All photos by the author
Scenic Malibu, California is a beach community of fewer than 21,000 residents that offers a gorgeous Mediterranean climate and is known for A-list film stars, exotic European sports cars, and some of the most enchanting landscape vistas in the nation. On March 18, however, a private ranch just outside the city celebrated not a person or a celebrity, but rather the cannabis plant at the third annual Emerald Exchange festival.
This year’s Emerald Exchange brought together cultivators, business-owners, and advocates from throughout the Emerald Triangle — with a focus on Mendocino and Humboldt counties — in order to “showcase world class, sun-grown Northern California cannabis to the Southern California cannabis community.” On top of lectures, live performances, and workshops, approximately 500 visitors were given the opportunity to sample a variety of products from the Triangle, most of which were in the form of small-batch, sungrown flowers, concentrates, and infused drinks. Fans of shatter were happy to find a wide assortment of the potent extract, too, with golden globs of THC and CBD shared abundantly throughout the event.
“I feel like participating in the Emerald Exchange is part of my path,” said Jenny Rhae, founder of Infuzions, a small company based in Northern California’s Humboldt County that produces cannabis-infused topical products. Rhae, a Humboldt native, has had a booth at the event since it’s launch in 2015.
Even seasoned cannabis journalists were surprised by some of the rare and innovative products available at the Emerald Exchange. Chocolates, topical creams, and beer were just a few of the THC-infused treats available to try, and companies like Evoxe Laboratories exhibited their svelte and colorful vape pens, while MindTricks gave out samples of its infused toffee made with organic sugar. About 30 different businesses and cannabis organizations had booths at this year’s event in total.
“The Emerald Exchange this year has definitely been my favorite cannabis event to date,” said Katie McWilliams from Jetty Extracts, a San Diego company founded by surfers that makes infused products. “The vibes were as high as the views were beautiful,” she said.
The lectures included speakers such as Fiona Ma, the progressive politician from the California Board of Equalization, and Chris Halmo, the director of Casa Gallo, a creative agency that helps cannabis businesses. A wellness spa offered participants relaxing therapy such as massages, sound healings, and yoga sessions — complete with plenty of organic medicine.
At the end of the 12-hour festival, participants left acquainted with some of the most unusual and high-quality cannabis products currently being produced in legal states. Though small and artisanal, the event provided a model for how companies from different cities can organize together and connect with consumers outside their homebases.
“This place is magic… it changes your perspective,” said an anonymous dabber during the afterparty. Most participants agreed: The one ingredient that was more plentiful than THC at this year’s Emerald Exchange was a special type of energy, one guaranteed to bring even more cannabis lovers to Malibu next year. See more photos from the event below.