You’ve walked up to parties like this before. Here’s how it goes. Your Uber drops you at one end of a narrow sidewalk in Venice — the kind bordered on both sides by houses with curated fences and manicured shrubs to block the view. You walk up to the best-lit house, the one where people are standing close to the drinks but not too close, waiting for that magic moment when everyone’s had two-and-a-half beers and is ready to say mildly regrettable things, so you have something to talk about on the ride home and forget about before you wake up.
But this party was different. This party was Privée Social Club, a rotating cannabis gathering hosted by two women that caters exclusively to the Los Angeles elite.
Outside, the requisite table full of spirits and an ice tub full of beer. Inside, glass jars holding mountains of cannabis flower sat next to a tray of medicated brownies, which were themselves next to tins of weed mints of varying strength and flavor. On another table was the Lit Kit — styled to look like Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit — a pack that includes a CBD-infused bath bomb, a tiny but strong chocolate edible and a pre-rolled joint.
At the kitchen counter, a guy wearing a suit jacket gave dabs to passers-by. If you slithered past the crowd and into the backyard, you’d find a table stocked with Chinese food served in takeout containers and a stand full of unmedicated brownies. That table got progressively more popular as the night deepened.
The stars of the night were Privée co-founders “Mama” Sailene Ossman and Olivia Alexander. The two are flipsides of the same coin.
Alexander, to me, embodies everything that modern cannabis can be: A sharp young woman who knows her stuff cold, mixing a mastery of the Los Angeles social scene with a keen eye for product and a smile that could sell leather to a cow. She moved to California when she was 13 and worked at her first dispensary, the Green Easy, at 18, ten years ago. Employment there came to an end when robbers came through the wall with a chainsaw.
Alexander tells me all this as she touches piles of samples, a slice of her life’s work in cannabis set out on a series of tables. She got her start as a marijuantrepreneur with The Crystal Cult, which sold sparkly vaporizers and bongs for women. That spawned Kush Queen, through which she sells the Lit Kit. She also maintains a cannabis-only Instagram, @weed.bae. Alexander tells me that her social accounts total about 3 million followers and are her only advertising. Her own Instagram checks in at a substantial 10 thousand followers. She updates all her feeds with a social media manager’s perspicacity.
Indeed, Ossman and Alexander met on Instagram and connected immediately.
“She’s a legend in the Venice community,” Alexander says of Ossman. “She’s had a delivery service for 20 years. She’s been indicted, she’s been to jail, she has dedicated her life to cannabis and the forward movement of it. She’s a person that had lived in prohibition for real.”
The first party was held at a house in Beverly Hills a week after Proposition 64 passed last November, legalizing recreational marijuana use in California. In 64 there’s licensing for bud bars, which Alexander hopes will pave the way for a brick-and-mortar store. Her vision is for bud bars as a social experience.
“I see Privée as the future Soho House of cannabis,” she says. “We’re building the members now, we have the clientele, we have the brands. Once the license is there, we’ll have a location where you can come and enjoy it. That’s the other big thing I’m passionate about. I’m sure you enjoy most of your cannabis in your house alone or with a few guy friends. Never with women, never in public never at bars… Normally.”
We’re interrupted by the appearance of Tom and Ariana of Vanderpump Rules. Los Angeles, especially for a certain type of young person, is essentially a village. Olivia and Ariana met the week she made her “first blinged-out vaporizer” and later appeared together in the film Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader. Both Tom and Ariana have the slightly dazed look of people that have just arrived to a party and have yet to figure out the exact vibe. Mainly, they smile at me and don’t say much.
“I’m dying for that,” Arianna says of a bottle of weed lube.
Friends in hand, Alexander jets off into hosting duties and deposits me into the arms of Mama Sailene Ossman. I mean that literally. Mama Sailene is a hugger. She’s also a cannabis veteran with what she calls “a super high echelon of VIP clients.”
“They really want discretion and they really don’t want to be seen going into any stores at all,” she says of her clientele. “It’s a niche of women that are like Bel Air women and Brentwood ladies. Really rich older women that are like, ‘Fuck I’m sick of sending my assistant to get my vape pen.’”
It was with one of these women, whose names she won’t divulge no matter how creatively I ask, that she came up with the idea for Privée. Ossman brought the woman a sample box of cannabis products.
“She was overjoyed by a teeny little box,” Ossman says. The woman told her, “I would way prefer this little box to any Gucci bag or new pair of shoes.”
A lightbulb went off for Ossman.
“Sister, you’ve got a gorgeous house,” she told the woman. “Call your friends. Let’s have a party and let me show up with beautiful products and let me educate your friends. So that’s what we did.”
The response was immediate. Already, they’ve hosted gatherings of up to 600 people. Ossman tells me that every Privée will follow certain guidelines. These include top-of-the-line, curated products, a swag bag of sample-sized goodies and an atmosphere that encourages cocktail-style mingling.
“We need an elevated experience,” Ossman says. “The people that are coming onto the pot forum now that maybe want to dip their toes back in… they do not want that experience. They don’t want a High Times magazine experience. I don’t even want that.”
Eventually, that will be in the form of a brick-and-mortar store. For now, they’re happy to travel to rich women’s homes and sell gift boxes through their website. Membership means access to their private vault and boxes delivered monthly or bi-monthly, depending on the membership level. Top-tier members have access to the brand’s round-the-clock concierge service, which offers advice about strain type, amount and quality for your individual needs.
As I left, I saw Tom from Vanderpump having a serious conversation about Instagram branding while hovering near the drinks table. Maybe the party isn’t so strange, after all.