As I hiked up the long driveway to a massive private estate in Hollywood, I wondered if this was, indeed, what the future of cannabis will look like. The party was billed as such: “The Future of Cannabis: Industry leaders, Investors, and Influencers.” And it was being held as a sort of VIP celebration during the Cannabis Health Summit in Los Angeles.
That day, the summit had seen classes like “Cannabis for Neurodegenerative Diseases” and “Cannabis Plant Chemistry Masterclass.” But this evening, people had come to party.
The dress code was “California casual chic,” and that’s exactly what exuded from the crowd backlit by the panoramic sunset. It was the first open bar I’d seen at a cannabis event, where alcohol often seems purposefully excluded. Lest you think this was a normal party, however, Keef Cola was also on offer, and guests were already sipping on the 10mg THC bottles. I walked up to a young woman sipping on one, a successful food blogger.
“How is it?”
“It’s really good actually, like a not-too-sweet lemon seltzer. They told me to just drink a third of it and see how I feel in 15 minutes.”
“Yeah, 10 mg is a lot for some people — how’s your tolerance?”
“Pretty low.” I hoped she and the other guests were starting slow. The crowd was clearly mixed — people in the cannabis industry and those on the periphery — media, investors, and the sort of Hollywood types that seem vaguely wealthy and famous.
When waiters began handing out THC-infused appetizers, it became clear why the event was billed as “Uber-only” — this fancy neighborhood clearly only had permit parking, and these people were about to get baked.
Potato puffs, gazpacho, and vegan “Poke” bowls were on offer -- all at 1mg THC a pop. “Virgin” versions were being served as well -- and were disappearing quicker than the infused snacks. Perhaps because people were trying to pace themselves. There's always an abundance of riches at these cannabis events — you couldn’t give all the weed away if you wanted to.
I headed to a back patio, where a woman I know from a Cannabis Feminist Circle was womaning the Kiva Confections counter. For sample were Kiva’s dark chocolate-covered espresso beans (5 mg each) as well as their Petra mints in eucalyptus and green tea flavors (2.5 mg each).
“Microdosing is the future of cannabis consumption,” my friend told me. “I know someone who’s a higher-up at [leading tech company] who says he microdoses every day. He said if [leading tech company] drug-tested at work, they’d lose half their staff -- that it makes him better at his job.” This is a new target market for certain cannabis brands — make a product so subtle that consumers can take it at work. I asked the co-founder of Kiva, who was standing next to us, whether she microdoses every day.
“No, not me. It’s still a little much for me at work — it’s a weekend thing. I’ll say like two things that are a little funny when I take them — I’ll be like, ‘Oh that was a Petra statement.’ I even took one going to IKEA the other day, and that turned out not to be a good idea.”
“Do you think there’s any risk to microdosing every day, like dependency-wise?” I asked.
“Yeah, you need to take a break and reset every few days,” my friend said. “It’s interesting — I just got back from the Psychedelic Science conference, and when I talked about cannabis, like 90 percent of people were all about it in that community — but 10 percent were like, no that’s not for me — and they’re worried about the addictive aspect. What is it? Like eight percent of cannabis users become addicted?”
Some say as many as one in six people become addicted to marijuana, but the numbers are highly-debated — as is exactly what constitutes marijuana dependence.
“What I love about the idea of microdosing cannabis,” my friend continued, “is that it could teach self-healing and mindfulness. Because a doctor won’t tell you what dose to take. You have to pay attention to your body, and see what dose is right for you. It could make people take charge of their health and be more conscious consumers, rather than just popping pills.”
That got me thinking of my own experience. Certainly, in some ways cannabis has made me much more conscious of my mind and body. But I've also sometimes used it as an escape. I'd even asked my partner to hide the Kiva mints from me months earlier because it was too easy to “pop a mint” and have a light buzz all the time. I suppose that was me becoming "conscious" of the trouble I was having with self-regulating. But as more and more people try cannabis, and methods of consuming become evermore stealth, how will consumers figure out what mindful use looks like for them — and when they’ve crossed over into dependence?
After excusing myself from the Kiva Confections counter, I went into the room with the DJ, where a ponytailed man was carefully rolling a joint on the table.
“Old school, I like it.”
“Yeah, I just like smoking weed you know? I’m a spliff man, always have been. The ritual of it, there’s nothing else like it.” His name's Kevin Jodrey, one of the most well-known growers in Humboldt County, who made the transition from illegal to legal work when medicinal marijuana came to California. He’d served time before that.
“Having been in this world so long, what’s the main thing you’re worried to see change about cannabis culture moving forward?” I asked him.
“— Excuse me,” a woman interrupted us. “There’s no smoking inside here.”
“Oh, I know, I’m just rolling,” Kevin answered good-naturedly.
“I guess there’s your answer?” I joked.
