As cannabis has become increasingly legal and its consumption has transitioned from surreptitious back alley one-hitter sessions to celebrity chef-prepared “infused” hors d’oeuvres served at fancy galas, it’s hard not to feel like some of the magic has left our collective relationship with weed. Yes, fewer people are being needlessly imprisoned over dimebags. Sure, the plant’s medicinal benefits are finally being given their long overdue praises and studies. Great strides have indeed been made, but while the policies, products and potencies improve, some of the intangibles that first drew us all to cannabis are being lost in the shuffle.
I’ve been writing about cannabis for almost three years now. I’ve eaten and drank countless products dosed with various ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). I’ve gone to drab industry expos in cavernous convention centers and intimate industry parties in art deco mansions. I’ve even smoked pot using a Chicken McNugget as a pipe and used ranch dressing as bong water. All of this was in service of creating cannabis-centric content for the emerging audience that you, dear reader, are a part of.
As exciting as the above may sound, the childlike glee one can derive from receiving a free ounce or gummies invariably dissipates over time, and it all gets folded into just “part of the job.” This will happen regardless of how appreciative and aware of your good fortune your higher mind may be. Just as porno editors aren’t perpetually aroused as they do their work, my excitement over cannabis has gradually dulled. Fortunately, right as my interest in the topic was about to flatline, one writer’s audacious project delivered a life-saving shot of adrenaline.
Michelle Lhooq loves weed more than most people. Were she not already wearing that fact on her sleeve in person, her articles on the topic in media outlets like VICE and NY Mag and in her forthcoming book, Weed: Everything You Want to Know But Are Always Too Stoned to Ask, make it abundantly clear. Recognizing that something was missing in the current landscape of LA’s cannabis scene, Lhooq threw caution to the wind and decided to combine her passion for pot with one of her other loves, raving, to plan her very own monthly “weed rave.” I met with Lhooq a few days before the inaugural event and was immediately struck by the intentionality that she put into every decision to help bring her “stoner fantasy” to fruition.
“Most of the weed events I’ve been going to have been pretty bad,” said Lhooq when asked what inspired the project. “They feel really corporate, really awkward. It’s people standing around behind booths having to give the same spiel over and over, and music is usually an afterthought.”
Lhooq mentioned that the few “decent” cannabis parties she'd been to were entirely hip-hop focused and neglected the thriving LA rave scene happening right under their noses. To that end, she began curating her lineup for her rave, choosing DJs specifically selected to highlight different electronic music genres historically tied to cannabis.
Perhaps more important than the music and free weed, Lhooq hoped to bring a social justice element to her event and frontloaded the rave’s 12-hour runtime (4:20 p.m. to 4:20 a.m.) with panel discussions covering social justice issues relevant to the cannabis community. When I arrived at the three-story warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles serving as a venue on the day of the rave, one such discussion was already taking place. Adult film stars Buck Angel and Janice Griffith were discussing the parallels between the War on Drugs and the governmental oppression of sex workers. Following that, a group of “weedfluencer” women took the stage to share their struggles and successes as representatives of the culture on social media platforms still hostile toward cannabis content. While these conversations could have felt like eating vegetables before dessert elsewhere, Lhooq’s earnest moderating coupled with the panelists’ jovial demeanors and willingness to engage in dialogue made the affair feel more akin to a salon-style discussion amongst friends.
After the panels and before the next item on the weed rave’s agenda, I explored the warehouse further, stopping to peruse (and when available, sample) the various products offered on the card tables outside the dance floor. I peered in on the downtempo chill out room, with already-stoned guests inside mellowing out on the couch and cushions covering the floor. As I hadn’t brought a yoga mat with me, I opted to skip the stoned rooftop session under the super wolf blood moon to take a food break before the dancey part of the evening began.
Once I returned to the scrum, the raving portion of the night was in full swing and, save for the haze hovering above the dance floor, it was a scene indistinguishable from the countless other warehouse parties and after hours you’d find around the city. Lhooq had mentioned doubters who wondered how cannabis at a rave wouldn’t result in everyone being too sleepy to dance. The moves and energy in front of me instantly proved their fears unfounded.
I couldn’t last until the very end of the rave, but I stayed to dance, chat, drink and smoke with the other revelers for as long as I could. I left rejuvenated, happy that the DIY ethos pumping through LA’s underground music scene had ported so perfectly into the cannabis space. Lhooq doesn’t need my verdict to know her weed rave was a success—she’s already got another one planned for NYC in March—but after re-sparking my joy for pot like some kind of stoner Marie Kondo, she’s certainly earned my thanks.
Photo credits: Jacob Andrew and Kaitlin Parry.