From the Canna-Curious to the Cannasseur, A New Era of Cannabis Culture Has Emerged.
Written by Sarah Bugden
It’s April 20th, 2018 and I’m on a luxury bus headed towards an estate in Malibu, California where an educational health and wellness retreat is taking place: Cannabliss. Dylan Boucher, a young and talented videographer sits across the aisle from me. Roughly 13 people in their 40s-50s accompany us.
We arrive at the estate in Malibu and it’s enormous: there’s a greenhouse, a large yard lined with trees, a dirt path that leads to parking and bathrooms, and vendors. In attendance were Fiddler’s Greens, Erbanna, Medicine Box, Bloomfield, Pot D’Huile, and Breaking the Grass Ceiling to name a few.
This is the first 4/20 celebration where both medicinal, and adult-use cannabis are legal along the entire West Coast.
I meandered into the middle of the yard and took a moment to gather the confidence to talk to strangers. Deep breath in, deep breath out. I’m surrounded by palm trees. One waves in the wind. Sunlight cuts through it’s slits and it dances in the air while a shadow mirrors it’s image directly onto the ground. It’s noon. I’m surrounded by booths, logos of brands, hashtags, business owners in matching t-shirts, pamphlets, branded tablecloths, and the welcoming smiles of vendors.
From across the yard I see a giant green cake with an orange cannabis leaf on top of it. Three candles lay beside it: two, zero, four. Are they giving out cake?!!
“Hi I’m Sarah.” I volunteer to a man standing behind the Viscous booth.
“What do you guys do?” I ask.
Chris Lewis of Viscous indulges me.
Viscous makes vape cartridges to use in vape pens. Their cartridges feature supercritical CO2 fluid to extract the initial crude canna in a viscous state before distilling it down to a golden oil. The oil is then flavored, suspended in cartridges, and the use of a vape pen activates the oil in the cartridge without burning it so there’s never any smoke or secondhand smoke. Viscous makes a hybrid cartridge, a sativa cartridge, and an indica cartridge.
While Lewis explains the product to me, I eye the cake. He notices me looking at it. To distract from my obvious interest in the cake, I aggressively blurt out, “Can I take a picture!?”
Nyle Clemente, Viscous head of sales, introduces himself. I ask how the change in regulations has impacted their business.
He explains “We’ve already passed regulations so if they get steeper it’ll benefit us.”
Next, I find myself talking to Levi Storm of Awakened Tropicals. Levi makes non psychotropic, raw cannabis balm and CBD tinctures. His products target muscle pain as well as anxiety, PTSD, depression, and insomnia. He offers me a sample of his sublingual CBD tincture. I’ve never tried CBD before.
Levi is one of those people who’s so simultaneously knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what he does and that it’s captivating. He entered the business after a serious surfing accident left him in pain and cannabis became integral to his healing process. While talking to him I hear words like terpenoids, flavonoids, and decarboxylation.
I ask if he’s afraid corporations as big as Monsanto will push out the small farmers. He tells me he hopes thoughtful consumers will support businesses like his, even as the industry scales.
I realize I’m thirsty and find myself walking towards a pile of sodas.
Parched, I grab one of the sodas labeled SPRIG. SPRIG is one of the event’s sponsors. Before thinking, I blurt out to the first person I see, “Is there weed in these SPRIG beverages?” After the words leave my mouth, I notice the pink and white can is labeled, “cannabis-infused, 10 mg THC.”
Dylan the videographer and I chat about what we gathered so far and what we need to get. As we talk I take note of the feeling in my body. The CBD tincture has calmed my nerves. My typically racing thoughts have slowed a bit and my muscles feel so relaxed I imagine I could touch my toes. Dylan notices an elder couple behind me pulling everyone’s attention. They are in their late 70s, and they’re dancing like they’re young and limber—like they’re, medicated.
