Lead photo of Jeff the 420 Chef and Robyn Griggs Lawrence. All photos by Michael Bezjian
"The Future of Cannabis" event was just that, a physical representation of the uncertain industry’s collective effort to address issues cannabis faces today, like lack of regulation and medical research, the threat of big business, and a seamless integration into the mainstream.
Hosted by acclaimed Sundance Film Festival dinner series ChefDance, weed moguls, politicians, activists, and the like gathered this past Saturday at the Toberman Estate, a historic mansion designed by the same architect behind the Chinese Theatre, overlooking the sparkling lights of Hollywood from the hills. THC-infused appetizers curated by Jeff The 420 Chef and Robyn Griggs Lawrence circulated, as guests sipped on Keef Cola, a zero calorie keef-infused beverage that takes only 15 minutes to kick in. Chef Phuong Tran, of celebrated LA restaurant Croft Alley, catered a prime rib dinner whose decadence was not lost on the freshly-buzzed crowd.
Disparate sides of the industry mingled, from Phish-head '90s dealers to brand new tech investors, research scientists to dispensary owners, and politicians to budtenders. Kiva Confections, one of cannabis’ top edible brands, pushed the concept of “microdosing” by sampling their new line of products (Terra Bites and Petra Mints), based around the notion of ingesting small doses of THC over a period of time, offering a distinctly different and more responsible method of intake on the daily than, say, dabbing in the morning. “Microdosing is especially good for people coming back to cannabis,” said Charlie Cangialosi, Kiva’s Director of Sales. “It allows them to utilize edibles without becoming overmedicated, a common issue that turns many people off.”
After dinner, the party moved to Acme Elixir’s Lounge, a lofted patio space above the mansion they’d transformed into a stoned speakeasy. Hundreds of hand-rolled joints were passed around along with Acme pens. Famed Detroit DJ House Shoes spun tranquil music in the low light. The space even included a walk-in safe that was used as a literal speakeasy during Prohibition, effectively mirroring history (but with a different substance).
Pete Pietrangeli, owner of Acme Elixirs as well as Melrose dispensary LA Confidential Caregivers, explained the importance of this kind of event: “Acme Elixirs focus is on providing the cleanest and purest liquid cannabis, while staying consistent with our roots to the cannabis scene. An event like this is crucial in the emerging industry so movie producers, actors, and other folks in entertainment looking to pivot into cannabis can understand the industry, meet brands and leaders to join forces as the industry continues to evolve.” Comedian Bryan Callan cracked jokes into the night, actor Christopher Meloni (Stabler from Law and Order SVU) kept it low-key in a Kappa hat. Steve DeAngelo, owner of Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center, chatted with Jeff Chen, Director of the UCLA Cannabinoid Affinity Group, a new cannabis research center opening in June, on how to utilize the center in ways beneficial to the industry grappling with a lack of medical research.
A fervent energy was palpable among weed’s biggest players to figure out how to best work together and tailor this transition to legality. Despite passing Prop 64, the future of marijuana is largely unknown in terms of federal legality and how the intrusion of corporations will transform it. LA City Councilman and former State Senator, Curren Price, maintained a realistic view, and told the event’s attendees, “When it comes to the big businesses scaring everybody, it’s just important for us to continue lobbying in the right direction. But truthfully, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”
With the infinite amount of money pouring into cannabis, the bubble isn’t going to pop anytime soon. The future is shaky, but also exciting. Perhaps the most optimistic perspective of the night came from an unlikely source, a famous ’90s dealer we’ll call Frank, as his identity can’t be revealed. Having operated in the industry for nearly 30 years, he thinks there’s plenty of room for everyone to flourish in the world of weed, a stark contrast to many industry vets resistant to outside money and new businesses.
“The industry has so many levels of involvement that there’s plenty of room for everyone,” said Frank, exhaling smoke, looking out over the city as the party began to disperse.
He continued on a high note: “And more people entering the industry just creates more jobs and micro economies. The industry has always been run by the few who understand the plant and its potential, and that will always be the case. Growing clean medicine isn’t as easy as people think. Regulations for contaminants will only get stronger, which makes it harder for many to survive. California produces the most cannabis and has the ability to be the leader of the industry. With all the money here, the industry is able to make new markets for every type of person. California is what gives the industry the ability to become part of the norm.”
See more photos of the event below.
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