Cannabis was the star of several sessions at this year’s Catersource + The Special Event Conference, and it’s no surprise why: as cannabis becomes legal in more states, and stoner stigmas decrease, cannabis users want their substance of choice offered at events. Cannabis can positively enhance the experience for guests, but before you set up a cannabis bar at your next event, consider these points that CS+TSE session speakers want you to know.
Please note: The conversation around serving cannabis at events is complex and nuanced. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to serving cannabis at events. While we enjoy educating event planners on up-and-coming event trends, this article is meant to inspire the reader to begin thinking about how they can implement cannabis offerings into their own business. There is a lot to learn about this topic, and we encourage readers to continue their research and education on this topic with external sources, including some of these resources we recommend:
- Food Safety Guidance for Cannabis-Infused Products, a guide by the National Environmental Health Association
- Cannabis Courses and Certifications, a program with on-demand videos by the Trichrome Institute
- The Terpene Institute
- ServSafe courses, training courses for safe food handling
What’s the Difference?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical found in hemp plants that causes psychedelic effects. The other chemical found in hemp plants that contains more soothing, healing properties is Cannabidiol (CBD).
Know Your State’s Laws
In his session Cannabis Drinks, a New and Exciting Way to Experience Weed, Dan Braunstein, founder of Grassfed (a production company that specializes in cannabis-themed events), says that 20 states have legalized cannabis, so make sure yours is one of them. Even then, he notes that this doesn’t mean cannabis is necessarily legal in public or that any store can sell cannabis products. Use discretion when purchasing or contracting cannabis for your event. Also, make sure to only serve people 21+, because serving anyone underage is a felony in most states.
Understand Your Audience
If you’re planning to serve cannabis at your next event, get a thorough understanding of your audience beforehand. Are they regular users or will this group be experimenting for the first time? How many of the guests will be consuming cannabis? Being conscientious of the crowd will put you in the best position for caring for guests while ensuring an enjoyable experience for all.
Location, Location, Location
Tomer Grassiani, founder of The Art of Edibles cannabis collective and event manager for Grassfed, spoke about the importance of creating an appropriate setting for cannabis events in his session Cannabis & Hospitality–How to Safely & Legally Incorporate Cannabis in Events. The first step he suggests is to check that your venue is cannabis friendly. Second, know if the venue allows smoking, and match the consumption form to the event and venue setting. “If it looks very sophisticated and high-end, like a wedding, you may want to just incorporate drinks there.” He says that if smoking is allowed, make sure the space is open and well-ventilated so as not to create a “hot-box” for smells and contact-high.
Consumption Type is Key
Educate yourself on forms of consumption so that you can ensure the best experience for guests. Smoking can lead to mental cloudiness; edibles can make guests feel sleepy and possibly comatose. Braunstein is a big fan of cannabis drinks for that reason: with nano emulsification, a person consuming a cannabis drink will experience a shorter high that kicks in within 10–15 minutes, making it easier for guests to pace themselves and for you, as a planner, to ensure a safer, more enjoyable event for all.
What to Do if a Guest Overconsumes
While cannabis is not known for unlocking outrageous behavior the way alcohol does, it is still important to know what to do if an eventgoer consumes too much. Grassiani suggests getting the guest to a quiet place, have them focus on hydrating and serve them pure CBD to balance out the effects of the THC. Have them wait it out with their friends so they know they’re safe.
Contract an Insured Budtender
There is nothing better you can do for your event (and yourself) than to make sure you hire an insured, knowledgeable budtender to serve guests and help educate them as to what and how much they are consuming. A budtender can also help you figure out the best options for what to serve at your event, choosing the best regulated products. They can load and sanitize vaporizers between guest usage and check IDs, making sure your sanitary and legal bases are covered. If you also are serving alcohol, Braunstein recommends using bracelets to discern which guests are consuming what, so that you don’t have to worry about anyone mixing (even if they think they’ll be fine, you’re better off not taking chances). Don’t let guests self-serve: a budtender is the best way to serve guests safely and keep them well-informed.
Why Cannabis is Great for Events
With all there is to be cautious about, why have cannabis at your event? The first thing to realize is that a lot of legal precautions are the result of outdated stigmas around the hemp plant and resulting cannabis products. With these stigmas falling away, people are realizing that in a safe environment, cannabis can strengthen the senses for a more intense and vibrant experience, says Braunstein. There are fewer calories than in alcohol, almost no side effects, and definitely no hangover. From wedding guests to corporate professionals, that’s a great reason to choose cannabis.
No THC, No Problem
If getting high isn’t allowed in your venue or state, or if your guests aren’t interested, you can still bring cannabis to the table. In her session Infuse Your Business Profits with CBD, chef Nettie Frank talked about the benefits of adding CBD to food and beverages. Healing CBD oil can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase mental clarity. With nano emulsification, it can also be absorbed quickly and dispersed equally throughout food and beverages. Frank demonstrated the vast range of a CBD-infused menu, from CBD-infused mustard-based salad dressing to CBD-infused cream cheese for crudites to CBD-infused chocolate glaze for ice cream sundaes. (And as a competitor in the Swizzle bartending competition, she infused her non-alcoholic drink with CBD oil.) “You can put it in everything and anything,” said Frank. And you can give it to anyone, too: there are no age restrictions on CBD, so you don’t have to worry about vigilant serving.
As long as you educate yourself and work within the parameters of the law, offering cannabis at your event can enhance the ambience and provide a healthy, fun way for guests to indulge.
Interested in attending The Special Event? Be sure to mark your calendars and join us in March of 2023 for an event experience designed to ignite and inspire! Visit thespecialeventshow.com to stay up to date.