“We can’t stop until there’s a major, awesome, epic event in California every weekend, for the cannabis community and mainstream alike.” That’s the vision that cannabis thought leader Rama Mayo has for his industry. As one of the biggest brand builders and cultural innovators in the nation, Mayo believes strongly in elevating the cannabis community beyond what he calls “the kids’ table” to full acceptance by the world’s top companies and institutions so that the general public can appreciate the plant. It’s that passion which fuels the groundbreaking 420 Experience event happening this week in Los Angeles.
What Is The 420 Experience?
The 420 Experience is produced by Mayo’s company Green Street, the award-winning ad agency he founded in partnership with digital media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk. Since 2013, Green Street has been a full-service compliance and creative firm for some of the most influential cannabis brands on the market, including Cookies, Bhang, Eaze, Grenco Science and celebrity labels such as Snoop Dogg, The Game, and Cypress Hill. Also responsible for co-founding Hall of Flowers, the cannabis sector’s leading B2B trade show for flower and cannabinoid products, Green Street made headlines last year for its industry-exclusive incubator, a WeWork-esque setup that brought its many brands together in one downtown L.A. building in a first-of-its-kind experiment.
That desire for community and invention fuels the 420 Experience, a cultural crossover event like no other. Taking place at the iconic L.A. amusement park/arcade Two Bit Circus and co-produced by marketing agency High Rise, the occasion emphasizes pure fun. Attendees can play video games and classic pastimes like pinball and skeeball, explore virtual reality games and escape rooms, enjoy unique offerings created entirely from scratch by Two Bit’s team, and make merry while smoking their favorite strains. Musical artist Jared Brady will perform near the top of the evening, followed by trivia with David Bienenstock, author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly). Filmmaker Jay Chandrasekhar from the Broken Lizard comedy group will be on hand to show clips from fan-favorite films including Super Troopers and Beerfest. But wait, there’s more – you can experience all this FOR FREE!
Green Street has partnered with the Sweet Flower dispensary next door to Two Bit to sell weed for the event, ensuring everything is compliant with local regulations. The parking lot between the arcade and the retailer will hold a smokers’ lounge. And amid the festivities are a vast array of brand partners: Zippo, Liquid Death, RAW, Dutchie, Originals, The Cure Company, Alligator Jesus, 818 Brands, Dabwoods, MMD, Little Matron, Royal Blunts, Cocodealers, Vybe Tye, and more. Honeysuckle is proud to be a media partner for this truly milestone happening.
For the inside scoop on the 420 Experience and what’s next at Green Street, Rama Mayo sat down with Honeysuckle to share all the weedy goodness.
Green Street's Rama Mayo On Cannabis, Culture And The 420 Experience
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: Rama, you’re an absolute force in combining cannabis and culture. You started your career in the music industry as a teenager, evolving from promotion into production and building giant labels like Big Wheel Recreation and Tarantula Records. You created the influential United Trade Show with DJ Steve Aoki, pioneered campaigns for brands including Beats by Dre, Disney, and Pepsi – all this before you even became known in cannabis. With so many firsts under your belt, why choose now to do something as ambitious as the 420 Experience?
RAMA MAYO: I’ve never really taken holidays seriously, [so] at Green Street we’ve usually taken the day off for 420. But last year, we were doing a 420 party with our dear friends at High Rise, and there was a woman crying at the event. I go over to her and I’m like, “Oh my God, are you okay? What happened?” Thinking of the worst-case scenario. But she says, “We’ve made it – look at all of this!” She was crying out of happiness, and I thought, This is so wild that someone cares so much about 420. It shocked me how important it was to the community.
Right then and there I was like, “Okay, we’re going to make  the biggest thing we can and we’re going to treat it like Christmas.” So how can we be Weed Santa? How can we give people a free, fun, cool thing to do on this day and bring our friends together? The goal of the 420 Experience is to bring the community together, to celebrate as one big awesome party with [the cannabis industry], mainstream brands, guests, and the public.
It’s so crucial to create space for people who don’t smoke to explore cannabis-friendly events and learn more about the community. That’s an important piece of the puzzle you’re offering with the 420 Experience.
It’s never going to be mainstream until the mainstream can go to it. So there are going to be people at these events who don’t want to take dabs or smoke weed or do edibles. How can we build into that? That’s been our thesis from the beginning – build as much as we can, experiment beyond the edge. [Green Street has] done probably 100 events in the past 365 days, which is a lot.
But again, I’ve done this growing up. Punk rock music and skateboarding taught me everything I needed to know. Legit, my mom would drop me off at a music venue when I was 15 years old that I had rented with my business partner, Dickie Cummings (his real name). We would rent VFW halls and rooms, get [production assistants] and put up stages and have shows. We did an event called the New Bedford Festival in New Bedford Massachusetts when I was 16. There were 3000 kids there, and that event is famous now.
In that scene, you learn quickly to look far out ahead of you while you’re going, but also at every crack on the sidewalk. And then you’re also building objects… it’s very DIY, hands-on. With punk, you see people making vegan treats and selling them outside the venue, or a girl making and selling a hardcore punk zine, a photographer shooting photos. The stage was a foot tall with no barrier, so it’s just a one-second difference between being onstage with a guitar or being in the crowd. You were exposed to all these things through the do-it-yourself attitude.
