All posts tagged: United States holidays

Cannabis tourism in California a womens wellness retreat with puff love

At the Ganja Goddess Getaway, yes, there are yoga classes and spiritual talks but the mother lode comes from the spliffs, edibles and pot-infused mocktails that aid the healing

Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Mary Jane Smokewear, a woman with long, grey pigtails crawled towards me, offering a hit off a balloon bag inflated with marijuana vapours. I was sitting cross-legged under a Ganja Goddess Getaway-branded gazebo on a perfect California afternoon and it was the umpteenth time that day that a stranger had come over, unprompted, to share their weed.

The bag was just one way my fellow ganja goddesses were getting high. Plates piled with spliffs, giant blunts, laced caramel-pecan candies and fruity mocktails enhanced with pot-infused tinctures also made the rounds. At one point, I was handed a wizard pipe packed with a tiramisu. Where a domestic goddess might use cream and ladyfingers, a ganja goddess gets baking with alternating layers of green and hash.

This is a canna-holiday, California-style. After new laws permitting recreational marijuana use came into effect in the state on 1 January, canna-visionaries wasted little time integrating their product into the regions aspirational aesthetic. You can tour the sun-grown, craft cannabis fields of the norths Humboldt County while in Los Angeles marijuana chef Chris Sayegh plans to open the citys first high cuisine cannabis restaurant (working name: Herb).

Mama
Mama Sailene Ossman, one of the getaways co-founders serves a weed-laced sweet treat.

The women-only Ganja Goddess Getaway bills itself as a wellness retreat with a (herbal) difference. The retreat itself is in the woods near the coast at Pescadero, about an hours drive south of San Francisco. At the end of a long dirt track, in a meadow surrounded by redwoods, I found about 135 goddesses engaged in a ritual of puff and pass. Twentysomething girls sporting cannabis-leaf-motif leggings shared bongs with middle-aged women dressed in loungewear. Others passed spliffs around the hot tub, lined up for henna tattoos, or got cannabis oil massages. Two friends who had followed the pungent aromas all the way from Chile snored peacefully through a Laughter Yoga class.

The getaways five co-founders are a diverse mix: CEO Deidra Bagdasarian is also the entrepreneur behind award-winning cannabis confection company Bliss Edibles, while event co-ordinator Trish Demesmin was an administrator at Oaklands cannabis business college, Oaksterdam, and is now president of a medical cannabis delivery company. Mama Sailene Ossman is the companys head of public relations and attributes her nickname to being famous for bringing the food and the weed, while married couple Kelli Valentine and Ciera Lagges complete the quintet, the former as in-house filmmaker, the latter as chief creative officer. Together, they all preach cannabis as a meditative and spiritual plant.

Bagdasarians vision for the getaway has changed since it launched in 2016 (when only women with a medical marijuana card could attend).

In the beginning, I just wanted it to be a good vacation, like a stoner-girl slumber party, she told me. Soon, however, she noticed the women were undergoing transformational experiences, So I wanted to foster a space where women can use cannabis as a tool for self-improvement.

Deidra
Deidra Bagdasarian, co-founder and CEO of Ganja Goddess Getaway

This makes the retreat less a group slump in front of Netflix and more a series of wellness seminars wherein the crowd passes weed around while listening to talks with topics such as Give Plants A Chance. During this, Bagdasarian recounted the inability of Prozac to assuage her depression. She railed against accepted norms of big pharma, sugar and a culture of chemicals. But cannabis, Bagdasarian said, was a healer. Everyone was paying attention until a butterfly flapped into the gazebo, drawing an en masse, distracted woooah.

Its true the women I met here werent just in it for the giggles. They all talked about how cannabis had helped them with ailments and conditions, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. Many had travelled solo, from non-legal states including Nebraska, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida and they formed fast bonds, sharing in-jokes over breakfast and doing morning meditation together.

No ones judging, said a 35-year-old from Sacramento, when I asked what the appeal was. This is two days where I get to just be myself and focus on me. Like the majority of women I spoke to, she asked to remain anonymous, for fear of what her workplace, family and friends would think.

Ganja
Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

A lot of Americans are in the cannabis closet, Bagdasarian said. But here, they can meet their tribe. And cannabis, she added, is a useful facilitator. It lets you take your mask off. Women like being vulnerable and connecting. We give them a safe space where they can do that.

