In the next month, workers of the world will unite to celebrate a time-honored and very drunk tradition: the office holiday party. There will be drunk bosses, struggles to daintily eat appetizers with one hand while the other holds a glass of wine, and, for the unlucky ones among us, karaoke billed as team-bonding.
And as cannabis legalization continues to sweep across the country—11 states and D.C. are now weed-friendly—there’s a new vice ready to take over.
“Cannabars” (as they’re known) complete with “budtenders” (as they’re called) have already become a staple at weddings in the past few years, spurred by early legalization in Colorado and Washington.
Bec Koop, who co-owns Irie Weddings and Events with her business partner Madlyn Kenny, remembers the early days of her industry, when a photographer refused to shoot a couple’s big day after seeing the groom share a celebratory puff with his best man before the ceremony.
But as pot, post-legalization, becomes a money-making business venture, the corporate world has loosened up a bit.
“About 85 percent of our business is still focused on weddings, but we’re definitely picking up more regular corporate events,” Koop told The Daily Beast. “[Weed bars] change the vibe of a company party. People will see their co-workers smoking and say, ‘Oh, you’re a homie, we should hang outside work.’ We say it all the time, cannabis is a common denominator across all demographics—East Coast, West Coast, rich, poor, white, black, gay, straight; it brings people together.”
Of course, not everyone consumes—or at least wants to do so in front of their boss. “We are very open-minded about setting up a cannabis bar that’s not in the main part of the party,” Koop said. If requested, her team can set up a white “weed tent” for additional security.
Koop’s team operates primarily in Denver, where they’ve helmed 75 events this year, along with Seattle, Washington, Boston, Massachusetts, and two properties in California.
Companies that book with Irie must (legally) buy their own pot and then hand it over to the budtenders, who will serve it. A “Flower Package,” which costs $7.50 per guest over the age of 21, will ensure guests a night full of smoking or vaping weed and eating edibles.
The “Beverage” option costs $12.50 a head and includes mocktails that can be infused with microdoses of THC. Every budtender comes armed with an “Overconsumption Kit,” filled with “homeopathic remedies,” just in case anyone who takes a puff starts bugging.
“It’s a lot of fun because when people are not from the cannabis space, we get to learn about the first time they smoked, or hear if they smoked once and had a bad experience, and we get to change it for them,” Koop said. “We can engage with folks and even change their minds.”
As with a regular bar, sometimes people can get too friendly with budtenders. “Some people will hang out with us the entire event, stay away and be antisocial,” Koop said. “We get new, longterm friends over at the cannabis bar. Maybe it’s a plus one who feels awkward, or someone who says, ‘You’re cooler than anyone else here.’” Koop has had to “shoo folks away” from her table to make sure guests don’t miss a boss’ speech.
“You see it with weddings as well. We make sure guests aren’t at the bar during the cake-cutting or first dance,” she added.
Jeff Danzer, aka “JeffThe420Chef,” helms many pot dinner parties in Los Angeles. “I am booked for a couple celebrity holiday events right now, but no corporate ones,” Danzer told The Daily Beast. “We’d love to do one. But if we have edibles at an event, we don’t want you also drinking alcohol, because you’d get crossfaded at your holiday party. Since there’s a fixation on alcohol at company parties, I think bosses shy away from adding cannabis, too.”
Danzer’s son, Jared, who runs his father’s marketing team, told The Daily Beast that companies who have hired The420Chef for celebrations during other times of the year have requested the events not be put on social media. “They aren’t out of the green closet in a way that they feel comfortable with their entire company [endorsing weed],” Jared said.
Reena Rampersad owns and operates the cannabis catering service High Society Supper Club in Hamilton, Ontario, just outside Toronto. She opened the catering service officially last year, after Canada passed legalization, though Rampersad has also run a Caribbean restaurant called The Limin Coconut for a decade. The chef makes sure to request companies booking their holiday parties with her to sign waivers saying they are OK with being put on her business’ social media.
On their own, Rampersad’s dishes like cherry steak and poutine won’t get anyone high. Every item on the menu comes paired with a sauce that carries THC and adding it is optional.
“Holidays are busy for us and will be again this year,” Rampersad said. “That being said, with those events the doses are really low and I always start each party with an information session, Cannabis 101, so people are fully aware and in acknowledgement of what’s happening.”
Rampersad also advises company CEOs to deem the events alcohol-free, though she doesn’t require it. “We want people to actualize the full experience and be present for it,” she said, adding, “In my opinion, both things don’t mix well for the majority of people.”
The chef often gets hired to cater for a smaller department of a bigger company, like a group of executives or a marketing team. “It might be a closed thing for them, and they’re not disclosing it to the entire office,” she said. “They exercise a degree of caution, more caution than a normal party would get, certainly.”
Last year, the CEO of a beverage company flirting with releasing cannabis products hired Rampersad to host a Christmas dinner party for his team. His wife attended, but wanted to sit out the infused sauces because she had a bad experience with a pot brownie in college. But after sitting down and smelling the food, the wife decided to try a bit.
“She made it through the entire meal and when I told her to pause, she said, ‘No, I’m OK,’” Rampersad recalled. “I was concerned because she was having more when she left, and I told her husband. He said she was fine, and the next day she texted me saying she’d had the most amazing night, the best sleep of her life, and couldn’t wait to try it again.” Rampersad will cater their holiday party this year, too.
“I’ve catered a gazillion affairs and events, and the ones where alcohol is involved, we see a transformation of the entire crowd from beginning to end,” Rampersad offered. “By the time we’re cleaning up and leaving, they’re cleaning up people. On the cannabis side of things, that’s not even close. When we clean up, most people are gone, tired, or sleepy. Maybe hanging out, chilling in the corner.”
Anthony Foster runs the “cannabis consumption space” Hamilton Vape, and has worked with Rampersad many times for his annual Dab & Dines. Last year he held a holiday edition of the event, complete with Rampersad’s vegan cauliflower chicken wings and Caribbean-style fritters.
“I wore a Santa hat, passed a big joint around, and was having such a good time,” Foster said. “We gave out Christmas stockings sponsored by the community, and put in little holiday-related items.”
Foster believes smoking weed during the holidays instead of pounding back mulled wine can bring some peace to an often stressful season. “When you get drunk and it gets out of hand, it’s stupid,” Foster said. “We don’t allow alcohol at our parties, and it’s chill—everyone’s chatting, talking, no yelling or arguments.”
Rampersad agrees. “When you bring out food at parties where people are drinking, you’re interrupting conversations, and people are boisterous,” she said. “With cannabis parties, bringing out the food is a parting of the seas; everyone moves out of the way. They’re super conscientious. Or maybe they just have the munchies.”