Hey SoCal! April is National Cannabis Awareness Month, an apropos time for the grand opening of The Artist Tree Cannabis Lounge in West Hollywood. Sparking up our new monthly Hey SoCannabis series, Mike Ciriaco hits up this consumption cafe to converse about Southern California’s cannabis culture and THC tourism. Keep it green, SoCal!
“The Artist Tree is an immersive destination that combines art and cannabis,” explained Artist Tree founder Lauren Fontein as she guiding us on a tour of this dispensary/art venue hybrid. “We wanted to feature local artists by showcasing their artwork alongside cannabis retail products.”
This ganja-centric art gallery is a member of Emerald City West Hollywood, which describes itself as “the country’s first municipal cannabis tourism association,” and includes prominent WeHo dispensaries such as MedMen and Zen Healing Collective. Its collective goal is to promote itself as the new Mecca for marijuana.
“We have this vision of making ourselves the next Amsterdam,” Fontein beamed, “But taking it a step above by having places that look like this.”
While Southern Californians have enjoyed recreational reefer since 2016, and medicinal marijuana since 1996, not all Americans are as fortunate. At the moment, cannabis is completely illegal in 13 states, and according to the DEA, is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, in the same category as heroin. WeHo bud businesses, like the Artist Tree, offer tourists from these states a safe space to purchase pot products. This month, Artist Tree expands to include a Cannabis Lounge, giving these THC tourists an oasis to smoke and eat their weed as well.
“The thing that really sets West Hollywood apart as a tourist destination is that they’ve allowed cannabis consumption,” said Fontein. “We have this license and there are several other businesses that will be opening lounges. These are some of the only places in the whole country where you can legally come on site and hang out in a nice environment and actually openly consume cannabis.”
California’s progressive pot policies are also profitable, generating 4.4 billion dollars from sales in 2020 alone. But not all Angelenos reap this fortune equally. According to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily, 77% of cannabis business owners identify as White. Addressing this racial discrepancy, Artist Tree allies with members of SoCal’s minority communities, by carrying products from African American owned businesses, such as PlugnPlay and Cookies, as well as showcasing local minority artists, such as Gabe Gault.
But ultimately, the Artist Tree aims to normalize public cannabis consumption for everyone.
“There’s no places where you can do it in public,” expressed Fontein. “That’s crucial to give people that. You can go to a bar to get drunk. In our mind, this is just another iteration of that. And one that’s really needed. Because there are so many cannabis consumers here that want a place to go and hangout and there should be more options for them.”
Stay smoky, SoCal!
Videography by Jason Kentaro.
Editing by Nick Walker
For more video content, be sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel.
Party on SoCal!
Connect with Hey SoCal: