Smoking weed and playing video games is a time-honored tradition. From Seth Rogen toking and toggling in nearly every bromance movie to High Timesreleasing a list last year of the 22 greatest stoner video games of all time, these two sedentary activities are a perfect match.
Now, one entrepreneur is aiming to crank this mind-bending combination up a notch with a carefully curated selection of cannabis and virtual reality (VR). Dan Braunstein, founder of fine dining and events company Grassfed, says marijuana enhances all of the senses, which serves to intensify the already immersive VR experience.
“Cannabis and gaming were always good friends, if you will,” Braunstein says. “I know many of my friends that love gaming, and love cannabis, and love to combine both of them.”
The virtual reality gaming industry is thriving right here in Los Angeles. By 2022, the VR business as a whole could be worth almost $34 billion, according to one estimate, with a large portion of this coming through Los Angeles. The local industry has gotten so prolific that the concentration of tech companies and startups on the Westside has been dubbed Silicon Beach, the SoCal outpost of Silicon Valley. Later this month, co-working space Upload is opening a 20,000-square-foot shared space in Venice, which will host more than 100 virtual and augmented reality companies and freelancers.
In addition to L.A.’s growing virtual reality market, the cannabis industry at large has begun to embrace virtual reality for both its marketing capabilities and inherently psychedelic properties. VR has been used to help materialize the effects of certain weed strains, and has even been employed by cannabis businesses across the country to provide customers with a behind-the-scenes look at grow operations. For example, on Kush Tourism’s website, visitors can take a 360-degree look at Dawg Star Cannabis in Seattle, getting so close to the cannabis you can almost smell it. Virtual reality has even been used by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to measure how THC impairs drivers and to what extent.
Braunstein’s new foray into virtual reality launches Friday at an undisclosed loft location in downtown L.A., where he’ll be putting on his second ganja and gaming event for 50 to 60 people. For $45 a head, gamers can sample edibles, space out to a funky, hip-hop–filled playlist and dive into the realm of virtual reality. With nearly 150 different scenarios to choose from, guests can do anything from visit an arcade or amusement park, to travel to the Great Wall of China or hunt zombies.
Braunstein's events are largely non-smoking, promoting edibles consumption and vaping instead. Courtesy Grassfed
“I can tell you that many people actually prefer the zombies game. They want to feel inside this world, they want to be scared,” Braunstein says. “I thought that only guys liked to kill zombies, but apparently I was wrong.”
Braunstein, a musician and music supervisor, moved to the United States from Israel about nine years ago. After working as a diplomat for five years and for a nonprofit that helped bring Israeli musicians and comedians to the States, Braunstein began organizing cannabis-infused dinners for friends and family in October 2016. Combining his musical expertise with the culinary prowess of professional chefs, Braunstein officially launched Grassfed a little more than two months ago.
Much like a sommelier pairs wine with food, Braunstein instead pairs music with meals. His previous themed dinners have included a soul food spread accompanied by funk and soul music; a Mediterranean night accompanied by Greek tunes; and even a Woodstock party, where attendees vibed to sounds of the epic late-’60s party while eating vegetarian food.
“The overall goal is to become the go-to platform for private and corporate cannabis events,” he says. “And I see the demand coming very quickly.”
Attendees are encouraged to plug in and tune out. Courtesy Grassfed
For Braunstein, virtual reality parties, cannabis dinners and weed-driven social events are mostly tools to stay connected to the cannabis industry at large and to build Grassfed’s clientele, while Braunstein establishes himself as a high-end party provider. Eventually, he’d like to rent vaporizers for special events, be the go-to guy for cannabis chocolate bars and cocktail stations, and cater weddings, bachelorette parties and every other private event in between.
As Los Angeles heads toward complete marijuana legalization in 2018, Braunstein said getting busted by law enforcement is still a concern. Although Grassfed is “operating in a legal space” and require guests to have a medical recommendation, there’s still quite a bit of gray area, Braunstein says, which is why the address of his parties isn't distributed until 24 hours before the event.
Braunstein, like many in the cannabis industry, balances on a precarious structure of legal intricacies, such as having cannabis products donated to the event and then charging guests to access the party, not for the weed.
“I’m not buying the cannabis. I’m getting it for free and we are gifting it to our guests,” he says. “If you ask my lawyer, we are 100 percent legal.”