Comedy and Cannabis: A Classic Duo Turns Over A New Leaf

Comedy and Cannabis: A Classic Duo Turns Over A New Leaf

[Editor’s Note: Comedy has been central to cannabis culture since the 1960s. Besides Cheech and Chong, there was the Firesign Theater, George Carlin (a big part of his act was originally about reefer) and a host of others. The style back then was wacky stoner. It’s changing as cannabis becomes normalized in our society.]

Cannabis and comedy are a duo as classic as Cheech and Chong. With two of the most notorious side effects of cannabis being euphoria and uncontrollable laughter, the herb has long been a friend to the funny. In the past, “reefer” was only appropriate for counter-culture acts or a cheap laugh, and while there have been a few “high” profile comics who have made weed part of their persona, like Doug Benson, it was still mostly relegated to the fringes of entertainment. Now that’s it’s becoming more culturally and legally accepted, a wider variety of performers are using cannabis to connect to broader audiences in new ways.

Weed has traditionally been known as part of the artist’s process, with uplifting sativas most lauded as creativity boosters. Comedian Eitan Levine credits the Blue Dream strain with helping him write the AVN award-winning musical porn parody, Hamiltoe. Unlike comedy predecessors who smoked “jazz cigarettes”, he uses more modern technology. “If I have to write something my vape will be the thing that I write off of, smoking [flower] will not help that process at all.”

Comedian Royce Shockley, who produces The Color Collective comedy shows at The Complex Theater, describes how cannabis helps him take his comedy all the way from concept to post-show. “During the writing process, it helps me to dig a bit deeper to find the jokes in scripts and just helps my creativity in general. I typically have to take a couple tokes with a few of the actors before a show to calm my anxiety. It helps me focus and be on point when it’s time to go on stage. And quite a few members of our crowds tend to join us in an after-show joint, or three.”

Recently, marijuana has been able to move from many comedians’ personal lives into their stage work. Nicky Urban is an adorably sweet and experimental performer who’s not afraid to use cannabis on stage. She hosted a late night show where her co-host was her (very late) weed dealer, culminating the show by smoking a blunt together on stage. Her upcoming project, The Nicky Urban Show, has a segment where she visits her friends Indica and Sativa in a magical land of weed puppets.

Urban uses marijuana in her comedy with a genuine love that comes from combining personal experience with classic Hollywood stoner tropes. “My parents were a pretty big influence on me as far as my relationship to weed. They were the local pot dealers in the small town I grew up in, and were pretty fun to be around when they got high with my dad’s band and just hung out. I was influenced by the movies Half-Baked and Friday, but the comedy scene that sticks out in my head the most as far as a positive depiction of weed was Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1 when Josephus buys them time by smoking out the Roman army… so classic. Like, how could you not love weed after seeing that scene?”

With it’s medicinal aspects more widely accepted, cannabis is also helping bring levity to the darker aspects of life. On her weekly Instagram Live podcast, High Hopes, Marcella Riley smokes with comedians to talk about how they use both jokes and marijuana to help manage their depression. “I use weed in comedy because most comedians smoke weed; and a lot of comedians are depressed. Linking these topics into a show felt like a necessary move to make, given the stigmas surrounding them.”

She says cannabis also helps her connect more deeply with her audience. “I love when viewers from the live stream mention that they are smoking, too. Weed is so communal. When things are communal we start listening to each other’s story, connecting with the stories, growing from those stories, and sharing our own story.”

In New York City, where cannabis is still marginally medically accessible and not yet legal recreationally, it’s still burning it up in the comedy scene. Artie Brennan and Anthony Giordano are the co-creators/writers of the variety game show, Super Crazy Funtime. The fantastic funhouse show is a TimeOut NY Critics Pick, and it’s last season was sponsored by weed. There were filmed commercials for weed, some of which went on to win small festivals, such as a leafy hype-man named “High Tide”, and a giant fake joint that they would hit on stage during the show.

Comedian Boris Khaykin has had weed sponsor his work in more tangible ways. He personally awarded eighths of weed during a live show to about a dozen winners of his Marijuana Diversity Scholarship. “The scholarship was inspired because I had all this weed and couldn’t smoke it all, and obviously privilege is in the zeitgeist and I thought about having weed privilege. So I thought it would be funny – and also nice – to share the weed in the context of a diversity scholarship. Sort of an earnest effort and self parody at the same time.” Khaykin risked a lot for his show, putting himself on the line for his comedy, “I had lots of people tell me not to do it and that it was illegal. I thought until I go through with it I always had plausible deniability that it was all a joke, so that was enough to risk it.”

