How Koala Puffs Became The Queen Of Cannabis Content: Unpacking Her Journey From Skeptic To Viral Sensation

“We need to see more women in power: more women included in conversations; more women included in the decision-making; diversity in every type of way,” says Anjela. Her words, filled with conviction, offer a glimpse into her journey, one that made her not only a celebrated cannabis influencer but also a staunch advocate for equality and diversity in the cannabis realm.

Known to her legion of more than one million followers as Koala Puffs, Anjela has taken the world of cannabis by storm after emigrating from Ukraine to the U.S., forging a connection with a community that resonates with her genuine, relatable and often humorous content. But behind the smoke and mirrors of social media, Anjela’s journey is deeply transformative and inspiring.

From Disbeliever To Advocate

“I used to be very against cannabis actually,” Anjela reminisces, sharing a surprising confession from one of the industry’s top influencers. However, a singular positive experience sparked her interest in exploring the cannabis world further.

“Cannabis actually made my relationship with my mom a lot stronger than it was before. When I first started smoking, she wasn’t very supportive of the idea which posed a challenge for me as it wasn’t something I was going to stop doing. We ended up bonding over discussing cannabis and she even ended up being open to trying it,” Anjela shares.

For her, the distinction between recreational and medicinal uses of cannabis is key to understanding the plant: “Just like some people have a beer after a hard day at work, I will smoke to let loose or relax after a hard day. But at the same time, it’s also medicinal for me. I used to have trouble eating even when I was a kid and now I use cannabis to help regulate my appetite.”

But her exploration of plant medicine didn’t stop there; psychedelics, like mushrooms, played a pivotal role in her evolution as well, aiding her in personal decision-making and self-awareness. “Mushrooms help me a lot. They make me realize I can make these decisions for myself and not for anyone else,” she voices.

Navigating the cultural crossroads of cannabis and traditional substances like alcohol, Anjela offers a candid comparison: “When I smoke I definitely feel more relaxed; when I drink alcohol, sometimes I can feel on edge and the next day I feel miserable and unsure of any drunk decisions. But when you smoke, you usually just eat some munchies and go to sleep with no hangover or guilt the next day.”

Anjela, The Entrepreneur

Beyond her personal journey, Anjela’s collaboration with TRP (a cannabis retail, cultivation and distribution platform) on the launch of her own brand stands as a testament to her expansive reach. “I’ve seen them do other collaborations and thought we would be a good fit. They have some amazing people on their team who know exactly what they’re doing,” she explains.

Diving deep into the heart of the Koala Puffs brand, Anjela shares insights into her curation process, a blend of intuition and passion: “I actually blind taste test all of the flower samples. So there are no strain names or anything else to signify what I’m smoking. I like to test them blindly so I can pick the best strains that give me the best experience during my sesh.”

Anjela, The Activitst

As the conversation moves toward the broader landscape of the cannabis industry, Anjela’s passionate stance on representation becomes evident. “Everyone looks at a situation differently, and that’s why we need diversity. Everyone has different backgrounds, different lifestyles, and different experiences. That doesn’t make anyone less than someone else; it just gives them a different point of view.”

In her view, cannabis consumers are often misunderstood, beyond their identity. “The most common misconception about stoners is that we’re lazy. When I started smoking I really discovered my creative side and started thinking outside of the box and doing more things,” she continues, tackling prevailing stereotypes surrounding cannabis consumers. “It also helps me see a different point of view. Alcohol is bad for you but it gets praised. When I smoke I can still do things normally.”

Anjela, The Stoner

Offering a candid glimpse into her personal consumption habits, Anjela admits, “I smoke a lot, more than the average person but I also listen to my body. If I’m with people and they’re passing me the blunt but I’m already at a good level, I will pass on smoking more. This is sometimes hard when I’m at an event as everyone sees me as ‘Koala Puffs’ and they expect me to be smoking a lot even though I don’t need another puff because I’m already at a good level.”

Yet, she cautions newcomers. “Make sure you are in a comfortable environment and that you’re with someone (or multiple people) that you feel comfortable around. Don’t do it at a party to try to look cool, as you might overdo it and have a bad experience your first time… and then you’ll have a negative view of cannabis. Make sure to pace yourself as well. You can take one puff or a small piece of an edible and see how that feels. You can always smoke or eat more but you can’t go backwards,” she assures.

Anjela’s fervor becomes palpable when she speaks on the topic of advocacy, emphasizing the vital need for cannabis legalization. “You drink as much as you can, and I will smoke as much as I can and let’s see who taps out first. Cannabis can make you feel good and at most it might make you really hungry for some snacks and then you’ll fall asleep. If you drink alcohol excessively, you will most likely feel like crap and be hungover the next day. And it’s usually drunk people who become aggressive or want to fight when they’re too intoxicated. I just fall asleep and take a nap when I’m too high.”

Switching gears to a lighter topic, when asked about her dream cannabis companion, Anjela’s answer is instant. “Miley Cyrus,” she says, her eyes sparkling. “I feel like she’d be a fun person to have a smoke sesh and a fun conversation.”

Anjela, The Educator

Reflecting on her journey and her astounding success on platforms like Instagram, Anjela’s humility is evident. “I honestly think I just got lucky. I was posting cannabis content back when Instagram was allowing more cannabis content on their platform. I was relatable because a lot of people smoke by themselves or have never seen anyone else post about cannabis content and it makes them feel good that their love of cannabis is shared and talked about publicly.”

Despite her accolades and massive following, Anjela remains grounded in her mission, envisioning a future where the cannabis industry and influencers join hands in disseminating accurate information. “We are so censored on platforms; if we could speak freely about this plant, there would be so much more information out there for everyone.”

“I grew up in Ukraine, where kids were drinking alcohol at the age of 12 and that was completely normal. But since I had information about alcohol and it was accessible to me, it made me less curious. But products that are taboo such as cannabis, make people more curious and there’s a lot of disinformation out there since it’s not federally legalized yet,” she adds.

With a heart dedicated to advocacy, empowerment and truth, the conversation with Anjela serves as a masterclass in understanding the depth of the cannabis industry. “Don’t let people hold you back. Some people might not support you for posting cannabis but if that’s your passion, don’t listen to anyone but yourself. Some doors might close but you will see how many doors open when you stick to what you’re passionate about.”

As she concludes, her words on the historical injustices of the War on Drugs leave a profound impact: “Records need to be expunged for everyone who is in prison on a cannabis charge. We need it to be legalized federally.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes and appears here with permission.

Photo: Courtesy of Koala Puffs. Cover edited by El Planteo.