I was a bad kid in high school—the kind that ended up in home school, then Christian school, plus lockdown for the next three years after I got caught doing hard drugs in my freshman year. I never got a driver’s license, went to a house party, or even smoked weed. By senior year, all I wanted was one normal high school memory, and prom seemed like an easy target: pick a normal guy, join him and his bros on a party bus, hit the after-party featuring a performance by Shwayze (it was 2008), almost have sex, post the photos on that then-new Facebook thing, and reminisce for years to come on “the best years of our lives.” Tragic.
Nearly a decade later, the Ganja Goddess Gala—a prom-themed dance party organized by the female-centric cannabis retreat, Ganja Goddess Getaway—gave me the shot to relive my prom, perfectly timed with my new love affair with pot.
Co-founder and self-proclaimed “canna-celebrity” Mama Sailene Ossman practically begged me me not to bring my own weed. “You will get lit. Pace yourself,” she warned, before answering my next question before I could even ask. “And we never have alcohol. It’s never a fun time when alcohol shows up. You think you’re going to have fist fights or arguments when weed is smoked? No."
She was right, but I don’t think even the most lush open bar would have caused any issues with this crowd. On a quiet industrial street in West Oakland in the first weekend in December, the gala catered to everyone from fresh-faced college students to stoners over 70 inside a creative space typically reserved for cannabis pottery classes and other wholesome weed-related activities.
“I’m going to tell everyone at once, so listen!” screeched Deidra Bagdasarian, co-founder of Ganja Goddess Getaways and the owner of Bliss Edibles, who was running the door as I waited in line in my Barbie-pink getup. “The cotton candy is 10mg and the chocolate fountain, I think, is around 5mg per dip—if I did it right.” I heeded her warning and headed to the main dancefloor. Immediately I was greeted with a cotton candy stand offering cannabis-infused treats ranging in flavor from classic peach to my selection, artisanal charcoal sage, which was amazing.
The party felt more like a carnival full of weed filled booths and experiences than a prom, and veered more along the lines of a Burning Man crowd than I expected. “We’re about right in the middle,” Sailene told me when I asked where the collective sat on the crunchy-to-sterile scale. I’d say it was closer to 75% granola—but miles from Silicon Valley, where former Apple employees toil away engineering the next best wave of vape pens, everyone can benefit from a little crustiness.
Middle-aged women kicked off their shoes and danced in 50s swing dresses to Taylor Swift and Prince. Senior women draped in silk twirled their scarves to the beat of new wave hits while guys in ponytails high-school slow-danced with their gown clad dates. The dancefloor was brightly lit, covered in colourful paintings and dollar-store streamers, and the music was surprisingly quiet: no rap was played. Ossman distinctly wanted to differentiate the gala from the “tits, ass, and degrading rap music” she was bombarded with at other industry events.
The chocolate fountain was less elaborate than I imagined, but it was nevertheless heavily infused and accompanied by a smorgasbord of dipping vessels, from pound cake to pretzels. Needless to say, everyone was insanely high. Words like “medicated” and “consumption” are used liberally by the goddesses, many of whom come from cannabis industry backgrounds ranging from High Times Cup-winning edible companies to the founders of Los Angeles’ first weed delivery service. But the prom was neither a medical event nor attempting to masquerade as one. Just women and a couple men—only allowed in attendance with a goddess—looking to get high and dance in peace.
“Even if you’re smoking recreationally, it’s still medicine. You’re drawn to it because you’re desiring to feed your endocannabinoid system. You may not even be conscious of that, but it’s the truth," said Ossman.
I headed upstairs to the dab bar, hosted by a co-founder’s husband in a gold lamé getup. Dabs, concentrated doses of cannabis oil, hash, or wax smoked via a glass rig, will get you alien levels of high. The patient weed wizard coached everyone, even amateur stoners like myself, through the process. I missed the high school bong era, and our photographer Demian described my dab attempt as “watching someone try to use a water bottle for the first time.” I made him delete all the photo evidence.
Nestled in a corner, a middle-aged woman in green passed out pre-rolled joints. They were yours if you could find her, so long as the weed fairy lit and took the first hit. Indeed, the $45-per-person price tag made sense once I got a better sense of the offerings.
“This is basically like the weed version of an open bar,” I said to the DJ-slash-vape volcano operator, who was decked out in a floral suit. “Yeah… but we’re not selling weed,” she replied sarcastically, a reference to the current laws around the selling and consumption of marijuana. Gifting marijuana for recreational use is currently legal, with recreational purchasing for adults over 21 beginning in 2018.
Thus the prom was born out of a desire to create a safe space for goddesses to bring their male partners and friends to a Ganja Goddess event, which up until now have been exclusively limited to women-identifying guests. Initially, the sisters had dreamt up a hotel retreat, but California indoor smoking laws, which apply to cannabis, made it difficult to pull off. In a genius, likely weed-inspired moment, the creative director thought, “What about a weed prom?” and the goddesses got to organizing.
“Every time we smoke weed, we feel like we have to be one of the guys,” explained two girlfriends, aged 19 and 20, who were visiting from local San Francisco universities, “but we wanted to come here to be around ladies.”
Despite being an event originally created to be inclusive to all genders, the crowd was nearly 80% female, with a mix of queer and straight couples. A recently-engaged couple who works the cannabis industry commuted from Denver; a couple in their early 20s took the BART from San Francisco; a 30-something couple took a quick Lyft from their Oakland apartment. Everyone was interested in how everyone else had come to be there, though most replied that it was the result of some version of targeted Facebook advertising.
“Come here, be gorgeous, smoke weed, eat food,” Bagdasarian told me. When I told her about my awkward, weed-free high school and prom experience, she said that she and the other sisters were hearing dozens of similar stories. “This is such a great way to rewrite their story around prom. Who knew people wanted that?” she asked.
I did. If only I had found weed sooner; maybe if I had been high, I wouldn’t have cared so much about trying to have a normal prom. And maybe I would have been better at dabbing, ten years later. But three days later, I was still high from the chocolate fountain.
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