Meet Embarc Events, the company behind Grass Lands, a 21+ cannabis experience at the annual Outside Lands Music Festival. This cannabis haven hosts over 20 premium cannabis purveyors, live DJ sessions on the Grass Lands Stage and more.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Lauren Carpenter (Co-Founder & CEO of Embarc) and Dustin Moore (Co-Founder of Embarc) to chat about curating such experiences, their passion for blending cannabis culture with mainstream events, and their mission to revolutionize the event landscape.
EDM Maniac: What motivated you guys to pioneer legal cannabis integration at events like Outside Lands?
Carpenter: Several things inspired us to go down this path of the integration of legal cannabis into live events, but at its core is a real passion for this plant and a belief that live events provide a platform at scale to work on de-stigmatization.
Community by community we focus on creating a sense of comfort in what legal cannabis is and what it isn’t. We’ve realized, that while there is reach in what we do within communities, that reach pales in comparison to a platform like Outside Lands, where you’re seeing not just people from the Bay Area, but from around the world.
We felt called to focus on bringing legal and responsible cannabis to events, knowing it could open eyes to what cannabis can be.
Moore: Lauren touched on exactly the thesis and the passion we have for what we do. For me, cannabis is deeply personal. It saved my father’s life. I was a child and my father had some major health trauma and cannabis changed his life in the sense that it was a medicine that treated those challenges.
I grew up understanding the importance of cannabis and its medicinal value, so it became a passion for me personally to work on public policy.
After policy was implemented, to then be an example of what we felt the future of cannabis should be is about education, destigmatization, and normalization. Which I believe we’re doing in partnership with Outside Lands. It’s the embodiment of all things San Francisco. The best food, wine, beer, art, and music. And, you can’t leave cannabis out of that.
EDM Maniac: Integrating it into events is no small feat. Can you simplify what it takes to curate that experience?
Moore: Organizing a festival is like herding cats, add cannabis to that and they’re slightly stoned cats.
I mean, it’s no joke. This is a very challenging site to build on. It has unique characteristics, and just building all of the floors and infrastructure that goes in is intense. It’s a really unique activation that’s worth the year of work going into it.
Carpenter: Organizing three days of cannabis sales requires a year of logistics. But the other component is there are a dozen regulatory agencies that we have to partner with at the state and local level in order to integrate the cannabis sales and consumption on site.
It feels a little “Mission Impossible” sometimes as we’re doing it, but it is so worth it. For so many folks it’s their first stop, they’re excited to be able to buy their weed on site. There are also many people walking through the gates every day that have never seen anything like this before.
It’s those moments that make it all worth it.
EDM Maniac: What strategies are in place to ensure everyone has a positive experience while also promoting responsible use?
Carpenter: More than anything, it comes down to education and it comes down to everyone within our activation working as a team. It doesn’t matter that these brands are sometimes competitors. On site, everyone that is part of the Grass Lands experience is part of one community.
We know that when we come together, we are stewards for the cannabis world and a mission that is greater than ourselves.
The teams in each of these activations are passionate about their products and about what this opportunity represents. They spend time with consumers talking about the effects of their products, and what to expect.
That’s part of the magic of what makes this really unique. It’s a cooperation to facilitate a space and an experience that is really collaborative, even though we aren’t all necessarily from the same company.
Moore: In our opinion, it’s the most tranquil place in the festival. There’s something special about Grass Lands and it speaks to the individuals who put it together, and how much they value that this is a good experience for fans.
EDM Maniac: Do you have any memorable moments that demonstrate the positive influence this initiative has had?
Moore: I remember seeing Mayor Breed at Grass Lands last year, painting on the wall alongside others. It was a full-circle moment, having the city’s highest official there, even though she wasn’t using cannabis.
It showed that you don’t need to consume cannabis to be part of this community, which was truly special.
Carpenter: This year we focused on stage programming and we did that in partnership with Vapor Room (the longest standing mom and pop shop in San Francisco) and the Equity Trade Network, which is an organization that’s really focused on amplifying brands owned by folks who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs, and who are otherwise under-represented in the industry.
As a female-owned and operated company myself, there’s a lot of barriers in the workplace. The cannabis community came together to feature local, women-owned, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+-owned brands and really put the celebration of people, their identities, and exploration at the forefront of what we’re doing.
EDM Maniac: On a personal note, what is your favorite way to enjoy and consume cannabis?
Moore: In front of a great musician who is having the night of their life, and that’s what I got to do last night seeing Kendrick Lamar perform.
For me, cannabis and music are intrinsically linked. The notion of changing hearts and minds is something I’m passionate about on many topics, but specifically on cannabis.
And there’s nothing better than enjoying a joint with some of our friends’ favorite flower and trying out new things.
Carpenter: My favorite way to consume cannabis is probably with Dustin at the end of a long day, out on our deck overlooking the backyard with our dog. For me, cannabis has been about calming anxieties and fostering connection.
EDM Maniac: Are there any upcoming festivals where Embarc Events will be curating cannabis experiences that we can look forward to?
Moore: We’re announcing our 2024 season soon and there’s going to be some pretty big surprises on that list. We’re breaking down barriers and going to be in a lot of places, so keep an eye out for us.