Safe, however, is a relative term given the United States tangled cannabis laws. In January, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced he was giving federal prosecutors carte blanche to go after cannabis growers, sellers and users who are violating the nations rule of law. The shock memo defied Obama-era policy to leave states that had legalised the drug alone. President Trump, however, recently promised to respect states rights on legal pot. More states are discussing going recreational this year, including Michigan, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Such ambiguity has stalled many California cities from writing rules that would grant cannabis tourism a green light. Its frustrating for Bagdasarian, who cites finding venues as her biggest challenge. Few places permit open consumption and cannabis businesses are blocked from promoting themselves on social media. Ticket seller Eventbrite recently cut ties with the getaway, citing federal law.

For this reason, the getaway is limited to private retreat centres, where camping is the most practical accommodation. In Pescadero, attendees shared 12-person bell tents or brought their own; there were also more comfortable, though higher-priced options, of a shared yurt with wood-burner and cots and dorm-style rooms in the main lodge. Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Mary JaneCannabis tourism in California a womens wellness retreat with puff love
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Holy smoke! The church of cannabis

As congregations dwindle, a new religion is lighting up Denver, Colorado. Aaron Millar joins the elevationists of the International Church of Cannabis who worship the weed

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorados lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church? So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 4/20, as its known in the United States, the unofficial potheads holiday (because its 4.20pm somewhere, right?) the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.

From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But its indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

That mural would probably buy you next doors house, Lee says, letting me in. But they got it for the price of an air ticket for Scharf, a few days skiing and the loan of a jacket. People love fantastical ideas.

Perfect
Perfect peace: guests of the church relaxing in the hangout room. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

The original plan was to open it to the general public, but because Colorados current pot law only allows smoking in private clubs, it is, for now at least, a members-only affair. To date they have more than 1,400 on their list. They open the doors from Thursday to Sunday for smoke-free public viewing, with private cannabis services held on Friday nights. It seems to be growing.

Thats not surprising. Medical marijuana was legalised in Colorado in 2000 the first state to write it into its constitution. By 2009 dispensaries began popping up around the state and legalisation of recreational use soon followed in 2012. It has, for the most part, been wholeheartedly embraced. In 2016 Colorado sold more than a $1bn of weed, created thousands of new jobs and collected almost $200m in additional tax revenue. A church dedicated to cannabis may seem strange to us, but in Colorado it might just be the next logical step.

But there have been detractors. Currently, three of the founding members, including Lee, are under citation for two charges dating back to their opening 4/20 event: the first for breaking the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, and the second for breaking a state law that forbids marijuana consumption outside private homes and clubs. They refute the claims, and officials admit that they appear to have been adhering to the law since then, but a court date is pending.

Dan Pabon, from the states House of Representatives, goes further: in a recent interview with the New York Times he said that the new church offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters intent on allowing legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. He introduced an amendment that would ban pot use in churches, but to date it has failed to gather support. Overall, though, official opposition seems to be dwindling. Daniel Rowland, spokesman for the Denver city office, says: As long as they operate within the law and dont offend their neighbours, theyre free to do what they want.

Lighting
Lighting up: Lee Molloy, co-founding member, smokes a joint on the main stage. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

But what of those neighbours? Peter G Chronis, writing in local paper the Denver Post, said he felt blindsided angry that the project was done in secret and that the neighbourhood didnt have a chance to voice concerns prior to its completion. Parking and noise, rather than the consumption of marijuana inside, still seem to be the major worries, as well as the possibility that attendees will drive home stoned. But Lee is hoping to turn them round: arranging volunteer days through their church, to help make a positive impact in the community. Last Saturday they were out collecting rubbish from local streets. For now, at least, there seems to be a tentative truce.

But putting all beliefs and disputes aside, what everyone can surely agree is that they have transformed a near-derelict building into a staggering work of art. Every single surface has been painted in vibrant patterns of red, blue and green, geometric prisms with mythological creatures, stars and eyes hidden within. At the back wall, two dream-like Dali-esque giants sit cross-legged as if lost in meditation. It feels like a hallucination, someone says beside me, eyes careening upwards. Its like being swallowed by a Pink Floyd album cover. Perhaps most impressive of all is that it was created spontaneously without a sketch or a plan. This was another freebie: they flew Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel over and bought him a bunch of paints, then he started work in one corner and painted whatever he dreamed up until he finished. It took him just six days he rested on the seventh.

