Contributor: Michael Avalos
On October 1st, the doors will finally open to Lowell Farms: A Cafe. This is the first business in America to allow on-site marijuana consumption. This restaurant/smoking lounge hybrid is backed by the Lowell Herb Company, a popular cannabis brand that became ubiquitous for their pre-rolled joints. While it may seem like a dream come true for many — online reservations for the first month sold out within hours — it is actually the end of a long, rocky road for this first-of-its-kind cafe.
When you visit Lowell Farms: A Cafe, you will actually be visiting two businesses inside the same space. The first is a restaurant that serves food and drinks, but prohibits cannabis consumption. The other is a smoking lounge and patio. Don’t worry, patrons are allowed to order food and have it delivered to the lounge, where you are welcome to smoke at your table before, during, or after your meal. The workaround is due to technicalities with state laws that don’t allow cannabis smoking to exist in the same space as food and beverage sales.
The flower selection is curated by Lowell, and guests will be met by a “flower host” — the equivalent of a wine sommelier — who will help you select cannabis to pair with your meal. Besides selling their signature pre-rolls, quantities of flower will be available to smoke using one of their terra cotta bongs (available for a small rental cost.) Patrons can also bring their own cannabis to smoke for a twenty dollar “tokeage” fee.
As for the food, it promises to be just as exciting as the flower. The menu was created by Executive Chef Andrea Drummer, who literally wrote the book on cooking with cannabis. (Seriously, it is called Cannabis Cuisine: Bud Pairings of a Born Again Chef.) Her entire menu has been designed to complement the cannabis available during your meal, and includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. However, despite Lowell’s initial concept, there will be no THC or CBD infused dishes served up by the kitchen. The delay is due to the state of California’s slow progress to define and regulate THC edibles.
That wasn’t the only speed bump along the way. The cafe’s announcement drew a negative response from the Kol Ami Synagogue, positioned right across the street. Rabbi Denise Eger wrote an email to City Council members expressing concerns that her congregation would have to “walk through clouds of marijuana smoke” and worried about the “contact high from the smoke” that would limit their use of outdoor space. Lowell Farms responded by clarifying that the cafe would only feature a non-smoking patio next to the street, and that they planned to install “air purifying and odor-absorbing landscape” along with a powerful, Las Vegas casino-level air filtration system to catch smoke coming from the lounge.
The cafe’s launch was initially scheduled for September 24th, but another delay was caused by METRC, a Florida-based company that provides a “track-and-trace” service of cannabis sales for the state of California. That pushed the official opening to the first of October, but the cafe proceeded with a “soft opening” on the original day and promised to honor all previously made reservations.
While Lowell Farms: A Cafe might be a unique experience for now, it won’t be the only game in town for very long. The city of West Hollywood has granted a total of eight business licenses for on-site cannabis consumption (out of over 300 applicants). Besides more restaurant/lounge hybrids, other cannabis-friendly businesses in development include event spaces, a wellness center, and an immersive experience.