Culture April 21, 2017
"I sit down and introduce myself — everyone at the table is already pleasantly high and open to new friends in a way only social stoners are."
I arrive at Lifted & Gifted: A Cannabis Tasting Experience, already lightly stoned. It is 4/20, after all, and dinner doesn’t start until 8:45. I’ve spent 420 writing, smoking a bowl at 4:25 (I was running late) and going to my favorite hip hop dance class, where the instructor played a special 420 mix. This is why I moved to Los Angeles.
The tasting party is held in Downtown, Los Angeles and I open the door to find four rows of long, white plastic tables decorated with candles. The good-looking crowd of about a hundered people is diverse — both in age and race — though the majority of them appear to be in their 30s and 40s. They’ve paid close to a hundred dollars for their ticket to pair vapes with food (plus lots of samples from sponsors), and while recreational marijuana is now legal in California, this is still the first 420 where everyone knows they really, truly, aren’t doing anything illegal.
Everyone is celebrating and it smells fantastic.
I see Enrico Moses, the Millennial co-founder of High Standards (the new cannabis lifestyle agency that is running the event) and give him a hug. We’ve only met once, at another cannabis party he threw, but I feel like I’ve known him longer. He recommends places I can go dancing in LA (I suggest they throw a cannabis dance party; he assures me it’s in the works), and we end up talking about the work he’s doing outside the cannabis space to help mentor young men and connect entrepreneurs — you know, in all his spare time. I ask where he recommends I sit.
“Everyone here is cool,” Enrico tells me. “Some media and influencers, but also just lots of people who found it in listings for events and bought tickets … but that’s a pretty good table over there.” I look over and see a very good-looking couple, along with another seemingly nice man and woman. Sold.
I sit down and introduce myself — everyone at the table is already pleasantly high and open to new friends in a way only social stoners are. The absurdly good-looking couple, Monty and Dawn, is friendly. Originally from New Orleans, they now live in Hollywood. Dawn, who looks too captivating to not be somehow famous, is happy and chatty from the weed — “I love to smoke. But I don’t that often, so my tolerance is low.”
I ask them why they came to the dinner.
“We were going to go to another party where the cannabis was infused in the food, but it got cancelled last minute. So we heard about this one and came here,” Dawn says.
“That’s good. Sometimes you can end up too high at infused dinners because it’s so hard to gauge and doesn’t hit you till later. Plus, this way you can taste the different strains better,” I say, a sudden amateur expert.
“We also just want to meet new people, see how people are consuming cannabis now and what’s happening in this cannabis space,” Monty says.
“Totally. That’s the best part of these parties – the people you meet,” I say.
It’s true. Each time I go to a cannabis event, the networking happens organically and easily — business is booming, and there’s room for anyone to become involved.
As if on cue, Derek, the founder and publisher of the cannabis site Civilized.life, sits down next to me, and we start talking about writing opportunities. I remember what a woman from Kiva Confections once told me at the Cannabis Feminist Women’s Circle: if you ever want to find work, just go to a cannabis event and the work will find you.
It’s 9 p.m., and everyone is high and hungry. They pass the first vapes out, along with sanitizing wipes for the mouthpieces, since we don’t know each other like that yet.
“It’s funny. You’d never think about sanitizing a joint, but it’s a good idea,” Derek says.
Finally, the salad comes out. It doesn’t look like anything fancy, but the blueberry dressing is meant to echo the blueberry notes in our Blue Dream strain.
I take a puff, taste the salad. The combination does taste great, though it’s hard to tell whether that has more to do with the fact that I’ve been somewhat stoned for hours, went to an exercise class and still haven’t had dinner.
Everyone is happy munching on their salad and as I talk more with Dawn, I find out she’s a former member of Danity Kane, now doing her own thing as just “Dawn.” (I look her up later and she has a million Instagram followers.) On the other hand, Monty is a filmmaker. And as we talk, I find out they are both vegan – just like me. What are the odds? In this kind of room, it’s hard to say.
