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Legalizing Cannabis Is The Answer To Vaping Concerns

At first, Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe feels like any other restaurant on this West Hollywood strip. But it’s not.

There’s exposed brick with bold neon signs, a tree-covered patio with guests chatting over bistro tables, and dishes full of fresh California produce. These guests aren’t here for just a salad and an iced tea, though. They came for a hit.

The first restaurant in the country to openly allow cannabis consumption, Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe is among the few hospitality institutions to recently receive a license to sell cannabis in West Hollywood. In addition to typical food and drink, Lowell Farms, which opened on Oct. 1, offers a menu of prepackaged cannabis goods such as edibles, fresh flower, and pre-rolled joints to consume on-site.

The city of West Hollywood officially approved the café’s business license.

“It’s a place for those who are canna-curious and cannabis connoisseurs looking to experience the plant in a welcoming atmosphere,” says David Elias, CEO and cofounder of Lowell Herb Co., the cannabis grower that has launched the restaurant. “We believed there needed to be a destination for everyone to openly enjoy cannabis. There hasn’t been anything like this for more than 100 years.”

Elias references the tea pads of the 1920s, clubby spaces where people would gather and smoke marijuana and sip cocktails, pre-Prohibition. The tea lounges went the way of bars during Prohibition and never returned thanks to the demonization of weed throughout the rest of the 20th century. These hangouts inspired Elias and his team at Lowell Herb Co. to expand from being a grower and consumer brand into a full-fledged hospitality company.

It helped that the city of West Hollywood, where cannabis is legal, was looking to experiment with different cannabis experiences. The city worked with the county and state governments to create eight cannabis consumption licenses. More than 300 entities applied, with Lowell Farms being granted the first one.

A “flower host” helps guests choose cannabis strains to consume, while the chef prepares dishes that pair well with select strains.

The license enables Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe to sell cannabis (cash only) for guests to consume on the premises. “Flower hosts,” like Bianca Blanche, serve as “sommeliers” who help guide guests to different strains and styles of cannabis. The café’s extensive list includes a fresh farm-to-table flower selection, plus prepackaged cannabis beverages, edibles, concentrates, and oils. Guests can also rent accoutrements, like bud vases and vape pens, or bring their own bud for a “toke-age” fee of $20. Blanche says it’s important to help guests understand their tolerance, as well as what may be the perfect smoke to pair with their food.

“Our ultimate goal is to make cannabis like alcohol—treat it like having a wine sommelier talk you through your pairings,” Blanche says of being a flower host. “We want to do the same with cannabis to take that stigma away.”

Like a traditional beverage menu, the weed list complements the food menu. Chef Andrea Drummer has designed seasonally inspired dishes to specifically pair with certain strains of weed, with any one dish offering complex flavor profiles that match the terpenes in the cannabis on offer.

A sampling of the menu at Lowell Cafe.

But the food is far from classic munchies like pizza. There’s an heirloom tomato carpaccio, jerk-seasoned New Zealand lamb chops, tamarind-glazed wings, and even a vegan bánh mì made with cauliflower and chipotle “aioli.”

Blanche likes to recommend a citrusy sativa to go with the From the Garden mixed-greens salad, which features blueberries, asparagus, and a balsamic-mustard dressing. Guests can also bite into prepackaged edibles alongside their food, though the menu does not offer cannabis-infused dishes. (State law does not allow infusions, so there are no THC-infused cocktails either.)

Even for the cannabis expert, the café offers unique experiences. Blanche points out its custom gravity bong made by Stündenglass, which guests can use for $75, and a custom hookah-inspired bong made of copper, steel, and glass to rent for $200.

Guests can smoke indoors—thanks to a customized air-filtration system—or out on the patio. However, they cannot take the cannabis with them.

The back patio at Lowell Cafe.

But just taking a puff of a joint with your tablemates is remarkable, Elias notes. “This signifies the real end of cannabis prohibition in California,” he says. “This restaurant is a historic moment for the cannabis movement and in steering the normalization of the plant for the country as a whole.”

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