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Party Like Rockstars

Dec 13, 2017 09:25PM ● By Robyn Lawrence

I’ve thrown some damn good parties since I started cooking with cannabis in 2009. I’d even say some were epic. There’s nothing like reaching the crescendo of a meal orchestrated to open people’s minds and senses and connect them with their dinner partners, the food’s tastes and aromas, and the finer notes of everything. Everyone blossoms, blissed and blessed.

This is no small thing to pull off, and of course I’ve had disasters—thankfully none TOO epic and way less frequent now than when I first started. In the beginning, serving cannabis to guests was cripplingly intimidating.

For me, hosting a cannabis dinner is a lot like teach- ing a yoga class. As the leader, I’m responsible for every person’s well-being and experience, from understanding their physical limitations and apprehensions to curating a playlist that keeps them motivated, relaxed, and flowing. They should leave happier than they came.

That level of culpability makes me nama-cray-cray. It kept me from teaching yoga after I got certified and could have strangled my inner canna-hostess, too, if I hadn’t stumbled onto the opportunity to learn from the very best while writing and promoting The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook. When you need confidence, there’s nothing like going straight to the rock stars—and a beautiful thing about the cannabis community is how willing anyone who loves this plant is to educate and share.

Eight years after I started entertaining with cannabis, normalization and shows like Viceland’s Bong Appétit are inspiring would-be Snoop Marthas around the world. Mainstream media are stepping out with how-to articles, which is encouraging but not terribly enlightening when you consider lines like this one in Bon Appétit ’s magazine’s October 2017 entertaining etiquette guide: “Getting your guests high shouldn’t feel like unearthing a bong from a pile of sweatshirts in a dark corner of your closet.”

Do we have to keep saying this? It’s 2017, people. Let’s talk to the homies.

KEEP THEM IN THE EUPHORIC ZONE

In legal states, where a thriving cannabis hospitality industry employs professionals in everything from event planning to budtending, most party people haven’t touched a bong in decades, unless they were bringing it to a green elephant exchange. They dab in elegant lounges, sip canna-mocktails, and indulge in CBD coffee stations and s’mores bars stocked with infused chocolate. They taste cultivars as they’re paired with courses like wine, and they dine on infused foie gras custard while inhaling from bowls of terpene vapor at $500-a-plate dinners where the only sweat- shirts are by Vetements.

Chris Sayegh, the Herbal Chef and the man behind those half-G-a-head banquets, considers himself a shaman. He conducts every dinner, explaining at the beginning how the night will go and how the journeyers can expect to feel. His servers are trained to act as guides, keeping people on track and helping them if they get uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Diners’ glasses are constantly filled with water throughout a dinner engineered to keep them in what Sayegh calls the “euphoric zone.” Afterward, they retreat to a decompression lounge, where they can wipe their faces with cold eucalyptus-scented towels and get a massage.

Sayegh says his specialty is “understanding how people can get this really beautiful effect without everbeing overwhelmed,” a skill anyone who entertains with cannabis should be honing. Stupefied or paranoid guests suck the soul out of a party as quickly as ob- noxious or passed-out-drunk ones—and then there’s that part about being responsible for their well-being. If you haven’t had nightmares about diners slumped over their plates and leaving in wheelbarrows like the hobbits at Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday party, you probably shouldn’t be hosting a cannabis shindig.

 

Jeff the 420 Chef, who travels the country feeding people fine cannabis food, is well aware of his respon- sibility. He finds out every diner’s experience, tolerance level, and fears about what might happen before the meal begins, always serves “virgin sisters” (non-in-fused versions of the cannabis-laced dishes), and limits the overall amount of THC to 10 milligrams—which he says sends guests home with a solid, drama-free buzz.

“No one’s hallucinating or going to the hospital,” he says. “It’s a really nice moment.”

HAVE AN OH, SHIT KIT 

Overconsumption happens, even to the pros. Though he rarely has to use them, Scottsdale, Arizona-based chef and restaurateur Payton Curry, owner of Flourish edibles, stocks up on water with electrolytes and Undoo softgels (a mixture of vitamin E, olive oil, and olivetol that promises to “unhaze the blaze”) when he hosts cannabis-infused dinners. For a few larger events, he’s even hired nurse practitioners to administer IV bags. 

“Americans have been programmed to sleep it off or make themselves throw up if they have too much to drink,” Curry says. “With cannabis, it’s different. We say, ‘Here’s a pizza, a movie, and six gallons of water.’”

 At Denver-based Irie Weddings and Events, owner Bec Koop and her staff have an Oh, Shit Kit full of homeopathic rescue remedies; lavender, eucalyptus and chamomile essential oils; 5-Hour Energy; and ground-up pepper (said to mitigate anxiety and paranoia). Sometimes they offer a CBD-dominant flower cultivar or tincture, but that can be scary for people who don’t understand CBD’s ability to mitigate THC’s psychoactive effects. The heat of the moment is not the time for a cannabinoid lesson.

“If they’re already uncomfortable,” Koop says, “they’re like, ‘Hell no! No more weed!’” 

Budtenders at Koop’s events always ask about guests’ experience and tolerance, and signs at the bud bars remind people to sit down or call over a friend if they feel lightheaded or dizzy (which happens a lot at Colorado altitude). 

No matter what, Koop’s staff never lets anyone suffer alone. “If you’re too drunk at a bar, they kick your ass out,” she says. “If you’ve over-consumed at one of our events, you’re probably going to get 90 percent of our attention.” 