While the elder couple dances before me, I can’t help but reflect on how the crowd at Cannabliss might differ from other 4/20 crowds across California, and how crowds celebrating 4/20 post-legalization will continue to change.
A cluster of women wearing sunglasses, sitting on a quilted blanket surrounded by large purses, observe the couple slow dancing. The elder woman and elder man lock fingers.
A middle aged man in a crisp white collared shirt and khaki shorts lays on a blanket with his hands propping up his head just enough to watch the elder couple through his aviator sunglasses.
Levi Storm observes this from behind his booth, smiling. Another vendor is talking with two women about his products and is too involved in conversation to notice the couple.
To get more information about what this community and this particular 4/20 celebration is all about, I check in with Cannabliss’ founder, Sarri Gabay. Sarri explains, “Cannabliss retreats is a community we’re creating based on education, and advocacy for cannabis and medicinal healing through plant medicine,” she added, “It’s so not the typical stoner vibe, at all.”
Her business partner, Dr. Ira Price, who developed the K.A.R.E. (Kannabis Accreditation Regulation and Education) certification program offered at Cannabliss, elaborates, “You don’t find this anywhere else. You go to 4/20 parties and it’s about getting high. You go to 4/20 parties and they’re outside protesting. We’re not protesting, man. We’re just building community—that’s all we’re trying to do,” Price added. “And we’re trying to do that in a mindful way. Know what you put in your body. Your body [is] your temple.”
I watch as the elder couple finish dancing and take a seat.
The Cannabliss sound bath begins. Everyone in the yard finds a place to stretch out. Save for vendors, journalists, and four men and one woman who sit upright to watch the crowd, everyone lays down. A woman begins walking around shaking an instrument. She makes her way through the crowd. A man follows her and distributes drops of a THC tincture, called Equanimity, donated by Medicine Box, to all who’d like to try. A peace falls over the yard as everyone listens. After a few minutes the shaker is changed out for a circular instrument that makes a calming, “ommmmm” sound.
When the sound bath ends, a panel discussion on “Destigmatizing Cannabis” begins. The panel features professionals who’ve found the healing qualities of cannabis in a variety of ways. It includes Len May, President of EndoCanna Health, an innovative company specializing in personalized medicinal cannabis using DNA sequencing; Anya Cravitz, a founder of Olive Kind Agency; Ariel Clark, one of California’s longest-serving cannabis business attorneys; and Eben Britton, a retired NFL offensive lineman.
While everyone on the panel makes compelling statements, Britton’s remarks most directly call into question abuses of pharmaceutical drugs to overmedicate and mistreat injuries and ailments. His account of how the NFL abuses opiates to treat of injuries that then leave players addicted highlights one of cannabis’ more compelling qualities: it’s non-addictive.
Virgil Hollins welcomes me to the tsty Farms booth. He’s friendly but does not want to disclose his last name. He’s excited about the assortment of disposable vape pens tsty offers, which include three strains of indica, three strains of sativa, three hybrid strains, and three CBD-dominant strains. The brand targets working professionals and senior citizens.
I ask Virgil how he feels about the stigma attached to cannabis as it relates to the demographic at this Cannabliss gathering. He affirms, “The presentation of the product will be integral to erasing it’s stigma. I think the demographic here consists of people who will redefine the perception of cannabis. They have the passion necessary to change how it’s seen in the eyes of the masses.”
I spend a few more minutes chatting with Virgil until I realize I’m starving and excuse myself. Dinner is served so I make my way over to the grill. Cannabliss cooks a mean beans, rice, baked potato, and fresh salsa. I almost stuff myself on complimentary barbequed deliciousness.
As the sun sets, the beautiful sounds of Stellamara fill the yard. A few people begin to dance. A few wrap themselves in blankets and watch.
I’m drowsy and ready to head home. I make my way to the bus, but not before pausing for a moment to take in the beauty of the sunset, 4/20, legalization, the overwhelming kindness and optimism here at Cannabliss, and the positive vibe.
Thank you, Cannabliss.