Forget the fear, the shame, the taboo — it’s time to celebrate your love of the bud in your next special event.
Alaskan born, (escaped once but now returned) Starvia Boushell, owner of Stars Events AK started her event planning business in 2018 after 25 years as a professional stylist. Her services include coordination, planning and designing private events, officiating services and elopements, styling, and personal shopping – with the added bonus that if you have a need for weed, she’s the one to make it happen.
Boushell was first introduced to cannabis-themed events during a wedding convention she attended in Las Vegas in 2019. It was a concept that was already getting national attention, but wasn’t anywhere near launched in Alaska despite full legalization here since 2014.
”They brought up that in the Lower 48 cannabis events were starting to get popular and everyone needed to get on board with it, but people are scared of it — still,” Boushell said. “You always have that thought that, ‘am I going to be frowned upon for this or embraced?’ Right now, I’m just going to dive into it. I’ll be the first event planner here to do it.”
For the cannabis-inspired events, Boushell offers full planning and organizing, working closely with local cannabis vendors and hiring people that specialize in the industry to ensure it’s going to be a safe and fun experience for all.
She gets support from her husband Bryan, who brings years of experience and unbridled enthusiasm for “pretty flower and buds,” to the enterprise. Together they began incorporating décor, edibles, and providing full budtending services to her events.
Her décor often includes decorative gold cannabis leaves, real or imitation buds and flowers in flower arrangements, colorful glassware, backdrops, menus, and cannabis-shaped foods and dessert tables. Infused meals prepared by professional cannabis chefs are also planned as her business continues to grow.
Boushell has already organized several successful events and shared that her cannabis services are more idyllic for clients who are seasoned cannabis users looking to enhance their experience. She advises against non-users leaping into the deep end before knowing whether they'll sink or swim.
“Most of the people at these events already know what they like so they’re able to use it and know their limitations, as far as the consumption of it,” Boushell said. “I want people who know how the experience is going to be for them, not someone doing it for the first time.”
Regardless of experience, if guests consume during an event an experienced budtender is on staff to distribute, assist, and educate along the way.
“Budtenders are licensed to handle the product and assist guests to understand the THC levels and how it might affect the experience,” said Boushell. “You don’t want someone to just start lighting up and not be able to function. It’s really no different than you would be hiring for a bartender, so they are legally able to come in and it just makes it safer.”
While budtenders may hold a role similar to bartenders at these soirées, Boushell says there are noticeable differences between the roles.
“It’s a different feel; it’s a different environment and I find that it’s actually a calmer environment than having an open bar,” said Boushell. “People are there to just have a good time and have fun — it’s more of a calming, happy atmosphere.”
Cannabis events Boushell has hosted thus far have been held in private homes, private businesses or rental spaces. This is partly due to Covid-19 mandates but also due to restrictions that remain surrounding on-site consumption of cannabis in Anchorage. Voters last spring balked at a chance to allow open consumption at public business making the rental of traditional venues for events a challenge.
“It’s still a little tricky here, as far as how you can do things for events just because of the legalities of everything so it’s more at a private venue at this point. It really just depends on what they [businesses] allow, smoking on premises or not, and there’s not that many spaces that allow it,” said Boushell. “It’s about outdoor spacing, really finding places that are open to using consumption on property.”
Where Boushell gets cannabis products for her events largely depends on the client and what they prefer for consuming. She works with a variety of cannabis retailers, dispensaries, glass shops, bakeries, florists and other businesses for her events. She even recently organized a photo shoot cross-promoting several businesses and products to collaborate and support the future use of cannabis within event planning services.
“My ultimate goal is to really get those clients that I know I would enjoy working with, it’s an exciting new venture for me,” said Boushell. “It’s for people to have a really good time and celebrate their event.”