Article and pictures by Philip Rebentisch, Chief Storyteller at Gotta Story.
At the home of Academy Award® winning actor Jamie Foxx, a unique event took place on Saturday, July 13, celebrating the 50th birthday of gifted film director F. Gary Gray. Nestled deep within the Santa Monica mountains near the exclusive enclave of Westlake Village, California, all the boxes were checked for an A-list celebrity party:
☑ A 40-acre gated estate and security personnel with walkie talkies.
☑ Beautiful women poolside in bikinis.
☑ Equally good looking men joining them in the pool.
☑ Onsite DJ.
☑ Excellent (and free!) food and drinks.
☑ Writers trying to hand scripts to Gary and “his people.”
☑ Cannabis companies educating people.
If that last item seems out of place, it’s actually what made the event truly special. In keeping with the spirit of the celebration, producing the event was a collaborative effort between Andy Price and Herb Bohanon of Platinum Star Events, in association with Curtis Jones and Moe Fourte of Mach4Media Group. Brad Turner, Founder & Editor of the Cannabis Investing Forum and Glen Choi, Founder of the Field of Dreams Dispensary and Vert Management were also instrumental in creating this first-of-its-kind cannabis-sponsored celebration.
While the party honored Gary’s birthday and cinematic achievements, cannabis companies had the opportunity to take part and speak with potential investors and guests in a large tented area near the pool. Throughout the 10-hour event, the party had a relaxed, non-Hollywood vibe as guests were genuinely curious about the medicinal side of cannabis, its social impact, and why the companies sponsored the event.
“The people I spoke with don’t want to be in the dark anymore, they want to learn about the myriad of medicines available.” ⎼ Dana Workman, CannaKids
Dana Workman is the talented Executive Assistant for Tracy Ryan, the CEO of CannaKids, and signing up as a sponsor was important for them. Beaming with a warm smile and spirit, Dana said “This is a great event for the medicinal side of cannabis. Many experienced cannabis users visited our booth to learn more about the medicinal side of it. The people I spoke with don’t want to be in the dark anymore, they want to learn about the myriad of medicines available. So much education is needed because cannabis is never a one size fits all solution. This unique social event lets us talk with people we may not have had the opportunity to do so.”
“Put down your phone and enjoy each other.” ⎼ F. Gary Gray
And that’s exactly what people did. Person to person conversations was definitely the norm and people never had to shout over the DJ’s jams. Ian Rassman (left), of Chosen Payments, helped promote the event and remarked that “What’s so great about this event is that it’s a bunch of different worlds coming together in a social setting centered around education.” Chef Matt, of Chef Matt Cooks (right), is well accustomed to catering high-profile celebrity events and he had a similar perspective. “People may not have known about some of the companies and brands here, and this is an excellent way to talk and connect with people in an amazing setting.” For the record, Matt’s sliders were scrumptious and I lost count after four of them.
Putting the Social in Social Equity
California state regulations set up a social equity program around cannabis to help people of color who are most impacted by the failed “war on drugs.” Essentially, a certain number of cannabis licenses are set aside for qualified applicants. I spoke with Grayce Bentley (right), the Director of Social Equity for Cannabis Advising Partners which specializes in providing cannabis licensing advice. Grayce, who holds a Masters of Social Work degree, feels that “Social equity is very important. We want to form coalitions and connect with other people and organizations. You can’t really understand the issues unless you’re on the inside. It’s about creating equitable solutions for the community, and we want to create a national model to be at the front of that policy conversation.” Navigating the constantly changing licensing and compliance environment takes steady hands and fortitude. CAP Co-Founder Devon Martinez told me that “CAP became a sponsor to speak with potential investors and the cannabis community in general. It’s been an excellent day.”
Chonsie Bullock (center), CEO of Green Haven LA, LLC has licenses for cultivation, distribution, a retail dispensary, and live events. In the cannabis world, this creates a classic horizontally and vertically integrated business and is indeed a ticket to success. An ardent advocate and participant in LA’s social equity program, Chonsie describes her ventures as “A grassroots effort to get people back to work and trying to get people into the system who were impacted by the war on drugs. We’re here to help educate people about the various products and to help them grow their own medicine. We want to take it above ground and educate people for success.”
