experience and they’re genuinely excited. And they just really both are unbelievably passionate about cannabis, and it just comes through,” he said. “For some other influencers, it’s more about a style and a look than a personality. But these guys are the full package. They have a great aesthetic, two great personalities and professionalism. That’s about as unicorn as it gets.”
Cotter-Patenaude was so taken with That High Couple’s social media chops that in September 2019 he hired Alice, who had been working as a photographer in the L.A. offices of luxury fashion website Farfetch, to be Grenco Science’s director of social media.
“Having a full-time job in the cannabis industry was something I dreamed could happen, but I never really expected it whatsoever,” Alice said. “But now I can check that goal off my list. I actually have my dream job. Now I feel like getting Clark into the cannabis industry full-time as well as being able to work on the channel full-time are the next goals.”
To achieve those goals — particularly turning their brand into a full-time, income-generating gig — the couplesay two things need to happen. The first is getting the channel to hit the 100,000-subscriber mark. The second is meaningful change in the federal government’s stance on cannabis, which currently classifies it as an illegal Schedule I drug.
For the first time since launching the channel on Jan. 31, 2016, those things seem possible.
“It took us four years to hit 50,000, which we did in January of 2020,” Clark said. “And then it took us just six months to hit 60,000. This January we’re over 89,000 and, based on our tracking, we’ll probably hit 100,000 on 4/20 of this year. That’s been a goal for the last five years.”
He said part of that recent growth spike mirrors a broader increase in traffic for all kinds of streaming content as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s not a magic number, but it’s definitely leveling up,” Clark said. “Once we get a big enough community, we can start thinking about what That High Couple means as a brand. We can flip the camera and start thinking about all those other high couples out there. What kind of merch would they be excited about? What are they interested in buying?”
The biggest game-changer would be action at the federal level. “I feel like the Sword of Damocles could be cut right above us,” Clark said. “I have no idea how far away federal legalization is, but my biggest fear, which is the fear of anyone trying to build a career as a cannabis content creator with YouTube as their main platform, is that we could lose everything tomorrow.”
I feel like the Sword of Damocles could be cut right above us
With the new administration and Democratic control of the House and Senate, there’s at least a glimmer of hope that change could come via executive or legislative action. In a history-making December vote, the House passed a measure to federally decriminalize marijuana, although it ultimately died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.
In an interview the day after Inauguration Day last month, Alice and Clark hinted at where they might take That High Couple if federal laws ease.
“We’ve always loved Anthony Bourdain, and he was one of our biggest inspirations when we started the channel,” Alice said. “So being able to be kind of an Anthony Bourdain of weed couple — doing some kind of travel, educational, experiential thing — is definitely a goal.”
“I would truly enjoy putting our brand on some kind of [THC-]infused picnic,” Clark added. “Maybe have a That High Couple picnic blanket to go along with it. That could be cool.”
Cotter-Patenaude thinks they’re well positioned to do that and more. “Five years from now I could see 500,000 people watching them,” he said. “They could sell their own merch. They could have That High Couple-selected strains [of cannabis]. They could be doing this full-time. It’s definitely possible. And if any YouTubers are going to be able to figure it out, I would bet on them.”
This content was originally published here.