KNOW YOUR OPERATIONAL CONSUMPTION LEVELS

Hosting with the most means being there for someone who thinks they’re dying. (It’s physically impossible to overdose on cannabis, but again, the time for a biology lesson is not while someone thinks it’s happening.) You need to control your own consumption—or even wait until after the party—and you better know your “operational consumption levels,” says Philip Wolf, whose company Cultivating Spirits hosts cannabis-pairing dinners and other events.

The heart-racing energy you feel after consuming a high-THC cultivar with energetic terpenes infects everyone, Wolf says. “If people recognize an anxiousness within you and you’re the focal point of the event, they’ll feel the anxiousness within themselves, and your party has bad vibes.”

That’s why you hire pros, says Andrew Mieure, owner of Colorado’s Top Shelf Budtending, a service that offers certified “cannabis sommeliers” who present a holistic introduction to the plant’s botany, tastes, aromas, and effects. Top Shelf budtenders tailor servings based on tolerance questionnaires and actively monitor guests’ consumption using a ticket or wristband system. Should someone have a bad trip, the team can help them ride it out.

Mieure specializes in serving first-timers and people returning to cannabis after a long while, and they heighten his sense of obligation to deliver only smooth, groovy adventures.

“Their experiences,” he says, “can make or break the future of cannabis in America.” 

YOUR BEST PARTY EVER

HIRE PROS IF YOU CAN. It sounds a little self-serving. But cannabis has been legal for less than a decade, and laws vary by state. Experienced professionals can walk you through legal and logistical gray areas and customs, plus do the hard work during the event so you can socialize. “You get to simply show up and be the butterfly,” says Irie Weddings and Events’ Bec Koop.

IF YOU’RE USING AN OUTSIDE VENUE, know its cannabis policies. This should be the first thing you ask about, well before you book.

FOR LARGER AFFAIRS, GET SECURITY. It’s required at some venues now, and it’s CRAZY not to have professionals watching the door and checking IDs and/or medical cards.

HAVE A POLICY FOR MINORS. Are kids allowed? Do they need to be isolated from the area where adults are consuming?

CREATE A DESIGNATED consumption room or area. A dab or smoking lounge protects other guests from fumes and frames a ceremonial space. “People can celebrate their coming together, even if only for 15 or 20 minutes,” says Cultivating Spirits’ Philip Wolf. “There’s a more memorable aspect to it than getting high on the back stoop.”

GET TO KNOW YOUR GUESTS. Top Shelf Budtending’s Andrew Mieure suggests including a questionnaire with your RSVP that will help you understand how you should serve guests, individually and collectively.

TAILOR CONSUMPTION METHODS to your revelers. Dabs are probably a little much for Midwestern relatives who haven’t smoked since senior prom. Wolf prefers flower because it’s the least potent, and Koop says half-gram minijoints are popular because they’re familiar, shareable,
and guests can try several strains without overdoing it. Canna-mocktails allow for accurate microservings and are more discreet.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT STRAINS. Work with a professional budtender or grower to find cultivars with terpene and cannabinoid profiles that will drive the mood you want throughout the night.

CREATE A SOUNDTRACK. If you won’t have a DJ or a band, make a playlist long enough to last throughout your soiree, and test it. Even at operational consumption levels, you don’t want to be messing with the music—or worse, not have any.

THINK BRUNCH INSTEAD OF DINNER. Chef Randy Placeres of Aspen Culinary Solutions prefers late-morning gatherings when he serves infused food so his guests have the afternoon to enjoy being high and happy. “After dinner,” he says, “you kind of just go to bed.”

COOK WITH CANNABIS that has at least a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. Payton Curry tells people CBD is their "seatbelt" because it can mitigate THC's psychoactive effects. Offering CBD-dominant food lets newcomers and people who don’t want to get high experience infused food.

“CHEAT” WITH STORE-BOUGHT INGREDIENTS. 

With all the pre-made tinctures, oils, butters, chocolates, beverages, and even water-soluble additives on the shelves these days, there’s no reason to spend hours making your own infusions. Accurate servings are easier to pull off with tested ingredients from a trusted establishment. When Jeff the 420 Chef makes his 420 Irish Cream for the holidays, he grinds and sprinkles one Kiva Confections chocolate-covered espresso bean on top of each mug, guaranteeing 5 milligrams of THC.

START WITH A CANNA-MOCKTAIL. A nonalcoholic drink made with cannabis tincture takes effect in 15 minutes and might discourage guests from starting the night with booze.

MODERATE ALCOHOL. Drinking alcohol thins blood, allowing for more active THC to enter, says Mieure, whose slogan is: “Alcohol before cannabis gets you higher, cannabis before alcohol is wiser.” If both are being served, he suggests limiting the servings and potency of each.

WATER, WATER, MORE WATER. Keeping guests hydrated is beyond crucial.

KEEP IT CLEAN. If guests are smoking, keep ashtrays emptied. Glass one-hitters are more sanitary than joints, especially during cold and flu season. At Top Shelf, budtenders wear gloves and clean dab rigs between every guest, no exceptions.

BE A WITNESS PROTECTOR. Make sure you have every guest’s consent (in writing for larger events) before photos and videos are taken and posted.

GIFT YOUR GUESTS. Cheri Sicard, author ofThe Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook, sends them home with cannabis-infused cookies during the holidays.

MAKE SURE NO ONE DRIVES HOME IMPAIRED. Lyft and Uber make it so easy.