In what can best be described as an iPhone unveiling at a cannabis cup, Chelsea Handler and Canndescent took over the Montalbán in Hollywood over the Feb. 8-9 weekend for a night filled with weed and laughs.
The event proved to be three separate showcases coming together. While the Q&A with Handler on her cannabis adventure so far certainly topped the marquee, sponsor Canndescent used the night to launch its first salvo in the California vape-pen wars, with CEO Adrian Sedlin playing the roles of Steve Jobs, MC and interviewer. With the amazing venue the Montalbán provided, from theatrics to rooftop smoke-out, it would serve as a grand coming-out party for a now top-tier cannabis event venue in America.
After a quick cocktail hour, Sedlin kicked things off. He emerged into the orange glow of the darkened theater with the general welcome hype speech, while noting the company had not had a true launch party since kicking things off in 2015. From there he went on a 15-minute philosophical quest explaining the ethos of the company that has made a splash in recent years.
Canndescent would argue it's the No. 1 flower brand in the state, but it will be tough to quantify those numbers until California’s track-and-trace system comes online. Currently, it’s a patchwork of different point-of-sales systems providing different batches of data to various analytical companies who then report on it. I once had someone tell me the most popular strain in the state was still Jack Herer according to their data; with all due respect to the Venice Beach legend, that's hard to believe. These various batches of data explain how we can have so many brands that are “the most popular in California.” Nonetheless, Canndescent is certainly selling a lot of pot throughout the state.
But what’s a product unveil without a video premiere? Canndescent did not skimp on hyping its debut vape pen, the Stylus. When it hit the screen at first, I thought it looked absolutely absurd. From the outside, it appeared both the battery and connected cartridge were custom. There is a graveyard of products that have attempted to go a different route than the wildly standard 510 threading seen on most cartridges, and I thought they would be picking out caskets quick. Shortly thereafter, the video went a bit deeper, showing they are compatible with standard threading but work better together due to a magnetic seal. This is far less insane.
The Stylus launched in Canndescent's standard flavor lineup of Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect and Charge. Canndescent grows it all, so the oil is single sourced, and they aren’t using any nasty chemical fillers, just CO2 extracted cannabis oil.
After a round of applause for the Stylus, Sedlin didn’t hold back in playing to the Chelsea enthusiasm filling the room as the curtain lifted behind him revealing two chairs. As Handler took her seat, Sedlin noted the audience was mostly a cannabis industry crowd. “Good, we can all get on the same fucking page,” she replied to raucous applause.
Sedlin dove into the most obvious question of the evening, pointing to how forward Handler has been with her consumption and now forthcoming entrepreneurial push.
“I like authenticity and people that are real. In this town especially, since everyone is so full of shit,” Handler replied. “It’s nice to have real, honest exchanges.”
Handler went on to compare not being honest about your cannabis use to a girl not telling her friends she was getting Botox. She feels people aren’t spending enough time turning each other on to the kinds of things that can improve their lives. So essentially she is acting on that belief as she hunts down the finest cannabis products in the land prior to her own dive into the industry, which is certainly forthcoming.
“For me, cannabis and this resurgence, everything is much more educated. You have the information, you know what you’re smoking, and you’re not going to be in a corner crying for like four hours.” She went on to say she originally started with medical cannabis for its sleep benefits, as using Xanax after 40 ”isn’t a hot look.” Cannabis use also helped her cut her drinking in half.
The discussion moved on to Handler using cannabis as part of her creative process. She said after the 2016 presidential election, she simply spent her days in a rage. The anxiety of what was happening in D.C. caused a personal reflection on what she had been up to in recent years.
“What am I doing? What am I really doing, just getting paid to be loud? What is my point at the end of it?” she told the crowd. She believed her outrage spoke to her privilege — sure, she worked hard, but she argues she wasn’t doing anything special.
“It’s pretty much a lucky thing. If you work hard and you have misplaced confidence, you can get far in this world if you’re white. And if you’re pretty, it’s pretty easy to get through life. That’s something I took for granted until Donald Trump got elected,” Handler said.
During this Trump-induced retrospection, Handler said, she didn’t want to drink when she was angry, so she began dabbling in vapes and edibles. Next, she began a book project that in the end, she said, finally made her feel like a real writer despite her previous trips to the New York Times best-seller list.
“I couldn’t deal with everything. I just needed to take a timeout, and Netflix has always been really, really good to artists in saying whatever. Let me take some time off and really think about what I want to do next because I don’t think it’s this.”
Handler said interviewing celebrities can get to be kind of boring. “You know, you’re sitting right there,” she said to Sedlin. Cannabis allowed her to sand down her edges from the Trump-induced PTSD and get the ball rolling on the book.
“Once I started writing this book, I saw a therapist, a psychiatrist, I started writing this all down and said maybe I’d turn it into a book, and before you know it is a book. If you write pretty,” she said.
Handler said cannabis helped her add humor to the more serious tone in her most recent literary effort, Life Will Be The Death of Me, which comes out in April.
The conversation moved to Handler’s industry plans. When Sedlin asked if she was launching a company, she replied, in her firmest tone of the night, “Yes. I am very much thinking about that and doing that. I’m actively doing it right now.”
Handler said the cannabis industry itself is a very new thing so wants to do it right. At multiple points in the evening, she noted she wasn’t just going to slap her name on a brand. She said she wasn't just trying to make money but wanted a brand that she created from the beginning. As she continues her work on the project, you can expect women to be a major target consumer base.
“It feels like a boys' thing,” Handler said. “You guys get fucking everything, OK? We’re getting this, too. We get this, too. So that’s my mission. And that’s the only thing I want to do in terms of creating a line.”
Following the interview, guests headed up to the Montalbán’s rooftop deck, which had been converted into a smoke sesh for the ages. Guests waited to get their hands on a Stylus to vape, while others went for something a bit more combustible.
Gilbert Smith, the Montalbán’s chief operating officer and son-in-law of the theater’s namesake, Emmy-winning actor Ricardo Montalbán, gave his take on the official kickoff for the theater as a cannabis-friendly event venue. The first thing he mentioned was the scale of the production.
“I had similar experiences working with Nike on their product launches — it was on that scale,” Smith told L.A. Weekly. Nike had paid for the roof deck buildout prior to the launch of the Nike Mags, or, as they’re more commonly called, the McFlys. In collaboration with Google and eBay after the Montalbán launch party, an online shoe auction would raise more than $9 million for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Smith said the Montalbán had previously hosted forums to talk about the benefits of legalization, but this night certainly took things to a new level.