In Los Angeles, where recreational cannabis is legal, cannabis companies sponsoring comedy shows is a very real thing. Comedy is a great way for brands to get exposure to local audiences who are down for a laugh, which often includes a lot of cannabis consumers. Your Late Night Show Tonight at The Pack Theater has had legitimate cannabis brands, such as Lowell Farms, support their show. Executive Producer/Writer Gil Baron says, “Our sponsorship with 806 Buddha Bliss came to us through a sponsorship agent. They were able to give us CBD balms as a gift to people who attended the show, like a goodie bag.”

Director/Producer/Writer Ben Kuershner talks about how they integrate sponsors seamlessly into their work. “Audience participation games are a great way to work sponsorship content into a show. The main worry with doing a “commercial” during a show is that it will hurt your credibility. But the audience is already on board with “prizes” for a game show, so it doesn’t feel shoehorned in, and we’re offering them something they actually want and can use, so it doesn’t feel manipulative. Like, our audience is gonna buy weed and paraphernalia anyway, so getting it for free is just a nice bonus. Plus we never do any promotional content beyond referencing the brand and thanking them. That’s important to us, because we want to control content on our show, and important to the brands too, because they want to come off as cool and fun, not corporate and disingenuous.”

Baron credits marijuana for being an important part of the comedy world, both on and offstage, “I think anything that relaxes you as an audience is beneficial. Comedy is a vulnerable thing. And laughter can be vulnerable, too. The trick is getting any individual to feel safe or relaxed enough to let go and laugh without self-consciousness. Sometimes that comes in the form of a warm-up comic, sometimes it’s alcohol or weed.”

The broader commercial acceptance of cannabis is helping expand the reach of experimental artists who have been longtime fans and users. With weed moving from the outskirts to the general public, comedians who would have once been labeled fringe acts and “stoner comics” may be able to enjoy more mainstream success, too.

Original Post: Marijuana Times: Comedy and Cannabis: A Classic Duo Turns Over A New Leaf

Cannabis and Yoga: A Match Made in LA Heaven

Cannabis and Yoga: A Match Made in LA Heaven

[Editor’s Note: If you love yoga and you love weed, there is nothing like combining the two in your favorite yin yoga class. Have you tried it yet?]

Nothing is legitimate in Los Angeles until there’s a yoga class that involves it, and boosted by the recent boom in legal cannabis, a greener kind of yoga offering has taken off in a big way in LA. A simple Google search revealed dozens of options for cannabis yoga classes in the Los Angeles area geared toward a variety of audiences, all involving consumption of some form of weed. I decided to go gonzo for this story and try out a Ganja Yoga class taught by Dee Dussault, who claims to be the first teacher to offer public cannabis-enhanced yoga practices.

I walked into the class unsure of what to expect. At first, it looked like any other yoga class, with wooden floors, dimmed lights and people’s mats spread out sporadically. Except, instead of people sitting on their mats, they were gathered together on a blanket in one corner of the room. The event was BYOW (bring your own weed), but thanks to the generous nature of people who inhabit the slice of venn diagram encircling both yoga enthusiasts and stoners, a bountiful arrangement of joints, cbd drops, balms, and even jars of flower was laid out on Dussault’s “picnic blanket”. Slowly people would trickle in and wander over, offering their goodies, passing joints, and making small talk. There’s something about sharing a joint with a stranger that harkens back to a traditional peace pipe, and makes you much less self-conscious about the fact that you’re about to do a series of ridiculous physical poses in front of them.

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Original Post: Marijuana Times: Cannabis and Yoga: A Match Made in LA Heaven

LA Cannabis: New Packaging Laws, All Wrapped Up

LA Cannabis: New Packaging Laws, All Wrapped Up

[Editor’s Note: The costs for new packaging laws extends beyond money. Packaging laws are increasing environmental waste and making it impossible for some to access their medicine. We need to balance safety with logical laws & regulations.]

Ever since Prop 64 legalized recreational cannabis in Los Angeles in November 2016, the city’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has slowly been rolling out the myriad of new licenses and regulations they’re creating to govern the cannabis industry. While many recreational users and medical marijuana patients weren’t fully aware of the regulatory details of the proposition when they voted for it, they’re now suddenly seeing the effects in local dispensaries. Giant mason jars of flower are gone, replaced by tiny pre-packed and sealed eighths. Medicated free samples are gone for good. Stickers and labels cover almost every inch of every package. And everything from pre-rolled joints to bath bombs to edibles are now shoved inside some new, impossible to open version of a ziploc bag.

