LA Times write…….

The box delivered to my door, artfully decorated with colorful flowers and strange creatures, is curious enough. The directions that accompany it are even more so. While I’m welcome to peruse the contents of the box, I’m told to refrain from consuming anything within. In a few hours I would receive an email containing a link to a Zoom meeting. At the appointed time, once I have the box and a few household items at the ready — an ice-filled glass, a bottle opener and an ashtray — I am to click into the meeting and open the box.

At precisely 7 p.m. on the last Thursday in June, I click the link, flip open the box and find myself joining a virtual salon — part cocktail party, part smoke sesh, part buzz-building, brand-awareness event — for the recently launched L.A.-based cannabis brand Drew Martin. Joining me are several SoCal creatives, including a documentary film director, three fashion designers, a pair of comedians, a singer, a magazine founder, a pastry chef and the brand’s founding trio. Over the next hour, the three brand founders would raise cocktails, light botanical-blend low-dose joints and nibble artisanal chocolates — encouraging the baker’s dozen of us to do the same using the contents of our boxes — as a way of introducing their take on weed to the world.

The day of the virtual salon, each invitee receives a decorative box containing a themed bottled cocktail, clockwise from left, a dessert, a lighter and a variety four-pack of pre-rolled Drew Martin joints.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

It wasn’t really supposed to happen like this, the founders would explain as the evening went on.

Given their backgrounds in the hospitality space, the original mid-May launch was supposed to be accompanied by a series of 40-person — and in-person — sit-down dinners, where their four varieties of pre-rolled joints would be meticulously paired with complementary food and drink, all of which would be sampled by the kind of celebrities, celebrity-adjacent influencers and high-profile friends of the brand that can mean the difference between a moonshot launch and fizzling on the launchpad.

Then the coronavirus outbreak permanently scuttled those plans, forcing them to pivot to Zoom. (Full disclosure: Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is an investor in Zoom.)

During the last four months there have been more than a dozen such Drew Martin salons, and it appears the approach has been bearing, at least, some fruit. Sweet Flower’s Melrose Avenue dispensary, where the brand launched exclusively in May, sold through its initial order in a month. (Distribution has expanded since; a list of stockists can be found on the Drew Martin website.)

Some of the salons, like the one I find myself in, have been small and intimate; others — like the one at the private West Hollywood club San Vicente Bungalows that included interactive cocktail mixing — were larger affairs. All told, the salons have introduced the brand to an estimated 250 people, most in the privacy of their own homes.

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