Less than six months before the pandemic began, the Original Cannabis Cafe — known at its opening as Lowell Cafe — debuted with a massive green-tinged bang. The nation’s first cannabis consumption lounge played to long lines that twisted down La Brea Avenue, with locals and tourists waiting their turn to openly consume cannabis in a restaurant setting. Everything from bongs and vaporizer pens, to cannabis oil, concentrated cannabis (also known as dabs), and cannabis beverages were in heavy rotation — as was a ‘flower host’ to roll custom table side joints.
The Cannabis Cafe was a major success, thanks in large part to the city of West Hollywood itself. Officials began making long-term plans to handle cannabis consumption lounges well before California’s adult-use became legal in 2017, launching a permit process to have a total of 10 dispensaries and 16 consumption lounges within the compact city of WeHo in short order. The approach was a strategic one, relating back 40 years to WeHo’s longstanding relationship with cannabis.
Then, of course, came the pandemic. In March 2020, the Cannabis Cafe and future consumption lounges put plans on temporary hold, freezing one of the most exciting new hospitality markets to hit Los Angeles in years. While restaurants were permitted to serve with social distancing guidelines, the Cannabis Cafe remained closed as WeHo’s future consumption sites worked to figure out what to do — after all, consuming cannabis on-site is an inherently social activity with airborne issues at play.
Fast forward to 2022 and that two-year lull is ending. Now, a new crop of cannabis consumption lounges is preparing to open around West Hollywood, including some with notable celebrity names attached. There’s even activity happening beyond West Hollywood with CBD restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality projects landing in and around greater Los Angeles. Here’s a look at the state of the scene at this moment.
The Artist Tree becomes WeHo’s second cannabis consumption lounge
Cannabis consumption lounges in West Hollywood will increase its number in the coming months, and the first comes from the Artist Tree. With four dispensary locations throughout Southern California, this flagship dispensary is already functional with a consumption lounge opening later this month on Santa Monica Boulevard, three blocks west of La Cienega. The group is one of the few that have received every license possible in West Hollywood: adult-use retail, medical retail, delivery, a full cannabis consumption lounge, and an edibles lounge where more than half the space is designated by law to be non-smoking. It’s a massive undertaking and could reshape the LA consumption scene.
Tea, food, massage, and more at Aeon Botanika
Aeon Botanika originally planned to open in spring 2020 but co-founder and certified nutritionist Nicole Fox now anticipates an opening date in April or May. What sets this consumption lounge apart is the focus on wellness. The cannabis consumption lounge will serve tea, along with staff that can recommend cannabis with acupuncture, nutritionist consultants, and bodywork services on-site. Originally, a restaurant was planned for Aeon but is on hold for now. Fox tells Eater that she’s actively on the hunt for a food partner.
Celebrity names at the Woods
This consumption lounge green rush includes some very recognizable names, including the forthcoming the Woods. Investors include actor Woody Harrelson and HBO Real Time host Bill Maher, and plans are in the works to open in early summer. The Woods will be one of the most beautiful places to ingest cannabis in the region, taking up residence at the stunning former Schoos Design studio space on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Some cannabis history, updated
The Original Cannabis Cafe remains temporarily closed, but there are plans to reopen later this year. Meanwhile, Eagles Fly won approval to convert the historic building and former bar Flaming Saddles into a split-level space with a ground-floor restaurant and smoking and non-smoking areas for cannabis upstairs. Investors have two years to pull together a massive build-out. Elsewhere, LA Patients & Caregivers Group — one of West Hollywood’s oldest dispensaries — will open its own consumption lounge, but edibles-only. The city rules apply to LAPCG with opening an edibles lounge with more than half the space dedicated to non-smoking.
Other cannabis updates
In mid-2021, Jay-Z’s parent company bought dispensary Calma. It’s steps away from the Original Cannabis Cafe, and the rapper’s cannabis brand Monogram is sold on-site.
West Hollywood isn’t the only city to welcome cannabis-friendly businesses. Chef Chris Sayegh opened a CBD-oriented restaurant and lounge in Santa Monica earlier this year called Nostalgia, where he utilizes CBD and terpenes in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. CBD and terpenes contain the non-psychoactive element of cannabis.
Downtown LA’s Gusto Green opened last December. The restaurant has an exclusive relationship with the country’s only federally approved hemp grower for food, Ziese Farms, and the restaurant leans into the use of hemp throughout.