“Nah, what I’m worried about is all the people in Humboldt, where their jobs will go. You have thousands of people who’ve made their living off this for decades. Now that it’s all being consolidated into larger corporations, where will they work? If I had to estimate, only 10 percent of those people will be employed once this really gets started.”
‘What are you most excited about?”
“How this might affect racial views in society. Everyone is so divided now,” he said, still meticulously breaking up flowers for his joint. “What I’ve always loved most about cannabis is how it’s a social bridge — the best one. It connects people momentarily. And once the smoke is done, you can maintain that new view on life, if you want to."
And he hopes those new views will help us heal the wounds created by the War on Drugs. "We’ve had a racial war disguised as a drug war so we can privatize prisons — maybe we’ll see more now how we’re all interconnected.”
By the time Kevin finished rolling his fat joint, I was feeling famished. And I wasn't the only one. The line for the buffet was long. After a huge plate (plus seconds) of my two vegan options — broccoli and salad — I went back to the bar area, where I ended up speaking with two men who host a successful web series about cannabis culture. Then a south-Asian man approached them.
“Dude, I just have to say I love your show! Your tolerance is out of control! You should do a show just about that.” Then he began talking about his startup — a rent-a-grow-plot operation, not unlike the concept of WeWork. Money was all around me, I could feel it. There were several cannabis marketing firms present, angel investors, and new cannabis media brands I’d never heard of.
I ended up talking with the founder of one of those new websites about her 7-week old baby.
“Did you consume cannabis during the pregnancy?”
“I didn’t really because, when I had a little, the THC made me super-anxious when I was pregnant — it’s crazy. Your whole body chemistry changes.”
“We know that during ovulation women are most sensitive to THC — they know the endocannabinoid and reproductive systems are linked. They just don’t know exactly how yet,” said Alison Ettel, the founder of Treatwell, a cannabis tincture company that also caters to pets.
Stoned and talkative, the other woman detailed her birth — a five-day affair in the hospital because she wasn’t dilating.
“They had me on every drug, and I was like, this probably would have been safer with cannabis, but I hadn’t wanted to mess with it. And when I turned around to squat and push, they all stared at me — I had accidentally ripped out my epidural, and they couldn’t give me another. So I felt everything.”
I asked if she used cannabis now that she was breastfeeding.
“I do. The different doctors I talked to said only about 1 percent is probably passed onto the baby, and they have their own endocannabinoid system to process it. But it also depends how you consume it. Like, I won’t smoke now, obviously, I just take a little bit of tincture twice a day.” The infamous Jamaica Study was referenced, and I thought to myself how much more research needs to be done on this topic in America, especially now.
I excused myself to find something else I could eat — I had some serious munchies, and I wasn’t alone. A woman with collagen-infused lips, who I’d seen dancing like a flower child, grabbed me. “I’m starving! Are you starving?”
“Yes! I’m vegan, so all I had was vegetables,” I said.
“Me too! Come on, let’s get food.” In these moments, there's no difference between a drunk and high party girl, really. She took me by the arm and dragged me into the kitchen, where the chef was now packing up.
“That’s their private fridge,” the chef said, half-scolding, half amused. “I guess she has the munchies,” he said to no one in particular.
She opened and closed the fridge door. “OK, I lied. I’m not really vegan. I just … I’m going to eat this muffin.”
The waitstaff began to pack up -- and sample the THC-infused food themselves, their eyes slightly red.
I grabbed a large apple and went back outside, where I was immediately drawn into a long conversation with the host -- Kenny Griswold, the friendly, middle-aged actor and producer who also owned this large estate.
“I don’t really smoke that often, I’m a lightweight,” he said, already seemingly stoned, popping a Kiva espresso bean into his mouth.
“— Oh then don’t,” one woman tried to stop him.
“Oh, was that a lot? Ah — it’s OK.” He was in great spirits, and went on to tell me how his wife began taking CBD to treat the pain caused by her lupus. “It changed everything for her. She can sleep, she has her appetite back, she can exercise, even. I used to think medical marijuana was a scam -- just an excuse to get high. Now I see it’s real. And anyway, everyone needs to relax. Why isn’t this a respected alternative to drinking in the mix?”
“Well, it is now, I guess.”
“Yeah, but there’s still a stigma. We’re kidding ourselves if we say there isn’t a stigma still. See that guy over there?”
“He runs a cannabis extraction business, and he finally got his grandfather to start smoking because he got sick. You know what he told me?”
“There are two things that change people’s minds about marijuana: getting sick, and making money. And it’s really true.”
“It really is.”
If this party was the future of cannabis, then the future of cannabis looks a lot like the elites of Silicon Valley and Hollywood doing dabs — and the old-school grower from Humboldt County rolling a joint in the backroom, passing up the THC-infused gazpacho, still hoping Mary Jane will bring us together.