Many of the new packaging regulations that went into effect in July 2018 are intended to ensure that marijuana consumers get a safe product. The manufactured cannabis safety branch of the California Department of Public Health’s website states that, “Cannabis product packaging cannot resemble traditionally available food packages and must be tamper-evident, re-sealable if the product includes multiple servings, and child-resistant.” Cannabis product labels can’t refer to them as candy or include cartoons, and must list THC and CBD levels as well as lab testing results for possible contaminants. Batch numbers are now required on labels from everything from growing plants to final products for the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace (CCTT) system. This enables regulators to inventory and monitor cannabis through the supply chain, “including cultivation, manufacturing, retail, distribution, testing labs, and microbusinesses.” Edible cannabis products must include an ingredients list, some nutritional facts, and contain clearly discernible doses of no more than 10mg.

While most of the new regulations seem logical in theory, many have unforeseen complications in practice. Child-proof and tamper-resistant packaging may be safer for children, but hard to open packaging can have major drawbacks for medical cannabis patients. Jenevieve Yektazarian uses cannabis to treat her severe carpal tunnel syndrome. “I can’t carry my water bottle somedays, how do they expect me to get into my products?” Yektazarian says, “I have shed tears over this. Sometimes I’ll buy a topical and I can’t get into it because of the child-proofing and I’m like, it’s not fair, because I need this [medication] right now.”

Child-resistant packaging rules have also lead to the omnipresence of plastic or mylar pinch & slide exit bags, an odd move for a state that’s also trying to end the use of plastic bags. When the current legal grace period we’re in is over, manufacturers and producers will be responsible for their own compliant packaging, which will take the burden of child-resistance away from dispensaries. It also means those catch-all compliant pinch & slide bags should become unnecessary. The Bureau of Cannabis Control released Amendments to Prop 64 this past October, which clarified that beginning January 1, 2020, cannabis exit packaging will not be required to be resealable or child-resistant itself but must be opaque – which is why many shops are going back to the classic and more environmentally friendly paper bag. However, stores will still be able to use the pinch & slide exit bags to satisfy their child-proof and tamper-proof packaging needs after January 2020 if necessary, and many have such a large stock already that we could be seeing the annoying things for years to come.

Environmental concerns about new package regulations are also on the minds of many patients in Los Angeles, and the budtenders at California Caregivers Alliance have heard it firsthand. Laurie Cardenas says, “It’s creating a bigger carbon footprint. Many people complain about that, especially in Silverlake where a lot of our clients are eco-friendly.” She says customers have inquired about possible recycling programs for things such as used jars and vape cartridges, but none exist yet that she knows of. “People who like cannabis are a very nature loving, tree hugging people. I feel like we want the best for our future and our children’s future, and now there’s so much more trash in the landfills just because of legal cannabis,” fellow budtender Anna Kallinikos added, “It’s an entire new industry of waste.”

Many customers have been blaming their local dispensaries for things like products suddenly disappearing from shelves or paying for plastic exit bags. Cardenas says that, “A lot of companies have to mark up their prices because of all the new laws and taxes. It’s definitely affected us as a shop.” While almost everyone in the cannabis supply chain has been affected by the laws, customers tend to blame storefronts where they regularly shop for rising prices. “They complain that prices have gone up and I have to explain like, bro, you voted for this.”

When the newest round of the BCC’s regulations went into effect many consumers noticed bare shelves that appeared overnight at shops around Los Angeles. The deadline for new packaging sent many vendors scrambling to recall products and get compliant ones back out to stores. The cost of all of that on top of new testing, licenses and packages put many smaller cannabis companies out of businesses. Kallinikos says, “The mom and pop people have kind of disappeared since July 1st when everything went fully compliant.”

Many worry that cannabis is fast becoming another industry that’s only open to the wealthy or rich investors. Those who had more money to spend on branding and marketing already had an advantage over small companies. Now with new regulations, such as requiring all cannabis products to have the Universal Symbol (that crazy marijuana leaf with the exclamation point inside a triangle) on them somewhere visible and specifically in black only, many smaller companies are floundering under the added costs of new labels and stickers to satisfy rules. Budtender Victoria Arana adds, “When a joint comes in 4 layers or more of packaging, most times it’s beyond the point of child-proofing, its for branding.”

While new cannabis packaging and labeling requirements address many important consumer safety issues, legislators will eventually have to answer to the environmental and economic costs of their regulations. Arana says, “At some point the BCC and the industry as a whole have to take responsibility for the waste they’re putting out. Humans and the environment are more important than profits.”

Original Post: Marijuana Times: LA Cannabis: New Packaging Laws, All Wrapped Up

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