Prepare to embark on an extraordinary journey into cannabis culture. The Stone Age, New York’s premiere immersive, multi-sensory cannabis experience, opened its doors October 1, 2021. It’s the first pop-up of its kind—the intersection of education, artistry, entertainment and advocacy. Created by experiential gurus Sasha Perelman and Elizabeth Santana, The Stone Age fuses immersive, interactive installations across a 10,000-square-foot space in the city’s Chelsea District, to provide thoughtful and visceral calls-to-action toward social justice reform, as well as education about the plant’s wellness benefits.
“Creating The Stone Age is a dream. After producing programming in the cannabis space, I saw the need to encourage everyone to better understand the efficacy and versatility of cannabis consumption,” Perelman tells Honeysuckle during a behind-the-scenes tour. “Despite all of the aspects that cannabis touches on as plant medicine, as a wellness tool, and as a socio-political catalyst…there’s a lack of normalization, education and awareness. Consumption is still very anecdotal. The information can be overwhelming. So how do we simplify the narrative in a thought-provoking and entertaining way that really resonates with people?”
The answer is by making it fun and provocative, while reaching audiences within their communities. As Perelman and Santana guide us through each room of The Stone Age, they point out unique details. The Arousal activation includes black light-painted murals and bondage ropes, as well as custom video art on screens that simulate the moments before orgasm. Meanwhile, the Creativity activation celebrates cannabis’s impact on the mind, body, and soul with motion-activated projections that respond accordingly to visitors with changing visuals and music. The state of Euphoria redefines the obvious reference of the Stone Age to something energetic and beautiful—much like redefining stoner culture to an elevated lifestyle. The Pain activation addresses the damaging effects of the opioid epidemic and how cannabis can be used as a natural tool for pain management and help with the effects of opioid withdrawal.
What The Stone Age truly explores are the States of Being, “These are the things we experience collectively as humans,” Perelman explains. “Doing this in New York is very meaningful, not just for helping drive conscious consumerism, but to evoke more conversations around stigmatized topics. We should be empowered, not shamed, to talk about sex, epidemics and most importantly, mass incarceration.”
Perelman and Santana have collectively produced hundreds of events in cannabis, wellness, beauty, technology, and consumer goods. With The Stone Age, they unite their expertise and highlight New York’s sweeping social equity-focused cannabis legalization at the perfect moment. They’ve partnered with a number of locally and nationally recognized organizations in the cannabis community, most notably the restorative justice nonprofit, Last Prisoner Project (LPP), to bring the criminalization of the plant’s role in The War on Drugs to mainstream attention.
“The intention of doing this as a multi-sensory pop-up and bringing it to a mainstream market is that we have the opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of people in a short time. With the impression that this leaves individuals both through the experience and digital, the ripple effect becomes millions. We have the ability to impact how people perceive and interact with the plant—and that’s powerful,” Santana shares.
Mary Bailey, LPP’s managing director, was all for the concept. Throughout the walls of the Awareness activation, there are QR codes for visitors to scan to learn more about how to contribute in real time to the fight to free and support the tens of thousands of people incarcerated on cannabis charges. Through the QR codes, attendees can sign petitions, donate and read a comprehensive and provocative treatise on the American carceral system by Natalie Papillon, LPP’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.
Much like consuming cannabis, how The Stone Age affects its audience will differ for each visitor, depending on the experience they want to create for themselves. Yet, what may strike guests the most is the Awareness room, which explores the multilayered human costs of the War on Drugs.
“We were both very cognizant of creating a sense of empathy [in the space],” says Perelman. “Humanizing the victims of The War on Drugs by showcasing their creativity, their vulnerability and sharing their stories. We recreated the visual reference of a prison so guests can try to comprehend the conditions under which human beings are living. It’s not just about the history of the War on Drugs, but understanding the role it plays in racial injustice.”
“You can give someone information,” Santana adds, “but then what do they do with it? With [The Stone Age], you come in and get transported. You feel a palpable connection to your surroundings, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We want guests to leave transformed, because that’s where change happens. It’s not just an experience. It’s a call for change! Artwork throughout the Awareness space was created or curated by formerly or currently incarcerated individuals. Poems and visual art pieces amplify the voices of those whose souls run wild, even when the body isn’t free.”
The gift shop also opens pathways to further advocacy. It will feature the original art pieces of the system-impacted individuals for sale (proceeds go directly to individual) and bi-weekly rotating pop-ups of minority or female-owned brands in the sector. One such spotlight, on women’s wellness brand Her Highness, which includes items from their collaboration with LPP.
Ultimately, Santana says, “We’re giving audiences the tools to be able to learn more [after they leave the exhibition], which is very, very important.”
Tickets to The Stone Age are now available (starting at $55 per person for a limited time only). No cannabis will be distributed or consumed on the exhibition’s grounds. Reservations can be made through thestoneagenyc.com; only individuals age 18+ will be allowed entry. While The Stone Age has launched in New York City, there are plans in place to bring the experience to other cities across the country.
For those excited celebrate a new era of high enlightenment; Welcome to The Stone Age!
Get your copies of Honeysuckle's new print edition, FREEDOM, exclusively at The Stone Age beginning October 8th! Featuring Damian Marley, Berner, Last Prisoner Project, Evidence, Nabil Elderkin, an in-depth look at the men and women affected by the American prison system, and much more, it's a must-read.
Featured image: COME by Wendy Hu / The Stone Age. Photo: Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.