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Hey, ‘Budtender’: Los Angeles’s Power Brokers of Pot Crank Up the Kook


Hey, ‘Budtender’: Los Angeles’s Power Brokers of Pot Crank Up the Kook

Laura M. Holson • December 9, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Carli Jo Bidlingmaier was talking to a group of 20-somethings in a living room in the Bel-Air neighborhood here, weeks before the wildfires. She was explaining that consuming marijuana allows a woman to awaken her “yoni,” a Sanskrit term for vagina favored by Hollywood bohemians.

“Everybody stand up!” she shouted. The crowd, all women seated on pillows on the floor, leapt to their feet.

Ms. Bidlingmaier, a former casting producer for “The Bachelor,” vigorously shook her hips. She was leading the women in a so-called cannabis sensuality circle that seemed like something out of 1960s Esalen: joints, frank talk about sexuality, meditation and — at the end of the night — a headlong plunge into a big bowl of strawberries and dark chocolate.

“It is our divine right to enjoy our pleasure,” Ms. Bidlingmaier said. No one disagreed.

In January, California will join the list of states where recreational marijuana is legal, among them Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska. With researchers tallying California’s marijuana sales at $7.7 billion last year, the so-called green rush has already turned gold. Next year, the Standard hotel in Hollywood plans to open a dispensary for edibles. “It’s exploding in a good way,” said Emerald Castro, a brand ambassador for cannabis start-ups. “There are a lot of professionals on board.”

Cannabis sales, currently for medicinal purposes, are primarily a cash business. (Federal laws prohibit the use of banks for illegal drugs.) And with restrictions on advertising, the industry retains something of a quaint dorm-room vibe.

That means parties. Lots of them. Parties to educate and inform new users. Parties to connect to friends who partake. And parties to sell, sell, sell cannabis to an unfamiliar public, most of whom still think “Girl Scout Cookies” are for eating, “Moby Dick” is a novel, and “Skywalker” is Luke’s last name, rather than chic new strains.

Along with the sensuality circles, there are get-togethers for gamers who smoke pot, marijuana Christmas parties, classes where artists can puff and paint. There are studios where yogis smoke sensimilla with their shavasana and members’ only co-working spaces where entrepreneurs can enjoy a dab of hash while poring over data-flow diagrams and accounting receipts.

“It all comes down to not feeling like a criminal, being seen as a criminal,” said Douglas Dracup, 31, whose Hitman Coffee Shop on South La Brea Avenue is one of these spaces. Parties, he said, have “set the stage for the industry to flourish.”

Below, a recent tour of Los Angeles’s flourishing pot scene.

High Tea

In a gated office building off Sunset Boulevard, tucked between a parking lot and two motels, about 25 people gathered one recent Saturday for “White Rabbit High Tea.” Jessica Cole Eriksen, 34, began hosting tea parties in April 2016 after working as a nanny in Ireland where brew was a daily ritual. “I’m rolling joints so, everyone, let’s get rolling,” said Ms. Eriksen, who brought a box filled with masks and hats for people to wear. “I’m so happy you are here on this lovely afternoon.”

Some were friends or guests who read about the tea party, which cost $65, online. “I saw it on Instagram last month, and I thought I would come,” said Bridgett Davis, in between puffs under her leopard-print hat. “In December I’m going to pull out my mink. It’s a different kind of crowd, not teenagers or millennials.”

Holden Jagger, a former executive pastry chef at the Soho House who started a cannabis cooking and cultivation business last year, prepared the meal. The table was set with place cards, gold lace paper napkins and strategically arranged ashtrays. There was no pot in the roasted corn and buttermilk scones. But there were plenty of joints, vape pens and edibles on the table. A server wearing a crimson dress and rabbit ears poured peach green tea.

Tara Dawn Roseman, an eyebrow aesthetician, examined a bottle of lotion infused with medical marijuana.

“My dad loves this stuff,” said Roxanne Dennant, whose company, Fruit Slabs, makes cannabis-infused fruit leather. “He rubs it on his hands.”

“My hands are always hurting,” Ms. Roseman said.

“Then use some!” Ms. Dennant said. “They are on the table to be used.”

There were a lot of products to try: cannabis-infused cellulite cream, lip balm, chocolate cookies and small bottles of artisanal buds from Northern California. Ms. Roseman brought some pot from home, which she dumped on a plate so she could roll a joint. Platters of finger sandwiches were passed.

