Are weed raves the future of clubbing?

This weekend, downtown Los Angeles played host to a first-of-its-kind legal weed rave. But can the humble herb ever replace booze, Es and whizz?

As a Brit living in the States it’s easy to have a certain snobbishness about Americans when it comes to raving. They missed the the Second Summer of Love 30 years ago and since then have started taking EDM way too seriously, and their insistence on calling MDMA ‘Molly’ remains embarassing for all involved. Imagine, then, how much it pains me to report that they’ve gone and done something worth writing home about. In 2019, weed raves are here, and they’re really, really fun.

This weekend, a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles hosted the inaugural Weed Rave, a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin monthly event organised by the weed and music journalist Michelle Lhooq. Running from 4:20pm to 4:20am (because, of course), the daytime portion of the event featured ‘edibles’ cooking demonstrations and cannabis-themed panel discussions focused on wellness, education and appreciating nature. At night, the event evolved into a hazy party soundtracked by the likes of False Witness and Russell E.L. Butler.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘People have been smoking weed at parties since before the invention of rolling papers, so what’s so special about this?’ In part, it’s about a subtle change of focus. Sure, they still serve booze but people aren’t here to get drunk or high – they’ve all come specifically to get and be stoned, which changes the vibe in the main rave room noticeably. It may just be down to the the simple act of passing a joint around, but there’s something undeniably communal about making weed your drug of choice.

The other – perhaps more tangible – difference to raves of yore is the sheer range of products on offer. Ever since cannabis was legalised for adult recreational use at the start of January last year, California has been experiencing an entrepreneurial ‘green rush’ as companies jostle for position in the new legal marketplace. That’s resulted in a smorgasbord of not just weed strains but also vapes and other products. Most apposite for the rave scenario are probably edibles such as the Kushy Punch gummys, which were available this weekend. The warm, tingly buzz and tactile high they’ll give you is the closest you’ll get to ecstacy using the plants God gave us. Speaking from experience, eat two and you’re laughing.

Or, more specifically, eat two and you’re staring at the moon. The weed rave attendees this weekend spent a really, really long time on the rooftop watching the moon. You wouldn’t believe it’s possible to spend that amount of time watching the moon. In fairness, it was a big night for the moon: the total lunar eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon. One of the all-time great astral performances, it inspired impromptu communal howling from a crowd I’d wrongly guessed were too cool to howl. I was enraptured by it, but then again I may not have been entirely of clear mind by this point. I was also enraptured by the Tetris-like performance of the guys in the carpark several storeys below us delivering extra portaloos.

Sadly, it may be sometime before this latest American innovation makes it to British shores. Since we at NME hosted our ‘Legalise It’ debate at Parliament last June we’ve seen the false dawn of the government saying medical marijuana would be allowed in some cases blotted out eclipse-like by their failure to let doctors prescribe it. With the British government still interminably stuck in the tar-baby clusterfuck of Brexit, cannabis legalisation is some way down the agenda – but with luck, the example being set right now in California of safe, taxable weed and a booming economy might help a few politicians to see the light. I haven’t even told you the best bit yet: I’m writing this the next day without a hangover or a comedown. The advent of the weed rave is a rare bright spark in the darkness of 2019, like a burning joint waving on a dancefloor.

Photos by Kaitlin Parry. For more information on the next Weed Rave follow their Instagram