As the service begins we are encouraged to get to know each other: people spark up joints and pass them around. Long wisps of smoke float to the ceiling and cover the congregation in a flowery shroud; splutterings of coughs and giggles, the sharp intake of breath on all sides. There are about 30 of us in all, a mixed bag of misfits ranging from a self-proclaimed pothead granny, whose eyes appear to move independently of each other, to a couple of Harold & Kumar wannabies taking selfies at the altar. And then theres Lee: a former Bible quiz champion, raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, he has the credentials of a preacher if not the look: bushy hipster beard and long messy hair, dark bags under his eyes and the whiff of old smoke on his shirt. It feels more like the start of an AA meeting than a spiritual encounter. But then he starts to speak.

Time
Time out: arcade games in the downstairs lounge, where members can also play ping pong. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

Being an elevationist [the term theyve coined for the theology of the new church] means being an explorer, Lee begins. Our spiritual journey is one of self-discovery, not one of dogma. We believe there is no one-path solution to lifes big questions. This is simply a supportive place for each one of us to find a pathway to our own spirituality, whatever that may be. Think of it like the pick n mix of belief. There is no doctrine, no creed, no scripture or book. Simply choose bits of whatever world religions work for you, or make something up yourself, mix it all together, and see if it tastes good. There are as many pathways to being an elevationist as there are elevationists, Lee says. Spirituality shouldnt be a prescription; it should be an adventure. Its about seeking, not being told what to find.

Its an idea that will strike a chord with many people. Church attendance in the UK is on the decline. Last year only 1.4% of the population attended Sunday Anglican services the lowest level ever recorded. There is a significant demographic of people who simply cant relate to organised religion or outright oppose it on principle. Being able to explore your own path, within a supportive space, could help fill that widening spiritual deficit.

But heres where they may lose you. That journey of self-discovery, says Lee, is enhanced by ritual cannabis use. We have been programmed to behave and think in certain ways, he says. Cannabis helps elevationists tear down those false realities.

Its easy to baulk. Does watching Star Trek and eating peanut M&Ms count as a spiritual path? But, in fact, cannabis use has long been part of religion, from ancient Chinese shamans to modern-day Rastafarians: inducing altered states of consciousness has been a cornerstone of belief since time immemorial. And even without drugs, whether its spinning Sufi dancers or drumming voodoo priests, or even just simple prayer or meditation, taking the mind to a higher plane has always been a road to the divine, whatever you may conceive that to be.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Mary JaneHoly smoke! The church of cannabis
read more

Holy smoke! The church of cannabis

As congregations dwindle, a new religion is lighting up Denver, Colorado. Aaron Millar joins the elevationists of the International Church of Cannabis who worship the weed

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorados lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church? So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 4/20, as its known in the United States, the unofficial potheads holiday (because its 4.20pm somewhere, right?) the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.

From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But its indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

That mural would probably buy you next doors house, Lee says, letting me in. But they got it for the price of an air ticket for Scharf, a few days skiing and the loan of a jacket. People love fantastical ideas.

Perfect
Perfect peace: guests of the church relaxing in the hangout room. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

The original plan was to open it to the general public, but because Colorados current pot law only allows smoking in private clubs, it is, for now at least, a members-only affair. To date they have more than 1,400 on their list. They open the doors from Thursday to Sunday for smoke-free public viewing, with private cannabis services held on Friday nights. It seems to be growing.

Thats not surprising. Medical marijuana was legalised in Colorado in 2000 the first state to write it into its constitution. By 2009 dispensaries began popping up around the state and legalisation of recreational use soon followed in 2012. It has, for the most part, been wholeheartedly embraced. In 2016 Colorado sold more than a $1bn of weed, created thousands of new jobs and collected almost $200m in additional tax revenue. A church dedicated to cannabis may seem strange to us, but in Colorado it might just be the next logical step.

But there have been detractors. Currently, three of the founding members, including Lee, are under citation for two charges dating back to their opening 4/20 event: the first for breaking the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, and the second for breaking a state law that forbids marijuana consumption outside private homes and clubs. They refute the claims, and officials admit that they appear to have been adhering to the law since then, but a court date is pending.

