How to properly throw a cannabis-infused gathering

A Hosting Handbook for Elevated Events

Story Robyn Griggs Lawrence and emwebadmin

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 teaching 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 experts—and a beautiful thing about the cannabis community is how willing anyone who loves this plant is to educate and share. 

Keep them in the zone.

In legal states, a thriving cannabis hospitality industry employs professionals in everything from event planning to budtending. Consumers dab in elegant lounges, sip canna-mocktails, and indulge in CBD coffee stations and s’more bars stocked with infused chocolate. They taste cultivars as they’re paired with courses like wine. They dine on infused foie gras custard while inhaling from bowls of terpene vapor at $500-a-plate dinners.

Chris Sayegh, the Herbal Chef behind those half-G-a-head banquets, considers himself a shaman. He conducts every dinner, explaining to the journeyers how the night will go and how they can expect to feel. His servers act as guides, keeping people on track and helping them if they get uncomfortable. 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 eucalyptus-scented towels and get a massage. 

Sayegh says his specialty is “understanding how people can get this really beautiful effect without ever being 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 obnoxious 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.

Have an “Oh, Shit Kit.”

Overconsumption happens, even with the pros. Though he rarely has to use them, Scottsdale, Arizona–based chef and restaurateur Payton Curry 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, the staff keeps an “Oh, Shit Kit” full of homeopathic rescue remedies; lavender, eucalyptus and chamomile essential oils; 5-Hour Energy; and ground pepper (said to mitigate anxiety and paranoia). 

Budtenders at these 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. No matter what, they never lets anyone suffer alone.

Know your own limits.

Hosting with the most means being there for someone who thinks they’re dying. (It’s physically impossible to overdose on cannabis, but the time for a biology lesson is not during a crisis.) You need to control your own consumption—or even wait until after the party.

That’s why you might want to hire pros, says Andrew Mieure, owner of Top Shelf Budtending, a service that offers certified “cannabis sommeliers” who present a holistic introduction to the plant’s botany, tastes, aromas, and effects. 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.” 

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