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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 diminish, cannabis users want their substance of choice to be featured at events. Cannabis can positively enhance the guest experience, but before you set up a cannabis bar at your next event, consider these points the speakers at the CS+TSE session would like to share with you.

Please Note: The conversation about serving cannabis at events is complex and nuanced. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to serving cannabis at events. While we’re happy to educate event planners about emerging event trends, this article aims to get the reader thinking about how they can incorporate cannabis offerings into their own business. There is much to learn about this topic, and we encourage readers to continue their research and education on this topic with outside sources, including some of these resources we recommend:

What is the difference?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical found in hemp plants that produces psychedelic effects. The other chemical found in hemp plants with more soothing, healing properties is cannabidiol (CBD).

Know the laws of your state

In his session “Cannabis Drinks, a New and Exciting Way to Experience Weed,” Dan Braunstein, founder of Grassfed (a production company specializing in cannabis-themed events), says 20 states have legalized cannabis, so make sure to that yours is one of them. Even then, he notes, this doesn’t mean cannabis is necessarily legal in public, or that every store can sell cannabis products. Use discretion when purchasing or contracting cannabis for your event. Also, make sure you only serve people over the age of 21, as serving a minor is a criminal offense in most states.

Understand your audience

If you’re planning on serving cannabis at your next event, do a thorough acquaintance with your audience beforehand. Are they regular users or will this group be experimenting for the first time? How many of the guests will use cannabis? Being crowd-aware will put you in the best position to cater to guests while ensuring an enjoyable experience for all.

Location, location, location

Tomer Grassiani, founder of cannabis collective The Art of Edibles and events manager for Grassfed, spoke about the importance of creating an appropriate framework for cannabis events in his session Cannabis & Hospitality – How to Safely & Legally Incorporate Cannabis in Events. The first step he suggests is to check if your venue is cannabis-friendly. Second, know if the venue allows smoking and tailor the mode of consumption to the event and venue. “If it looks very sophisticated and upscale, like a wedding, you might just want to put drinks in there.” He says if smoking is allowed, make sure the space is open and well-ventilated to avoid a “hot box ‘ for creating smells and a contact high.

Consumption type is the key

Learn about consumption patterns so you can provide the best experience for guests. Smoking can cause mental clouding; Edibles can make guests drowsy and possibly comatose. This is why Braunstein is a big fan of cannabis drinks: With nano-emulsification, a person consuming a cannabis drink experiences a shorter high that kicks in within 10-15 minutes, making it easier for guests to to accelerate itself, and for you as the planner, to ensure a safer and more enjoyable event for all.

What to do if a guest consumes too much?

While cannabis isn’t known for inducing unruly behavior like alcohol, it’s still important to know what to do if a venue-goer is consuming too much. Grassiani suggests taking the guest to a quiet place, focusing on hydration, and serving them pure CBD to balance out the effects of the THC. Make them wait with their friends so they know they’re safe.

Hire an insured budtender

There’s nothing better you can do for your event (and yourself) than make sure you hire an assured, knowledgeable budtender to serve guests and help educate them on what and how much they’re consuming. A budtender can also help you find the best options for serving at your event and choose the most regulated products. You can charge and sanitize vaporizers between guest uses, and check IDs to ensure your sanitary and legal bases are covered. If you’re also serving alcohol, Braunstein recommends using wristbands to identify which patrons are consuming what, so you don’t have to worry about someone mixing things up (even if they think they’re fine, don’t go risk a ). Don’t let guests serve themselves: A budtender is the best way to safely serve guests and keep them well-informed.

Why cannabis is great for events

With all you need to consider, why should you have cannabis at your event? The first thing to realize is that many legal precautions are the result of outdated stigmas surrounding the hemp plant and the cannabis products that result from it. With those stigmas lifted, people are realizing that in a safe environment, cannabis can empower the senses for a more intense and vivid experience, Braunstein says. There are fewer calories than alcohol, almost no side effects, and definitely no hangovers. From wedding guests to business people, this is a good reason to choose cannabis.

No THC, no problem

If your venue or state doesn’t allow getting high, or if your guests aren’t interested, you can still bring cannabis to the table. In her session Infuse Your Business Profits with CBD, Executive Chef Nettie Frank spoke about the benefits of adding CBD to food and beverages. Healing CBD oil can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase mental clarity. Thanks to nanoemulsification, it can also be quickly absorbed and evenly distributed in food and beverages. Frank demonstrated the wide variety of a CBD-infused menu, from CBD-infused mustard-based salad dressing to CBD-infused cream cheese for raw foods to CBD-infused chocolate icing for sundaes. (And as a Swizzle bartender contestant, she infused her soft drink with CBD oil.) “You can put it in anything and everything,” Frank said. 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 law, offering cannabis at your event can enhance the ambiance and offer guests a healthy, fun way to indulge.

Interested in attending The Special Event? Mark your calendars and join us in March 2023 for an event experience designed to ignite and inspire! Visit thespecialeventshow.com to stay up to date.