Dan Pabon, from the states House of Representatives, goes further: in a recent interview with the New York Times he said that the new church offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters intent on allowing legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. He introduced an amendment that would ban pot use in churches, but to date it has failed to gather support. Overall, though, official opposition seems to be dwindling. Daniel Rowland, spokesman for the Denver city office, says: As long as they operate within the law and dont offend their neighbours, theyre free to do what they want.

Lighting
Lighting up: Lee Molloy, co-founding member, smokes a joint on the main stage. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

But what of those neighbours? Peter G Chronis, writing in local paper the Denver Post, said he felt blindsided angry that the project was done in secret and that the neighbourhood didnt have a chance to voice concerns prior to its completion. Parking and noise, rather than the consumption of marijuana inside, still seem to be the major worries, as well as the possibility that attendees will drive home stoned. But Lee is hoping to turn them round: arranging volunteer days through their church, to help make a positive impact in the community. Last Saturday they were out collecting rubbish from local streets. For now, at least, there seems to be a tentative truce.

But putting all beliefs and disputes aside, what everyone can surely agree is that they have transformed a near-derelict building into a staggering work of art. Every single surface has been painted in vibrant patterns of red, blue and green, geometric prisms with mythological creatures, stars and eyes hidden within. At the back wall, two dream-like Dali-esque giants sit cross-legged as if lost in meditation. It feels like a hallucination, someone says beside me, eyes careening upwards. Its like being swallowed by a Pink Floyd album cover. Perhaps most impressive of all is that it was created spontaneously without a sketch or a plan. This was another freebie: they flew Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel over and bought him a bunch of paints, then he started work in one corner and painted whatever he dreamed up until he finished. It took him just six days he rested on the seventh.

As the service begins we are encouraged to get to know each other: people spark up joints and pass them around. Long wisps of smoke float to the ceiling and cover the congregation in a flowery shroud; splutterings of coughs and giggles, the sharp intake of breath on all sides. There are about 30 of us in all, a mixed bag of misfits ranging from a self-proclaimed pothead granny, whose eyes appear to move independently of each other, to a couple of Harold & Kumar wannabies taking selfies at the altar. And then theres Lee: a former Bible quiz champion, raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, he has the credentials of a preacher if not the look: bushy hipster beard and long messy hair, dark bags under his eyes and the whiff of old smoke on his shirt. It feels more like the start of an AA meeting than a spiritual encounter. But then he starts to speak.

Time
Time out: arcade games in the downstairs lounge, where members can also play ping pong. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

Being an elevationist [the term theyve coined for the theology of the new church] means being an explorer, Lee begins. Our spiritual journey is one of self-discovery, not one of dogma. We believe there is no one-path solution to lifes big questions. This is simply a supportive place for each one of us to find a pathway to our own spirituality, whatever that may be. Think of it like the pick n mix of belief. There is no doctrine, no creed, no scripture or book. Simply choose bits of whatever world religions work for you, or make something up yourself, mix it all together, and see if it tastes good. There are as many pathways to being an elevationist as there are elevationists, Lee says. Spirituality shouldnt be a prescription; it should be an adventure. Its about seeking, not being told what to find.

Its an idea that will strike a chord with many people. Church attendance in the UK is on the decline. Last year only 1.4% of the population attended Sunday Anglican services the lowest level ever recorded. There is a significant demographic of people who simply cant relate to organised religion or outright oppose it on principle. Being able to explore your own path, within a supportive space, could help fill that widening spiritual deficit.

But heres where they may lose you. That journey of self-discovery, says Lee, is enhanced by ritual cannabis use. We have been programmed to behave and think in certain ways, he says. Cannabis helps elevationists tear down those false realities.

Its easy to baulk. Does watching Star Trek and eating peanut M&Ms count as a spiritual path? But, in fact, cannabis use has long been part of religion, from ancient Chinese shamans to modern-day Rastafarians: inducing altered states of consciousness has been a cornerstone of belief since time immemorial. And even without drugs, whether its spinning Sufi dancers or drumming voodoo priests, or even just simple prayer or meditation, taking the mind to a higher plane has always been a road to the divine, whatever you may conceive that to be.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/aug/13/church-of-cannabis-denver-colorado

Mary JaneHoly smoke! The church of cannabis
read more