I had 3000 people at that event 30 years ago. Our 420 experience will have about 2000 people there. We didn’t even make money on those things back then, and that’s never been the goal. It was just bringing the community together to share a voice and a vision and exchange information. To grow and evolve. I’m obsessed. I love it.
What programming are you looking forward to the most at the 420 Experience?
First of all, I love Two Bit Circus. It’s a gigantic building in downtown L.A. that has its own private outdoor parking lot area. Inside it’s a huge cavernous space that’s built out of a combination of classic arcade games, VR, and then a bunch of games that they actually created in-house in the back of the warehouse. They build these games by hand with scientists and engineers, and roll them out onto the floor for full-on crazy arcade experiences. It’s an incredible 10/10 venue where people walk in and go, “Holy shit, whoa!”
Our dear friends who own Two Bit, when I hit them up about 420, were like, “Absolutely, yes!” We’ve taken over everything [and] set it to free play. It’s going to be a super fun zone for the evening, from 6 to 10PM, four hours of ridiculous pandemonium inside. There are escape rooms and trivia rooms and game shows… There’s a whole pinball area where you can play with two or three or up to eight or twenty people. They have a giant Hungry, Hungry Hippos and they made their own version of Operation which is literally a full laboratory/doctor’s office and a full-size body that you’re pulling the parts out of. Jay [Chandrasekhar] from Broken Lizard is doing standup; he’ll play clips from his films and tell stories about them. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience with him.
It’s free and you can smoke weed outside in the parking lot, where we’re building a bunch of lounges. Zippo has been a huge supporter; they came in and really got the vision. Zippo’s new insert that they made for their existing product, which has a new thing that you can put in for butane, is amazing. That’s something really cool that I’m working on for the 420 event. Liquid Death is an amazing sponsor, perfect for us and helping keep everyone hydrated for this event. Right next door is the Sweet Flower dispensary, which literally shares a wall with [Two Bit Circus] so people can buy weed, bring it into the parking lot, and smoke it… And there are so many other great partners involved, like Originals, Dabwoods, and 818 Brands. So it’s something for everybody.
It’s awesome that the 420 Experience is encouraging cultural crossover. We’re seeing more of that, with South by Southwest expanding their cannabis track, and cannabis events like MJBizCon adding more cultural elements. Do you think we need both of these developments simultaneously to keep that crossover evolving?
Yeah, I love it. It’s what I call the kids’ table. At holidays, you’ve got the kids’ table in the corner and it’s not like the real table. I saw that quickly when I got into [the cannabis space] because when I was doing work with Beats by Dre, Disney, Dreamworks, Pepsi, I’d go to companies with the same budget for G Pen and they’d be like, “Oh yeah, we’ve got something for you over there.” It was way in the back, like they wanted to hide it. The “kids’ table.” And I believe a hundred percent, if we’re invited in, we want to be seated next to everybody else. That’s the dream.
I sponsored a rodeo in Salinas with a brand called Country Cannabis that I’m involved in, and it was legit. McDonald’s, Exxon Mobil, and Country all in a row – we were treated like anyone else, and I think that’s what’s needed… The hard part is that the market’s so wavy that it scares a lot of people involved in those bigger businesses. But we have that as our long-term vision. And especially if you can make it in L.A. and New York, the global cities in America, you can create that. I’m honestly excited to see what innovations are going to happen in New York.
Green Street’s overall ethos has been combining cannabis and community through personal experiences. How has the company been able to adapt in this evolving industry?
What we started is a way of creating a space for people to work and collaborate together. That’s what makes Green Street special. That’s what the uniqueness of that energy is, and that’s why people come to us. But what changed with the pandemic is that the need to do business in an office has diminished, because nobody needs office space anymore… So in order to adapt to what the market needed, we had to change the way we looked at how the community, especially a struggling community, could be successful. We realized, “Hey, this is our opportunity to use our platform to give people all the collaboration, space, energy, without having to give them a fixed location.” This is [an issue] not just affecting L.A., but the whole world.
But you are also working to address some problems specific to L.A.’s cannabis culture, right?
Yes. Right now, downtown L.A. is saturated with cannabis. That can be good and bad, but it means office space there isn’t valuable to cannabis brands. On the other hand, a lot of people are losing the West Side market because getting over there takes a whole day due to traffic and it’s not well built out for cannabis. People are pocketing their days, scheduling in accordance with where they can do the most [at one time]. So as we are looking at transitioning from our downtown building to a new location on the beach, it’ll be revolutionary because we’re going to change the way people do business and the outreach that they have in the unsaturated locations. It’ll give people more exposure [in places with] less competition.
This project and others we have in the works are going to give [Green Street] the real legs to be both national and international, and give people the opportunity to do business from their homes, and also when they’re visiting in L.A. and abroad. This collective is amazing. And every project has a unique vision and design, from the 420 Experience to the Green Street Festival we did last year. That’s the momentum carrying the 420 experience and people are already excited about it. What’s already been happening at Green Street is going to help the community further its expansion and legitimacy in L.A… We even have government agencies come to see what we’re doing in terms of cannabis regulation and compliance; they love to see aboveground business in cannabis because that’s what’s needed to [boost] the community as a whole.
The 420 Experience takes place on Thursday, April 20th, 6-10PM at Two Bit Circus, 634 Mateo Street in Los Angeles, California. For tickets and more information, visit 420experience.com. To learn more about Green Street and its brand portfolio, visit greenstreetagency.com.
Find Out More On Social
Featured image: (C) The 420 Experience / Green Street