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"Botanical Horror" Dinner Party Is Proof that Cannabis is a Gateway Plant

A large flower wreath encircling an oversized, eerie blue eye looms over the entrance to a brick mansion in Los Angeles, offering a spooky invite into a "botanical horror" dinner party — The Flowering of the Strange Orchid. A collaboration between Disco Dining Club and The Grim Wreather, the soirée is at once campy, yet luxurious, a celebration of the orchid and the beauty of plants. 

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Courtesy of Hot Lemon Productions/@bruceseidel

At the front door, a thin butler with a powdery white face extends a chilling welcome, while behind him, two mimes dressed as flowers gesture curiously at guests. Everyone's decked out in wigs, sequins, lace, and yes, flowers. 

mime twoAnother actor, dressed also as a flower, sashays through the crowd, hissing strange musings into unexpecting ears. "The flowers might even be on your plate," she whispers. "Eat...all...the flowers."

mime walking

In the backyard, flowers and fauna adorn long dinner tables set for 50. The grassy yard is dark, save for some moonlight, flickering candles, and the dim of pink chandeliers that hang from the skeleton of a greenhouse. Psychedelic projections flash at a large orchid at the front of the yard, beckoning guests to come inside for a peek. And at the back end, a tarot reader in a jeweled face mask lounges on golden cushions, aptly next to a translucent bong, sparkling beneath the dappled glimmer of a disco ball.

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A neon sign glows nearby: Consume. Such is the motto of Disco Dining Club, to "Consume Everything" — a call to partygoers to relish in the evening's opulence, to indulge in its delicacies (both culinary and chemical), and to embrace the experience wholeheartedly (even when hostess Courtney Nichols offers fried crickets on a dainty glass tray).

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Courtesy of Hot Lemon Productions/@bruceseidel

Elegant, hedonistic, and a little bit kitschy, the plant-themed party fits well into the vogue of California 2018, where legal cannabis and plant-based diets inform the zeitgeist. The evening's raison d'être is to explore the "symbiotic relationship between man and flower." Inspired by H.G. Wells' novel, The Flowering of a Strange Orchid, in which he writes, "The buying of orchids always has in it a certain speculative flavor," the motif encourages among guests, a deep appreciation of plants.


"We wanted a lush, decadent interpretation of the Halloween season to elevate the experience," says Nichols, founder of Disco Dining Club. "[Plants] allow the dinner table to take on this life beyond itself. Literally, as if the walls could talk, all these plants are listening to you. They're about to sit down at the dinner table with you and that's the world we wanted to dabble in."


The focus on plants plays into Nichols' "Consume Everything" tagline, as well. "The particular communication between plants and humans happens more explicitly when under the influence of plant-derived psychedelics," says Andy Alexander, founder of The Grim Wreather. Throughout history, people have used flowers and herbs to ritualistically connect to other people and to a higher spirit. "The concept of working with plants and botanicals was a generous concept in the sense that everyone has a relationship to that," says Alexander.

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Courtesy of Lynora Valdez 

In the age of state-legal cannabis, more and more people are connecting to the plant kingdom through entry points like CBD. "It has created space for the conversation of plant medicine to take shape in a national and international way that we have never seen before," says Gabe Kennedy, co-founder of CBD company Plant People. "With that comes the opportunity to de-stigmatize cannabis by also exploring and celebrating other plants that hold similar properties."

The integration of CBD, among cannabis and other botanical foods/medicines, evokes the intersection of modern science and timeless plant wisdom, Kennedy explains. From therapeutic and agricultural perspectives, plants like cannabis can remediate individuals' health and regenerate the environment. "Hemp is effective for carbon sequestration," he points out. As a crop, it can pull excess carbon from the air, while also functioning as a bio-accumulator to leach toxins from the earth.

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Courtesy of Hot Lemon Productions/@bruceseidel

"There's a movement of reclaiming the health of our bodies, communities, and our planet because a lot of the systems that are supposed to be taking care of us have failed," Kennedy says. "Our healthcare system is broken, so we're turning back to these traditional remedies, and the reality is, the proof is in the pudding. They work."

By providing a non-psychoactive cannabis experience, CBD offers a gentle invite into getting to know the cannabis plant as a whole. And cannabis, rather than acting as a gateway drug, in fact serves as a gateway plant, introducing consumers to a lifestyle that integrates plants (both cannabis and other herbs) into medicine, wellness, beauty regimes, diet, and socializing.

"I think alcohol has been the main social lubricant, and there are a lot of people who that didn't appeal to," says Emily Anderson, founder of Plant Based Collective, which hosts outdoor events celebrating cannabis and other plants. "Now with cannabis more at the forefront, there are events where people can go and drinking isn't a priority."

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Courtesy of Hot Lemon Productions/@bruceseidel

Just by being involved in the cannabis space, Anderson says she's learned to integrate other herbs and flowers into her wellness routine, such as damiana, rose, sage, mullen, and lavender to make tea, essential oils, or in herbal smoking blends. 

"There's this idea that wellness or self-care is a privileged or entitled thing to have, but you don't have to have a lot of money to incorporate some of these things into your routine," she says. "It's a lifestyle shift."

And it's a cultural shift — plant-themed parties like The Flowering of the Strange Orchid only reflect and further perpetuate it. Through a gamut of plant-based wellness rituals, the rise in plants as home decorations, and further evidence that cannabis works in treating everything from epilepsy to PMS, plants have come to play a larger role in society. Perhaps, they may even regain the reverence humanity had once held for them from the beginning of time. 


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