It’s a question as perplexing as the one about the chicken and the egg. Now that you’ve purchased legal cannabis, where do you go to smoke it?
Legalization is permeating the U.S., but state laws for consumption haven’t all caught up. Even if your stash is legal, public consumption may not be.
Colorado has consumption lounges, but Nevada has kicked the legislative can down the road to 2021. (Note: NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, located on Paiute tribal land near downtown Las Vegas, added a cannabis tasting room earlier this month).
Golden State Ushers in Change
California is, of course, blazing trails to solve the “where to consume” quandary. The Golden State is not only turning green with consumption lounges but also recently became home to the country’s first official cannabis cafe, Lowell Farms, in West Hollywood.
The chic space opened on October 1. It includes an indoor and outdoor dining area where consumption is allowed and a street-facing patio for dining, but no consumption.
Helmed by world-class Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Andrea Drummer, the menu includes salads, sandwiches, snacks and sweets. Since current state law doesn’t allow the restaurant to serve infused cuisine, diners instead enjoy table-side flower service from a flower host (think, sommelier) who explains strains, flavors and effects, and delivers complementary pairings to your table.
More consumption lounges are expected to open throughout the state, including WeHo’s Budberry Lounge in April 2020.
When it comes to serving food at these lounges, however, there’s some ambiguity around the state’s cannabis laws. This is forcing consumption lounge owners to get creative.
“Everyone is figuring it out as they go, including the regulators,” explains Budberry owner Jon Locarni. “Eventually state regulations will accommodate these consumption lounges; it’s just a matter of when.”
Locarni initially wanted Budberry to sell freshly prepared and infused food and beverages. He quickly learned that the state’s regulatory landscape won’t allow it.
Instead Budberry’s Jeff “The 420 Chef” Danzer will create a variety of non-infused food and drinks. There will also be pre-packed, infused pairings. For example, you can add an infused-oregano to a non-cannabis flatbread pizza. Or, add an infused sugar to non-THC Iced Tea.
“Our chef has developed a process to create odorless and tasteless cannabis,” he says. “The possibilities that we have with infused pairings are endless.”
At The Vault in Cathedral City, customers sample products, relax, work and eat in a semi-private lounge atmosphere.
Owner Rich Eaton, a retired police officer, found the perfect compromise to make this happen. He allows his hungry customers to have food delivered to the Coachella Valley lounge. Eaton said this method works great for his customers and everyone seems to enjoy it.
Elevated Dining is Setting New Norms
Their methods may vary, but ultimately the goal of consumption lounges is to provide a safe and controlled environment for consuming cannabis. Locarni believes this is important because it it will normalize the social aspect, spark a national conversation and move the industry forward.
“This new facet of the cannabis industry embraces the social aspect of cannabis consumption and gives people a fun environment to interact without consuming alcohol,” said Locarni. “It will completely reshape how many people characterize cannabis consumption.”
While choices for enjoying a good meal while letting your mind go aloft are limited at this point, the future is looking bright…and green…and promising. As cities and states come to terms with not only legislation, but also social change, options will increase. Before you know it, you’ll be able to set up your next social gathering at your local cannabis cafe. In the meantime, keep an eye out for progress in your own city and state. And get out there and support and enjoy!