“Trailblazers is like high school, but with more money and better drugs.” - Samuel Clemens Long
What to Expect When You're Expecting a High-End Event - Not a Conference, a Get-Together
There seems to be a north star within Trailblazers: community. The organization describes itself as a “curated community of cannabis and psychedelic business leaders who work to advance the industry,” and this is apparent from the moment you sign up for one of their exclusive gatherings - such as the one held most recently in Sedona, Arizona. Even before the event starts you’re introduced to the other attendees via a list of who’s landing, when and how you can catch a ride from the Phoenix airport to Sedona. And the drive seems necessary. As you watch the landscape go from saguaro cactus to elevation pines, finally culminating in the ruddy majesty of the Sedona canyons, you’re ready. You’ve had your mate, you’re spiritually awake. Now time for the event.
But what do we call this thing? A get-together, conference, event, adult summer camp… it’s certainly the opposite of a convention. I guess we’ll call it Trailblazers.
And if you consider yourself a Trailblazer, look no further, because these are your people. Every guest who attends has a unique story about how they first hear of Trailblazers or end up at the live get-togethers (whether that's in Sedona, California's Ojai Valley, New York's urban jungle or elsewhere). The organizers take curation seriously; the only way to score an invite is to get an introduction from a friend that's been to a previous invite. Or, if you're the kind of enlightened individual who frequents Honeysuckle's content, you can register for their next event in New York on July 27th or apply for Trailblazers membership directly on their website here.
Who Created Trailblazers?
Those responsible certainly know their quarry. Trailblazers was created by Tyler Wakstein, co-founder and CEO of OpenNest Labs; David Denberg, a leadership culture maven noted for founding extensive entrepreneurship communities; and Peter Gross, co-founder of Coalition Entertainment. Kim Dudine oversees strategy and dedicated support for Trailblazers and serves as one of the organization’s primary points of contact for attendees. At the Sedona gathering, the event opens up with a non-ice breaker, ice breaker. You get in elbow to elbow with the other campers (aka C-suite executives) and learn about what brings them to this unique cannabis and psychedelics event.
Trailblazers Day One: Plant Medicine and Industry Experts
By the middle of the first day you find out everyone’s tribe. Are you the plant medicine, all-day every-day crowd (hell yeah) or the plants as sacrament, keep it to the evenings people? While this doesn’t mean you get automatically sorted into cliques, it does mean you get to figure out who shares your taste in plant products and therefore, with whom you’ll likely be spending the most time.
Want a microdose of psilocybin? Need a pre-roll? (Lex Corwin, founder and CEO of Stone Road Farms, was a veritable joint dispenser the whole trip; great flower too!) There were plenty of sponsored happy hours, by Curaleaf and Golden Eagle Partners , if you want to stray into the fermented plant medicine arena.
And then it’s that time to gather the forces, hit the light-drenched conference room and listen to some great speakers. Because while Trailblazers may not be a conference, it is a forum where industry leaders can source knowledge about the future of the business. It’s at this point that you realize the person you just burned a J with is speaking and they’re the CEO of an MSO (multi-state operator) you’ve known about for years. Another Trailblazers hallmark.
Who Spoke at Trailblazers Sedona? William Leonard Pickard, Al Harrington, Sue Sisley and More
If it’s the weight of the speakers you look for, then William Leonard Pickard is a black hole. A singularity in the universe of speakers you want to listen to. Recently released after being caged in a maximum security prison for twenty years, Pickard produced a “planetary supply” of acid, allegedly 90 percent of the world’s LSD. Prior to his incarceration, Pickard was a research associate in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, a drug policy fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and finally Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at the University of California Los Angeles. His insights at Trailblazers bring the conversation into all things LSD.
Other notable speakers include Al Harrington, former NBA player and co-founder/CEO of Viola, the nation’s leading Black-owned cannabis brand; Margeaux Bruner, founder of Holi Smokables and Director of ESG and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Trulieve; Dr. Sue Sisley, a medical cannabis research pioneer and President of the Scottsdale Research Institute and Field to Healed Foundation; Melanie Davis, Chief Operations Officer of The People’s Ecosystem; Jeff Ragovin, Chief Commercial Officer of Fyllo, Mina Mishrikey, Senior Partner and Head of Investments at Merida Capital Holdings; and many more.
On to the social portion of the evening (ie, the secret sauce to lasting connections). Here’s where things hit Amsterdam vibes. Everyone is taking something, some many things. Yet, there’s no raised voices, no fights, just a really relaxed pleasant vibe with other carriers of the Plant flame.
Trailblazers Day Two: Nature and Spiritual Journeys
The next morning, those who didn’t drink seem to have a pep in their step. It’s then on to hiking, mountain biking and other physical affirmations.
Those who choose the hike, such as your humble narrator, walk up the red earth to conclude at Kachina Woman, a Gaia esque spirit of the mountains. Kim Dudine leads the group in a prayer and offering to the palpable spirits in the valley.
Intermixed with all the savory lunches and happy hours, more industry leading talks commence.. One after another, the people that you’ve been hanging out with take the stage and reveal deep industry leadership and knowledge. Whether it’s the gummies or just having fun, it’s hard to tell, but the day flies by.
Oh, and then there’s the sound bath, an event at the end of the night. Trailblazers puts on a sound bath that is the hippie world version of Diplo DJing a party. Kim and her team members bang a gong, literally; actually, they have two huge gongs. Between that and the crystal bowls placed around and played at the packed house, all those in attendance are treated to the philharmonic of sound baths. Whether you are seeking relaxation, meditation or medication, the sounds can do something to soothe you as you indulge your plant of choice.
Trailblazers Day Three: What's On the Horizon?
Final day. More talks, more delicious food. But now you have that Sunday evening feeling. The real world is just waiting over the horizon. There’s a million things you wish you had done. More conversations, more activities, more talks. Now you have to, quickly as you can, get all the contacts from the people you really got to know. Good thing the last planned activity was a pool hang-out. Everyone on the way to their car/plane/train way home just kicked it poolside. The Pink Cadillac seemed a popular refresher.
And then it’s over. Was that really only three days? Did I really take that many milligrams? Was the CEO of X company really that cool?
Yes. And if reading this is giving you serious Fear Of Missing Out… Trailblazers has a cure for that. You’ll just have to go to the next one in NYC, the very first urban incarnation of the event. As the Trailblazers team says, it’s once in a generation - don’t miss it.
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Featured image: The Trailblazers community, with special guest William Leonard Picard, gather at the Kachina Woman site in Sedona, Arizona. (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.