Putting People First
Former Olympic Gold Medalist, World, and European gymnastics champion Andreas Wecker invented a cold press machine for hemp and other oils. His company, Andreas Seed Oils, use hemp plants grown on his California and Oregon farms and combines the entire plant with hemp seeds to create his unique, healthy, hemp seed oil and powder. The cold press technique means no solvents such as butane or ethanol are used, and Andreas said his hemp oil products are the first certified organic CBD oil on the planet. “We feel that we’re constantly swimming upstream in teaching people about our products. This event gives us the opportunity to educate people that we want to create the purest oils. This kind of event permits us to educate people and spark their imagination about how unique it is.”
Curt Fairbrother is the CEO of MedTainer, a global, revolutionary bottle design, manufacturing, branding, and sales company. His son Shane serves as the Marketing Director. “Our products are for medical and adult-use, and our bottles were originally made to grind pills for both pediatric and geriatric patients,” Curt said. “Now we’re using them to grind and store cannabis medicine for people on the go. All of our manufacturing is here in California and we take pride in that fact. Shane added that “Entertainers want to be in the cannabis space and we thought this was a perfect event to talk with potential investors.” Full disclosure ⎼ I took a MedTainer to try at home, in gray, which seemed appropriate given the namesake of the party.
David Rocker of Ionic told me that the best experiences in life are meant to be shared. Ionic’s exceptional concentrates, including premium oils, dab wax, and white cannabis oil distillates were created to celebrate the moment's people spend together. “We started in Seattle, Washington and wanted to introduce ourselves to Southern California. We really want people to know that what they are smoking is great, that we’re the Mercedes-Benz® of cannabis.” With their high-end products and sophisticated packaging, it was a popular booth at which to hang.
Art Creating Reality
The estate is a photographer's dream and it was fun grabbing photos throughout the day.
This included Jaime’s studio/media room which doubled as the cannabis smoking lounge, seen here before it became crowded and smoky. In a few hours, it would have been a bad photo because you couldn't see anything through the purple haze. Ask me how I know.
Back in the tent, Lisa Lindo and Franklin Johnson from CannaCity were giving away t-shirts promoting their artistic photo series. Lisa described it as “Sexy women smoking who demonstrate female empowerment.” Franklin added that “I want people to appreciate the art and it’s an educational play. It’s not about sex, it’s about tenacity that women can wear in front of their parents.” Apparently, actions are louder than words of approval because all the t-shirts were gone in short order.
Many Languages Spoken in a Big Tent
Carol Ortega Algarra is the CEO of Muisca Capital Group, an international cannabis consulting company. Passion, energy, humor, and a sense of mission come naturally to her, and Carol prominently served on the cannabis legalization commission for the country of Colombia. She also has the distinction of being the first woman in South America to make an investing pitch for a cannabis company. Carol told me that unfortunately, discrimination and sexism are not unknown in the Latin America cannabis community. “As a guest, I’m very pleased to see a lot of diversity and people of color at this beautiful event. I love to see people getting involved, it shows we belong in the space. In Colombia, social equity literally meant a path to peace, and cannabis was the key. Now we are trying to change the stigma in Colombia through science, and we will win this fight. The region is changing because of the science behind cannabis.” That narrative is also true for Americans as well as people around the world, and I truly enjoyed hearing Carol’s international perspective.
Lighting the Health & Wellness Tree
One of the understated visual treats of Jamie’s estate is a tree that lights up with revolving colors as the evening sets in. Overlooking the valley below, it seemed more like a beacon guiding people to the world of medicinal cannabis and its potential for improving health and wellness. For the sponsors, investors, and guests, this event was one more step in normalizing cannabis and the role it will play in society. During the course of the day, you could feel a community forming between the sponsors and guests. Next time, my guess is that Brad will need a bigger tent.
Philip Rebentisch is the Chief Storyteller of the podcast, Cannabis For the Rest of Us, on Apple Podcasts.
The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.
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