“Do you find yourself with friends that want to talk about something else?” said Ms. Dennant. “We can’t. We are passionate.”

Ms. Eriksen refrained from smoking because she was pregnant. She watched as guests eyed the buds on the table. “You get a gift bag so you don’t need to pocket anything,” she said.

As caramel popcorn and apple pie cookies were passed, the table grew silent. A man put a zebra mask over his face and scrolled through his cellphone. “I was just staring off into the sky and thinking, ‘I am sufficiently stoned,’” Ms. Dennant said.

Ms. Davis said, “You feel like not talking so much anymore.”

Mr. Jagger joined the table. “I had a mom give me a cookie once,” he said, recalling his early 20s. “I just couldn’t talk for a while. My arms were moving, but my mouth wasn’t working. She put a whole plant into butter and it was pretty strong.”

When he was a younger man, Mr. Jagger said, he prided himself in baking potent cookies. Nowadays, cooks are better at tempering the high. “The idea that we can manage it,” he said, “takes the fun out of it.”


The #StayWoke Guide to Eating Edibles


The #StayWoke Guide to Eating Edibles

Khushbu Shah • Apr 20, 2016

The world of edibles is no longer constrained to your sketchy neighbor baking up a batch of “special” brownies that either A) have zero effect on your state of consciousness, or B) get you so stoned you call the cops on yourself. Over the past few years, thanks to ballot initiatives that have legalized medical marijuana in 23 states and recreational use in four states, the edible-marijuana industry has flourished, and innovation is at a new high. The edibles game has turned into its own culinary arms race, with companies crafting everything from cannabis-infused stroopwafels, to cotton candy, bottled chai, to entire marijuana-fueled dinners.

You know TCH treats have reached a new level of acceptance when celebrities want in on the action, too. In the past year alone, rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game both announced lines of edibles. Snoop’s line, called Leafs, features a slew of products including gummies and chocolate bars. The Game plans to sell the thirsty masses a range of weed-laced lemonade called G Drinks. And everyone from stoner legend Tommy Chong, to reality-TV star Bethenny Frankel, is getting in on the action. The excitement to engineer quality treats is also attracting the attention of people with serious food world cred: James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal is working a line that includes infused granola bites, brittle bars, and a take on a hot chocolate.

While they are becoming more popular, the key facts of edible consumption are still shrouded in haze. In Colorado, for instance, emergency rules were passed requiring edibles makers stamp or shape their products so that they can be identified as containing cannabis outside of its packaging. Because the federal government still classifies marijuana as controlled substance, it makes it difficult for labs to conduct controlled studies that could help set proper, agreed-upon guidelines. Plus, each state sets its own regulations—which are frequently subject to change—making it confusing for consumers. We turned to High Times Edibles Editor and The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook author Elise McDonough for clarification about rules and regulations, and tips on how to how to seek out the best stuff.

Specialty edibles to keep on your radar.

The growing market for edibles means people can find everything from gluten-free, to organic, to vegan, to sugar-free options these days. McDonough notes, “I think that because cannabis is such a health-positive substance, you really should pair it with other ingredients that are nutritious and that will bring more healing benefits to your body.” As a judge of the annual Cannabis Cup, McDonough has developed a sophisticated palette for marijuana foods. Here, she breaks down a list of her favorites.


“It’s essentially a very adult take on a fruit roll-up that also happens to be made from all-natural ingredients.”


Statutes, Stigma, and the Toking Tipping Point


Statutes, Stigma, and the Toking Tipping Point

Catherine Goldberg • May 17, 2016

Cannabis, ganja, medical marijuana. No matter what you call call it, one thing is clear: weed in the United States is at a major crossroads, and cannabis as an industry is about to change “Mary Jane” forever.

When I ask people why they believe marijuana should be legal, I generally hear two valid arguments. The first being, “Medical marijuana improved the quality of my life and alleviates xyz pain.” The second is generally, “I’m an adult and I prefer a joint to an alcoholic beverage.” Personally, I think the opportunities in the future cannabis industry outweigh any dubious fears of legalization.

