On Saturday night, behind a nondescript door on Potrero Avenue, people drank medicated Chardonnay and painted with lightning.
Dubbed Virtual Reality Elevated, the event represented the latest in the partnership between cannabis-event planners The Art of Edibles and GRASSFED. The second in the duo’s series, Virtual Reality Elevated took the concept of social cannabis consumption and added in a hearty dose of mind-boggling technology.
Several stations greeted event-goers, each offering a different method of cannabis consumption. Billed as a “smokeless” event, attendees were welcome to medicate via a variety of vaporizers, glassware, edibles — and yes, THC-infused wine, which was included in the ticket price. After dosing as desired, the VR rigs awaited, ready to take everyone’s evening to the next level.
Tomer Grassiany, who runs The Art of Edibles — a cannabis collective that produces the chocolate brand To Whom It May — says he first met GRASSFED’s Dan Braustein at the end of 2016, after it had launched as a series for multi-course dinners that also include a vape bar and music.
Following several successful dinners, Grassiany and Braustein decided to expand their collaboration to include a wide variety of nightlife activities, from comedy to music to technology, each built around the idea of cannabis as a conduit to a richer experience. Their first event together was Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off in Los Angeles, an evening that combined stand-up, burlesque, and cannabis. They’ve subsequently partnered on a number of events where cannabis is treated as a secondary focus, a vehicle to improve another experience.
In deciding what products to offer, Grassiany says he wanted to highlight healthy edibles and other methods of consumption devoid of sugars and snack food stigmas.
True to his word, the selection of cannabis available at Virtual Reality Elevated was unquestionably top-notch. In addition to To Whom It May, there was flower from Flow Kana and Snow Till, PAX Era vape cartridges from Brite Labs, and a variety of tasty edibles from Baceae.
Most recently, their focus has been on virtual reality, a limitless landscape of imagined worlds and immersive gameplay.
“We believe that VR and cannabis were meant for each other,” Grassiany says.
While virtual reality has evolved exponentially in recent years, there is something to be said for Grassiany’s claim that VR technology and cannabis are natural bedfellows.
On Saturday evening, ticketholders tested three of Last Call games’ VR experiences. The options ranged from a mixed-reality program in which you painted the space around you with a variety of fantastical brushes to Microdose VR, where controller triggers unleashed a 360-degree spray of abstract patterns and colors. A third station centered on shapes that responded to music and movement.
Anyone who poked their head in would immediately have known cannabis was part of the festivities. But by limiting consumption to vapes and edibles, the evening lacked the billowing clouds of smoke and red eyes that often define other marijuana-centric events. Virtual Reality Elevated was also notable for having a “no-alcohol” policy, which Grassiany says the “vast majority” of patrons enjoy (although a THC-infused wine appears to be an acceptable method of bending the rules).
Grassiany and Braustein have a number of events planned, including another VR evening in Oakland on Oct. 14. However, Grassiany expressed concern over certain provisions of the 2016 Adult Use of Marijuana Act that, at present, would make the act of giving out samples — a pivotal part of their events’ design — illegal when recreational use goes into effect on Jan. 1.
“We are working with local and state legislators, and industry leaders in the cannabis event production field, to ensure that cannabis events can be compliant with the upcoming recreational cannabis regulations,” he says.
While legislative loop-holes to bypass the samples restriction abound — charging one cent for each sample or having the promoter buy the products outright and then give them away, for example — Grassiany remains hopeful that lobbyists will find a way to get the matter resolved in the coming weeks and months.
He notes with pride that a recent Art of Edibles and GRASSFED collaboration had the distinction of being the first consumption-friendly event to welcome a member of the California State Assembly, when Southern California legislator Reggie Jones Sawyer made an appearance.
“People have been pleasantly surprised,” Grassiany says. “We’ve received positive feedback about the VR events, from people who never tried it before to those who work in the field. We’ve heard the laughs and seen the big smiles in our stand-up and burlesque shows, and gotten many compliments on the live performances at our first music show.”
As the looming threat of state regulations continues to fog the future for what Art of Edibles and GRASSFED may be able to offer in 2018 and beyond, Grassiany is staying focused on what he can control.
“We are working on new types of events such as events targeted to senior citizens, creativity workshops, and an escape-room takeover, as well as more private events and parties like weddings and retreats,” he says. “We plan to bring GRASSFED events to more cities across California, as well as other legal states.”
Virtual Reality Elevated Oakland, Saturday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m. (Location TBA). $35-$95; grassfed.la
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