By Emily Earlenbaugh
As recreational marijuana continues to grow in popularity, we are seeing more events that pair wine with high-end cannabis. There are luxurious dinners with wine and courses of gourmet cannabis-infused delicacies, ‘wine and weed’ events that feature pairings of wine with varying cannabis products, and even events serving cannabis-infused wine. As these events continue to pop up, many vineyards and wineries are considering getting in on this aspect of the green rush. While these events are similar to traditional wine tastings and hosted dinners, one major difference event hosts should plan for is the interactions between wine and weed.
Science of the Wine/Weed Interaction
While cannabis itself is relatively safe, in that you can’t suffer from a toxic overdose from its consumption, it can be extremely disorienting. These effects are only magnified when combined with alcohol. When this was studied, scientists found a surprising result. Subjects who drank alcohol and smoked cannabis together had higher levels of THC (the main active chemical in cannabis) than those who smoked the same amount of cannabis without alcohol. This suggests that alcohol actually increases the absorption of THC.
Even seasoned cannabis users can sometimes be surprised at how much they have been affected by a small amount of cannabis when it is combined with alcohol. This can lead to dangerous situations where people suddenly become much more inebriated than they expected. One study found that driving ability was moderately impaired by cannabis, but severely impaired by alcohol and cannabis together.
Planning Around the Interaction
Still, there are safe ways to combine these two substances. Take a tip from popular wine and weed event hosts and structure your event to encourage safe consumption behavior. Taking these interactions into account at the planning stage of a wine and weed event can be the difference between an enjoyable evening and a dangerous, problematic one.
We spoke with Devika Maskey, founder of the cannabis brand Tso Sonoma and host to events that pair wine and weed. Maskey says that the interaction between THC and alcohol was a big concern for them while working on their latest event, but through careful planning, they had a smooth event without any mishaps.
Keep Edibles Low Dose
One way that Tso Sonoma kept their event safe and enjoyable was by keeping their edibles low-dose when it comes to THC. Most cannabis edibles have fairly high dosing. If you purchase an infused product from a dispensary it is usually designed for a consumer to only eat a small amount, but get a big effect. If you dose an entire meal with this kind of potency, it would leave your guests feeling much higher than they’d likely enjoy – even without the alcohol factor.
This is why the best cannabis chefs use their main ingredient sparingly or opt for using less psychoactive preparations. Chef Coreen Carroll, follows this rule of thumb, preparing gourmet meals for her events using cannabis that hasn’t been decarboxylated (a process where the cannabis is heated to create more psychoactive effects). This allows the cannabinoid THCA to stay in its non-psychoactive form rather than turning into THC.
Maskey points out that CBD is another great cannabinoid to feature during wine and weed events. “I’ve found that CBD actually helps your liver process alcohol.” She explains. “If you smoke CBD flowers, or take a cbd capsule, that can help lower the effects of the alcohol.”
At the Tso Sonoma event, “there was only a few things that were THC infused” explains Maskey. “A lot of the dishes had different components of the cannabis plant in there. (The chef) had CBD mixed in there. She was using the raw leaves which have no psychoactive effect. She was also using THCA. So she was using all these components that weren’t necessarily psychoactive.”
Educate Your Guests
One of the best ways to encourage safe consumption behavior at events is to thoroughly educate your guests about the interaction, and what they are consuming. Maskey says education was key, and her own event was planned to be “more of an educational experience” due to the large number of guests who were not necessarily cannabis users. “It was kind of eye-opening to them” she explains. “Everything was clearly marked for how many milligrams each bite was going to give you, so people could monitor that depending on their tolerance.” Maskey’s crew also made sure to warn guests that alcohol increases the effects of THC, and encouraged an evening of safe consumption. Between the fair warning and the carefully labeled edibles, guests were able to moderate their consumption on their own.
Offer Alternative Routes Home
Even if you plan ahead with low-dose edibles, and educate your guests about the potential for increased effects, it is impossible to manage everyone’s level of intoxication. For this reason, it can be very helpful to make provisions for guests to safely travel home. One way to do this is to provide designated driver tickets at a discounted rate. Ellipses Elevated Evenings offers these for their events. These tickets allow guests to enjoy a non-infused meal and costs much less than the tickets that include wine and weed offerings. Hosts might also offer hotel shuttles, or discounts on taxi services to make it even easier for guests to travel safely from the event.
These measures are simple but can make a big difference. Whether you are hosting a small dinner or a large event, these interactions can have a big impact. Taking these precautions can greatly help in guiding your guests towards a safe and enjoyable evening.
The legalization of cannabis and how it will affect the wine industry in California is the topic of a session at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo November, 30, 2017 in Santa Rosa, and the Wine and Weed Symposium.