Following an Extended Pandemic Hiatus, Marijanefonda Prepares to Stretch

From 11 am until, naturally, 4:20 pm, guests were led through a series of instructional seminars and exercise classes to heighten their physical, emotional and spiritual fitness.

Down a long dirt road in a particularly bucolic section of recently developed Southwest Portland, a faux-rustic mini chalet named the Chateau Ballroom recently hosted the first cannabis-centric Marijanefonda gathering in more than two years. From 11 am until, naturally, 4:20 pm, guests were led through a series of instructional seminars and exercise classes to heighten their physical, emotional and spiritual fitness.

Cynics among us might question the advisability of mending chakras while sculpting torsos, but such snark withered against the sheer commanding presence of “Booty Luv” trainer Heather Craig. Absent hesitation, legs perpetually churning, the neon spandex-clad force of nature unfurled a steady stream of stage directions, empowerment platitudes, ambient reveries, and résumé bullet points: “I’m an international team leader, professional raver, and longtime stoner! This is my 9-year-old Madonna dream!”

Whatever stereotypes may persist about the dimming energies and organizational impairments of the inveterate stoner, the event zipped along with admirable sheen and participants hurtled through ever more vigorous routines that stretched to the breaking point even we onlookers until Craig at last dialed down the cardio and led her flock toward a sort of purposeful collapse.

Toward the rear of the area, a kitchenette had been set up as a makeshift bar where Wilderton Botanical rep—mocktender? nixologist?—Stephanie offered up apres-sweat beverages featuring the Portland distiller’s zero-proof craft spirits. Assistants then dispensed cooling washcloths soaked in aloe toner and rosewater. “Smells like Portland, y’all,” declared Craig, dousing her face, though that wasn’t really true. Compared with the pristine mountain air floating through the Chateau, most of Portland smells at least a bit like weed.

Honestly, should uninitiated visitors study the packaging of the available CBD seltzers or edible confections, they’d have no idea what the afternoon’s overarching theme was. Though a few clues could be discerned. During an abbreviated Q&A session following a Zoomcast with resilience coach Dr. Azad John-Salimi, meandering questions doubled back around before drifting to the ether. Vegan lunches from Meals on Heels were devoured with a ferocious zeal. During hourly vape breaks, distinctly named guests found themselves repeatedly introducing themselves to the same people. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” apologized Barbi, “but the weed doesn’t help.”

Inside a disused banker’s building along North Albina Avenue, Marijanefonda founder Amarett Jans began organizing these fitness-fueled celebrations of marijuana six years ago. The recent sold-out event, her first since the pandemic forced the program into a two-year hiatus, marks her most ambitious effort yet: It had the largest number of attendees, longest runtime, priciest tickets and the greatest diversity of subjects studied by far.

At first glance, high-energy twerking, guided breathwork, pseudo-psychedelic psychotherapy, and workshopping (virtual) workplace threat assessments shouldn’t ever share space outside of Adam Scott sitcoms or EDM IV subreddits. Still, however little they have to do with one another, each aspect proved demonstrably intriguing to a certain sort of body-conscious, left-leaning Gen Z professional. Jans understands her demographic very well.

Just about every guest held their own reasons for attending yet ended up pleasantly diverted down unfamiliar avenues along the course of the afternoon. Fresh-faced, post-collegiate newcomers Rachel and Lauren had initially been lured by the social prospects before finding solace in the self-care discourse. Some mix of obligation to the community and affection toward Marijanefonda led an older woman to volunteer as emergency stagehand, and, though her services went unneeded, she found herself helplessly leaning into the opening meditation. One of the four male attendees—fewer than 1 in 5 tickets are open to men so that a feminine energy will prevail—had come along solely for the weekend workout, but seemed genuinely moved by the doctor’s warning against the physical consequences of nonstop toil no matter the rewards.

“This is a blend of things,” Jans explained. “There’s snacks. There’s music. As much as we like to bounce around and shake the blood, we really do want to tap into the mental health aspect. It’s a lot, you know? There’s a stigma that weed’s for stoners who want to sit still, but look around! The event itself—not just the aerobics, but the mental health workshops involved—should prove how much more it can do.”

Although Jans’ instinctual algorithm may predict which seemingly disparate topics would comfortably fit under the Marijanefonda umbrella, it’s hard not to notice that none of the activities undertaken or topics discussed had any intrinsic link to cannabis beyond the participants’ shared habits, which were largely taken for granted. A morning toke was just part of DJ Jacob’s normal routine. Rachel and Lauren took sips of their vape pens throughout the day and implied this differed not at all from every other Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve been smoking weed for 30 years,” the male attendee shrugged. “So, to be honest with you, it’s kind of what I do ahead of everything.”

This is the key element powering Jans’ hybrid events. Only a few years into the legalization of THC, we’ve already grown so accustomed to its ubiquity that personal use can be safely assumed, but since restrictions still forbid communal enjoyment in commercial establishments, pairing private pleasures with public activities remains rare.

And, yet, the puffs of change are upon us. In an age that has seen Jane Fonda herself sign on as brand ambassador for Uncle Bud’s CBD empire, all things are possible, and Jans has waited a lifetime to feel the world burn.

“Holistic leisure—that’s what we’re going for,” she says. “Cannabis should be as natural a part of the event as it is in our lives. We’re inviting the lifestyle. When times are hard, get some weed and crank the music. It really is divine. We can complicate things, we can try to boost the importance, but I don’t know if there’s anything more important than that simplicity.”

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