Here’s Why VR and Cannabis Are a Match Made in Heaven
Not that long ago, recreational cannabis and virtual reality both seemed like distant dreams. Now, advocates of both are merging the two, claiming they complement one another perfectly and make for a more enjoyable virtual experience overall.
Ceven Grey, founder of arts and entertainment company Seven Ghosts and cannabis company JADE, has been working in both virtual reality and cannabis for the last three years. For a time, Grey ran a VR arcade in downtown LA, where they held a variety of events. The popular Little Amsterdam series offered guests a cannabis bar, VR, board games, live music, live art, burlesque, psychics, and more. Though they’ve since shuttered that location, Seven Ghosts still hosts Little Amsterdam and other 420-friendly events, included medicated meals and an upcoming Christmas party, at numerous satellite locations around Los Angeles. Grey says he’s noticed that people who indulge in cannabis before entering a VR world—or “going under,” as he calls it—are typically more relaxed and less self-conscious as to how they might appear to people on the outside.
“I love giving people the chance to take a dip into virtual reality while they’re high, and I think it’s a unique experience because VR in itself is unique, but giving people the option to smoke prior gives them that extra depth. It makes it even more surreal, like a reverie,” Grey said. “It also feels like there’s more fluidity in [the player’s] movements. They figure out [how to interact in virtual reality] quicker, in a sense, even if it’s something they’ve never done before.”
Grey’s company even developed a custom strain called VR OG, specifically for smoking before embarking on a virtual journey. The strain is a hybrid, split as evenly between indica and sativa as possible. Grey said he didn’t want anyone to get too sleepy with an indica-dominant strain, but wanted to curtail any possible paranoia or anxiety, as some users already experience those emotions when experimenting with VR for the first time. Grey describes VR OG as smooth with a sweet, piney scent.
“I think it’s the only VR-named strain of cannabis out there and we specifically did that because I’ve been in those two markets for several years, so it was just a natural evolution,” Grey said.
The type of virtual reality content that a high player might enjoy varies from person to person. Grey notes some participants still enjoy the first-person shooters, but most prefer something “a little more subdued” than trying to fight off a horde of zombies. Popular content includes musical interfaces and experiential environments, such as a virtual art gallery where users can flip around paintings and browse various collections, or atmospheric simulations where they can teleport around scenic destinations. Grey’s company even came up with an escape room game for VR titled Reverb.
“I noticed that when [players] were not high, they had a really hard time maneuvering it and figuring it out. But when they were high, it wasn’t as scary or foreign and they kind of floated through the game a little bit easier,” he said.
Another escape room game, Confined, was one of several titles offered at a recent Grassfed event, Virtual Reality Elevated. Though one might think puzzle solving would more challenging when high, I myself managed to get out of the room before my seven minutes were up. Though I had a little trouble figuring out how to pick up clues in the beginning, I soon realized I had to crouch all the way down if I wanted to “grab” something on the floor. Once I mastered that skill, I was on my way out of the virtual cell. Other attendees immersed themselves in painting simulator Tilt Brush and survival shooter The Brookhaven Experiment, in between visits to the cannabis bar where vendors offered Fully Baked ice cream, MoonMan’s Mistress paleo cookies, and Bloomfield flower, vape pens, and concentrates.
Grassfed was founded in 2016 by Dan Braunstein, and produces 420-friendly events including standup and burlesque shows, as well as VR arcades. Tomer Grassiany, a cannabis activist and founder of Culver City’s The Art of Edibles, came on as a co-producer in May. “Both cannabis and VR offer an immersive experience, are rapidly growing, and [are] about to become a part of mainstream life,” Grassiany said. “We believe that mindful consumption of cannabis enhances your senses, increases creativity, and can make a virtual reality experience feel more like reality.”
This feeling was echoed by Mike Guerrero, CEO of Portal Zone VR, who sets up the VR stations at Grassfed’s events. He can see the added creativity in properties like Tilt Brush, and he believes cannabis helps VR neophytes soothe any nervousness they may have about trying VR in public.
“When you use cannabis, you’re less inhibited,” Guerrero said. “We have a lot of people who come in lingering, but after a few dabs, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to try this,’ and they let loose and have fun.”
I decided to do a little investigating myself at home, with the help of my Google Pixel, Google Daydream View, and a bowl of Bloomfield’s sativa-dominant Sour Piña. I tried out escape room game Relic Seeker and action-adventure game Twilight Pioneers. I found myself more easily immersed, often no longer able to tell which direction I was facing in the real world, especially when I switched from sitting in a swivel chair to standing. I found my movements surprisingly smooth, and enjoyed the way the sound panned depending on which in-game direction I was facing. Though I typically don’t experience nausea in VR, a friend told me she has an easier time playing Skyrim VR when high because cannabis alleviates the eye strain and nausea she usually feels.
The added immersion is also an advantage in meditative VR properties, like Relax VR, which may be helpful for those who medicate to fall asleep or relax. And if you’re looking for something on the nose, you can also take a virtual tour of Dawg Star Cannabis in Seattle.