The second course is unfortunately beef, but a vegan option has been provided for the three of us – a combination of potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn, and pesto. It’s tasty (though the portion is a bit small for my appetite) and is paired with Lemon OG, which does bring out some citrus notes. As the organizers introduce the second course to the crowd, another table-mate with curly hair starts coughing loudly off the vape and we all suppress our giggles, like kids in the middle of math class.
Having overheard our conversation about veganism, the curly-haired guy at the table stares at his plate of beef guiltily.
“I wish I had known there was a vegetarian/vegan option,” he says. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going vegetarian or vegan. Had I known, I would have eaten it instead.” Dawn, Monty and I chime in, encouraging him to give it a shot with all our stoned enthusiasm.
I make a note to myself to talk to High Standards about what he said, along with the idea of keeping more of their meals veg in the interest of inclusivity, sustainability, peace, love, health, cost and not killing the buzz of their non-animal eating guests. What’s cool is that I know he will receive the feedback and probably even incorporate it.
That’s the thing about cannabis events in this new, legal landscape — everyone is figuring it out as they go along, and everyone seems remarkably open to suggestions, kind and generous. Blame it on the THC.
Dessert is served and, unfortunately for me and my munchies, it’s not vegan. Nothing left for them to eat, Dawn and Monty peace out before I can strategize my way into getting to hang out with them again. Oh well, it’s all good. Everything and everyone’s chill.
I spot the founder of HippoTreats, Malcolm, who I briefly met at another cannabis party High Standards helped organize. I compliment him on his product. I’ve had his 10 mg treats a couple of times now at concerts and they are always the perfect amount of delicious buzz — not too much, not too little.
“That’s the whole idea – to enhance the experience but not overpower it.” Malcolm lives in San Francisco and we get to talking about how the industry is exploding — how he should come down to LA more for events like this, but also how much is happening in The Bay. We talk about the commercialization of weed — how large growers with well-packaged, slick products are popping up left and right, giving away free eighths at events.
“A lot of large operations that were working illegally and have all these products are now transitioning over to legal businesses. Once they get right with the federal government, there will be no stopping them,” Malcolm says.
“That’s good, I guess – the tax revenue and all that … but it’s also kind of sad how commercial everything will get.”
“It’s what happens to every industry. I want to be bought by Nabisco or something some day.”
“But you guys are so little and artisanal. Not Nabisco!”
“Nah, it’s how it works for everything. You know Tom’s toothpaste? They’re owned by Kraft.” (I look it up later — they’re actually owned by Colgate, but he has a point.) “Look, I want to retire and eventually not have to work.”
“We have the same dream,” I say. I’m contemplative, fighting with my lightly-stoned state to remember what we’re talking about so I can write it down later. This is proving to be a real challenge of reporting on the cannabis industry.
Malcolm goes on to tell me about the community art initiative he works on in his spare time, also helping empower underserved kids. Do all these cannabis business owner guys volunteer? And how are they so productive?
I start chatting with two other women, one of whom kind of looks like Rita Wilson. Her hair is blown out, she’s wearing a thick diamond ring and this is her first cannabis tasting party. She is in a great mood and is “very stoned,” imitating a british accent and generally being silly with the entire table. She tells me she usually smokes twice a week when she’s not working and not at all when she is. She does reality TV casting. This is what legalization in LA also looks like.
HippoTreats are passed out and we’re encouraged to check out the tasting lounge. There, THC Design, one of the largest operations out there, hands out samples as well as dabs. There’s a table with cannabis-infused almond butter and coconut oil by Akana Westing “Spreadable Edibles.”
I speak with a woman who works for the company — she also lived in New York and left, over four years ago.
“Yeah, I have no regrets yet,” I tell her of my move five months ago. “Plus, it’s really cool to see what’s happening here in the cannabis space and where this will go.”
“No regrets,” she answers. It’s gonna be dope.
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