At a fine restaurant in Los Angeles, diners might encounter a sommelier who recommends a chardonnay with the fish or a cabernet sauvignon with the steak.
At a gourmet cannabis pop-up, the resident chef might serve a citrusy sativa (such as Pink Lemonade) with a citrus crudo or a heavier indica to make a person feel rooted before indulging in some wintery vegetables and lamb. It’s not about getting "high," cannabis chef Lauren Unger says; it’s about becoming “elevated.”
In July, Unger will be curating meals at a five-day cannabis retreat called Cannabliss in Ojai, where attendees will receive a vaporizer with which to inhale different strains to complement each course. The event is part of a burgeoning cannabis experience industry around Los Angeles — and this retreat is one of the most elaborate yet.
In the morning, breakfast will include sativa strains, which give attendees a boost in energy and concentration for a physical activity such as hiking or intense yoga. In the middle of the day, the itinerary offers a hybrid strain intended to inspire creativity for a workshop like writing or painting. And at night, attendees will get an indica to help them sleep before they return to their rooms.
“People have obviously been smoking and using cannabis for years. It’s not a new thing, but this is a new frontier,” says Cannabliss Retreats founder Sari Gabbay. “People aren’t aware of this kind of engagement with the plant.”
The retreat, Gabbay emphasizes, isn’t just about getting high, it’s about understanding how a person can use different kinds of cannabis depending on their needs.
“We’re really trying to tune in with what the wellness community wants so we can curate strains,” said Johnny Deim, founder of Humboldt Brothers, the cultivation company providing cannabis for the retreat. There also will be budtenders — or cannabis experts — throughout Cannabliss advising attendees on what types of marijuana might be best suited for them.
“I’m going to be talking about cannabis and how it can be used very intentionally, not so much for getting stoned,” said Lori Barron, an acupuncturist and herbalist. “If you microdose it, it’s incredible for your health, lowering your inflammation, stress and anxiety. It has so many more uses than people realize.”
This emphasis on wellness and education is all a part of an unofficial campaign led by people across the cannabis industry who want to make sure that consumers understand the various applications of weed as more states legalize it.
Bud and Breakfast, a pioneering cannabis hotel in Colorado, offers activities including cannabis painting, hiking and munchies. But it also offers cannabis-enhanced yoga, classes on different kinds of concentrates and a staff of cannabis experts to help people from out of state with all the options at dispensaries. “If you have not had cannabis in a long time or you’ve only had dirt weed, can you imagine what it would be like trying to figure out these new products?” said Kevin Fox, Bud and Breakfast’s media consultant. “Sometimes we’re people’s first and last stop when it comes to education.”
The B&B, which opened right after Colorado legalized the recreational use of cannabis, has been so popular that the founders have decided to open a business advising prospective cannabis hotel owners. Fox estimates they’ve been contacted by 200 entrepreneurs, mostly from Massachusetts and California, who are interested in adopting their business model. They have plans to help open Bud and Breakfast locations in Venice Beach, San Diego and Northern California. Bud and Breakfast founder CEO Joel Schneider says he thinks they’ve been so successful because they’re giving people the opportunity to bond over cannabis in a safe and supportive setting — something that’s unfamiliar for many of their guests.
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Dee Dussault, a longtime cannabis and yoga instructor in the Bay Area, says, for now, in California it takes people about a full day into her four-day cannabis and yoga retreats to relax because of how unaccustomed they are to being able to legally consume cannabis in a group. “People are still somewhat nervous because this is somewhat controversial or at the very least novel,” she said.
Dussault says that when she began teaching cannabis and yoga eight years ago, she was the only person she knew of who was doing it. Now, she’s says she’s amazed by all the cannabis wellness experiences, including retreats, that are popping up in Colorado, Washington and Toronto. She says she’s seen a 25 percent growth in her business just since Proposition 64 legalized the recreational use of cannabis for Californians over the age of 21 in November. She hopes to bring some of her cannabis yoga retreats to Southern California soon.
Meanwhile, Cannabliss founder Sari Gabbay is already thinking about how she can expand on this upcoming five-day retreat to create wellness centers in Los Angeles for people seeking alternative health treatments, including advice about how to use cannabis.
“I feel this is extremely important because a lot of people are overdosing and saying I smoke weed and I get lazy or I get paranoid,” said Gabbay. “I really welcome people to this retreat who are curious and want to experience cannabis in a safe environment.”