The general arguments against legalization usually consist of fear that dispensaries will bring crime and kids will have easier access to the adult substance. One of the main anti-marijuana fear mongers, Bill O’Reilly, claims marijuana is a public menace and helps no one. But these allegations are unfounded. A recent study published by the Colorado Department of Public Safety found the number of minors using marijuana has actually decreased since legalization.

What is undeniable are the hundreds of millions of dollars that recreational marijuana is making in revenue. For instance, Colorado made almost $1 billion in 2015, $135 million in tax revenue. While Oregon made more than $11 million in the first week of recreational legalization.

More importantly, the cannabis industry is creating a diversity of new jobs and opportunities. It’s not only providing retail jobs in dispensaries, but all the new products popping up require chemists and engineers to make the extractions, artists and writers to brand the products, investors, salespeople, consultants, CEOs, the list goes on. Women Grow, a national organization that champions women’s roles in the budding industry, is another example of the opportunities arising in the “Green Rush”. In fact, women hold a higher percent of senior executive roles in cannabis compared to other American industries, 36% to 21%, respectively. If we could take cannabis as seriously as we took tech in the 90’s — it would open up even more possibilities.

Legal cannabis products are different than the old stoner stereotype of buying a seedy dime bag in the park. They are sophisticated, thoughtful, and innovative. Take the new line of women’s topicals Whoopi Goldberg and her business partner Maya just released that alleviate menstrual cramps, aches, and pains. Or the delicious THC infused gourmet coffee products of House of Jane, that help cannabis users stay medicated and productive. Not to mention, one of my personal favorites, the gorgeous, luxury, and odor-blocking handbags of AnnaBis. We asked Jeanine Moss, co-founder of AnnaBis, what inspired her to start such an unique line of bags. She told us: “My friends and I needed something fashionable, discreet, and odor-controlled to carry our cannabis in style. When I couldn’t find anything, I realized that sophisticated female cannabis consumers were being completely overlooked.”

Think of recreational marijuana more as a performance enhancer and lifestyle choice rather than some lazy, glassy-eyed, hungry hippie. For example, Roxanne Dennant recently created Fruit Slabs, organic, vegan fruit leathers with 100 mg of THC. She was sick of all the sugary, candy edibles currently dominating the scene, so she created a natural and delicious alternative herself.

Molly Peckler, the world’s first cannabis friendly life coach, relationship expert, and creator of Highly Devoted, is a perfect example of the next step for cannabis. Molly uses her Bachelor’s of Science in psychology and her previous experience in professional matchmaking to help cannabis users feel more confident and find love. We asked Molly why she decided to start life coaching and matchmaking cannabis users and she told us: “I’ve been judged in the past for my relationship with cannabis, and I know so many successful, well-respected people who have gone through the same thing. The stigma makes dating much more complex, and there is a growing group of sophisticated smokers who are not being catered to by mainstream coaches and matchmakers. I saw a need that wasn’t being fulfilled, so I decided to build a business around cannabis friendly life and date coaching.” A bold move on Molly’s part, but exactly the type of innovative business models that the new cannabis industry will cater to.

Molly makes a great point about stigma; how it’s the most difficult hurdle for cannabis users to overcome and can affect everything from dating to self esteem. What the cannabis industry has, that it needs to tap into to help fight stigma, is an unparalleled human element. From business owners to consumers, everyone has a story, and now is the first time in history cannabis users can “come out of the closet”. Although that’s only allowed in a small number of states, acceptance is spreading nationally. Especially with the presence of social media, cannabis users and brands can support one another and fight stigma together.

If we truly view cannabis use as a lifestyle choice, free of judgement, we won’t demonize those who use it recreationally as well as medicinally. Marijuana is not only a safe alternative to Valium, Adderall, and Oxycodone, but also to alcohol. It is legal and socially acceptable to have a drink to unwind and socialize, yet it is 114 times more likely to kill you according to a recent study. Alcohol kills 88,000 people per year in the United States alone, and as many as 2.5 million worldwide, while marijuana kills none. That’s not to mention alcohol increases violence and domestic abuse, while marijuana is proven to have the opposite effect. It’s about time we stop pretending that marijuana is dangerous and bad for society, when those are truly words to describe alcohol.

If you’re curious about this new market and want to learn more about how brands are being built, check out my ebook, now available for free!

This piece was created by Michelle Janikian and Catherine Goldberg for BrainBuzzOG.