In a sunlit warehouse in San Francisco, guests mill about while nibbling on lemon curd tarts with edible flowers. Then a gong sounds, signalling that the next round of marijuana joints is being served on the patio.
In May 2015, chef and cannabis enthusiast Coreen Carroll and her partner, Ryan Bush, hosted the first ever Cannaisseur Series event. The underground pop-up restaurant invites medical marijuana patients to share intimate, gourmet meals and weed with like-minded individuals.
In 2016, Business Insider attended the aptly named High Tea, an afternoon of food (both pot-infused and unmedicated), locally sourced cannabis, and community. Here’s what it was like.
Chef Coreen Carroll does not mince words when it comes to her obsession with pot. 'I'm always high,' she told Business Insider.
She and partner Ryan Bush came to the Bay Area from Jacksonville, Florida in 2012 with their sights set on breaking into the cannabis industry.
Carroll and Bush dreamed of opening a dispensary with a restaurant storefront, but they were suddenly forced into the shadows. Carroll enrolled in culinary school.
When the dust settled, Carroll and Bush hosted the first Cannaisseur Series event in an undisclosed San Francisco location in spring 2015. At the time, the legality was dubious.
Cannaisseur Series did not charge guests for marijuana, rather, they 'gifted' the joints.
In November 2016, California made it legal for people over the age of 21 to use and carry up to one ounce of marijuana. However, Cannaisseur Series still requires guests to provide proof of their medical marijuana patient status, which is typically a letter from a doctor, at the door.
'I'm trying to follow the laws as best I can,' Carroll said.
The annual High Tea is a little different from other Cannaisseur Series events. It's organised as an afternoon tea service, rather than a sit-down, prix fixe meal.
Carroll said the cost of Cannaisseur Series events prevents some people from attending, so she wanted to offer a more affordable dining option. Tickets cost about $A120 a pop.
At this event, the guests came from all walks of life. There was a mix of ages, races, and professions, though the crowd skewed slightly more women than men.
Carroll said the event attracts people who have outgrown the bar scene and want to make friends. 'I'd rather smoke a joint,' she said, 'I don't feel as shitty the next day.'
One young woman at the brunch showed me photos of Cannaisseur Series' one-year anniversary dinner in spring 2016. Many repeat guests gushed about Carroll's cooking.
The buffet featured a colourful spread of sliced veggies and beet hummus, currant scones, and tea sandwiches. Carroll said all the food was unmedicated, or made without pot.
Finger foods such as asparagus and pastrami sticks wrapped in phyllo dough encouraged guests to fill their plates and wander the venue.
Every Cannaisseur Series event invites sponsors to set up an informational booth where they can give product demos and educate the community about their services.
Skyline Boulevard Company makes teas infused with kief, a fine-grain cannabis resin. Each bag contains 30 mg of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Bloom Farms set up a 'vape bar,' with its beautifully designed Highlighter pens on display. Users draw from the pen to inhale cannabis oil and exhale a smokeless vapour.
Sustainable cannabis company Flow Kana was also present. Cofounder and CEO Michael Steinmetz said events like this are important in removing pot's stigma. 'That's what cannabis is about -- the community around it,' Steinmetz said.
About a half hour into the festivities, the front-of-house manager began carrying around trays of bite-sized marijuana edibles, including chocolate pot brownies.
Edibles were clearly labelled with dosage to ensure guests didn't overindulge. It's pretty impossible to overdose on weed (and there are no documented cases of fatalities), but treats over 5 mg of THC can leave novice users feeling uncomfortable.
'It's a marathon, not a sprint,' Carroll said. In every menu, she plans for guests to consume no more than 20 mg of THC from edibles -- about one-fifth of a joint.
After guests took a pass at the buffet and edibles, Bush sounded the gong, signalling that it was time to step outside and enjoy the first joints of the marijuana tasting menu.
A THC-rich sativa strain called Berry White got the party rolling. Sativas are often smoked during the day, as they are said to produce uplifting and cerebral effects.
Guests circled up around tables and chatted as the joints made their way around. While some guests came with a friend or a date, there were just as many guests flying solo.
'A lot of people are here because they don't have anyone in the community,' one woman told me. While people who drink alcohol have bars to socialise in, medical marijuana patients are often relegated to their homes.
The afternoon whizzed by. Sativa joints were followed by joints that contained a high-cannabidiol strain, which is said to provide pain relief and little psychoactive effects.
A plate of marijuana-infused polenta squares topped with tomato jam and herbed goat cheese also made the rounds. By this time, guests were mellow as can be.
The last joints contained an indica strain called OG Strawberry, designed to 'get you in a good place to get out the door,' a Flow Kana employee said.
Bush wrapped it up by thanking the vendors and revealing the contents of guests' goodie bags. They contained a joint from Flow Kana and a free vape pen.
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