LA Cannabis and Contemporary Art

If you love art, fashion and cannabis, then LA has a lot to offer. It will be interesting to see how legal weed in NYC changes the game, but until they catch up to us, LA and SF are the best places to be for this combination of cultural elements. You only had to attend one of the Dr. Greenthumbs or Cookies stores on 4/20 to see a thriving cultural showing. During the past year cannabis transformed from marginal to essential and now it is evolving into a vital part of culture. 

I went to college in Portland during the 90s and the art scene there was going off. They had a First Thursday art night when all the galleries would open their new exhibitions. As an artist, it was invigorating. They had probably 75-100 galleries at the time, so you could never see it all. You had to figure out where the art was that resonated most with you and then you could explore that territory and have some wild adventures.

It was a big part of the culture of the city, and that was exciting as an artist. There was an art market. People gave a fuck. When I went around and checked in with galleries and looked at work it was also overwhelmingly obvious that a lot of the people there were more interested in the other people than in the art. The art was important. It was the reason people were getting together in the first place. The people were always more important though. Art just provided the subject of conversation. It was an excuse to get dressed up to go out and look at other people who got dressed up to go out and look at other people.

This is exactly the vibe I got at Dr. Greenthumb’s Sylmar and Cookies Melrose. We have seen a lot of amazing developments in the cannabis industry since the advent of legal weed, but the most amazing one for me is the development of a new kind of contemporary art scene that is multi-media and interactive.

With the closing of galleries and museums, with no venues open for live music, cannabis stores have been able to remain vital cultural hubs. Spaces like Dr. Greenthumb’s and Cookies are following the path set by Apple in making their stores like a museum or contemporary art gallery. It was the art world that did it first, Apple saw the wisdom of emphasizing design for the customer experience, and cannabis has adopted the same bright minimalist aesthetic. 

Cannabis branding has developed along parallel tracks to craft beer branding, and both have incorporated lots of elements of pop art. Appropriating other brands by flipping their logos, designing colorful fun cartoon like graphics and labels, craft beer and cannabis branding has found great success in evoking feelings of nostalgia through their artwork. Andy Warhol saw design everywhere and through the force of his artistic personality he brought imagery from the supermarket and magazines into the gallery and museum space. Cannabis brands like Cookies and Dr. Greenthumbs are changing the art world.

To understand that B Real is a force in the contemporary art scene, you have to go no further than to see him creating an NFT and entering into the tokenized art space. Why is B Real selling NFTs? The same reason he is hosting a podcast four or five times a week. He understands the market and artistic inspiration and process. Is B Real the most underrated figure in Hip Hop? Is it fair to even see him through that lens? 

It is, because that is so deep a part of his history and because he is such an important part of the history of Rap. The first Cypress Hill album was released in 1991. I was a freshman in high school. B was not that much older than me, but he was about to take off on a journey around the world that was the journey of Hip Hop. As the world embraced and nourished Hip Hop, B Real and Cypress Hill built up their cultural empire to the extent that they are now still as relevant as ever. The music keeps getting better, too. 

The world has never seen someone quite like Berner. He is one of the first great renaissance figures of our times. He is a true artist. He is also a wildly successful entrepreneur. His understanding of branding is second to none. He is one of the first figures to elevate cannabis to the level of contemporary art and to integrate his various passions into one flourishing business model.

Once weed is federally legal, what will happen with these movements? You never know. One of the best things about digital culture, in my mind, is a period of hip hop history when the mixtape reigned supreme. The organic spontaneity of freestyling over other people’s beats and releasing music for free was a moment in musical history that accelerated the progress of the form. That wild and organic experiment created a cultural engine of innovation, but it only lasted for a period of time. When things open back up, when there is federal legalization whatever the scene evolves to be, you can be certain that B Real and Berner will be a part of it.