Everything You Need To Know About America’s First Legal Cannabis Restaurant, Cannabis Cafe
West Hollywood has long been a hotbed for putting progressive ideas into practice…and law. WeHo was the first city in America to ban the sale of fur—many other cities and states have since followed suit. Over 20 years ago, WeHo was the first city in the country to open a medical marijuana dispensary. And as of 2018, it became the first city in the US to develop and distribute cannabis consumption licenses. Only one consumption business has opened so far, and it’s proving to be a resounding success: the Original Cannabis Cafe.
For many, Cannabis Cafe is a novelty place to visit, or a go-to spot to meet up with friends. But for the industry, it’s a salient milestone in the progression of legal recreational cannabis use. Whatever your motivation or interest may be, Cannabis Cafe is worth a visit.
The restaurant looks, well, just like any other trendy restaurant.
While some may envision a cannabis consumption venue as a dim-lit room with couches filled with people hitting bongs, decked out with lava lights and black light posters, Cannabis Cafe if a far cry; it looks like any trendy restaurant you will find in LA. It boasts modern, rustic decor and an indoor space that transitions seamlessly to an outdoor seating area. Large light-strung trees mingle amongst the tables and comfortable booth seating lines the outside ivy-laden wall.
There is also a bar seating area right in between the indoor/outdoor transition where you’ll have full access to both the food and cannabis menu; a fun seat to converse with the bar “budtender” and other guests.
The food served at Cannabis Cafe is NOT mixed with any cannabis.
Many hear the name “Cannabis Cafe” or the words “cannabis restaurant” and the first thing that comes to mind is infused food. No, no, no. Think of their cannabis menu like a wine menu; it’s completely separate from your food. At your table, upon being seated, you will be served a food menu and a separate the cannabis menu.
No, it’s not a hotbox situation inside.
You might be pleasantly surprised by the airiness of the restaurant, especially considering there are people puffing joints left and right. This is thanks in part to a casino-grade air filtration system that doesn’t allow the smoke to linger. In fact, while there is certainly a marijuana smell, it is faint. So even if you’re bothered by the smell or presence of marijuana smoke, it’s not invasive, so you’ll be just fine.
The cannabis menu is extensive; study in advance.
From pre-rolls, to flower (served with a grinder and papers), to edibles, the menu of cannabis goodies to choose from is over 10 pages long. They carry a number of brands from local companies and ones from around the US; the cannabis flower menu is hand curated by Red Rodriguez, the Cafe’s director of vendor relations. Everything comes packaged and sealed, so you can trust what you are getting is authentic and tested. They also carry infused drinks and sweet treats that come with a lighthearted reminder on the menu: “Delayed onset. Incredibly long lasting.”
BYOC is allowed…and other Do’s and Don’ts to know.
There are a number of do’s and don’ts of the restaurant you should know. You are allowed to bring your own cannabis items in from home, but note a $30 per-person “tokage” fee—like a familiar wine corkage fee—applies. You can bring your own non-glass bong or pipe to smoke out of, or you can rent one from the restaurant.
You cannot smoke any tobacco products, including using blunt papers to roll. You must be 21 years of age or older, and you MUST have ID to enter the cafe. And similar to a dispensary, it is checked outside before you enter the premise.
You don’t have to make reservations in advance; they allow some walk-ins, but to be safe, make a reservation. You can only sit at your table for 1.5 hours (and they will kindly remind you to leave or move to the bar when your time is up).
The food menu has a munchie-satisfying assortment, including vegetarian and vegan options.
Just remember, you are not here for a 5-star culinary experience, and while some items can be improved upon, especially for the high-ish price point ($20 for nachos for example), the food is decent. Try the vegan nachos, perfect to hit the spot for a craving and share with your group. People also like the burgers (and there are a number of preparations to choose from, including a vegan Impossible Burger options.) The Hot Chicken Fingers and Chicken (or Cauliflower) Wings are also a favorite.
The crowd is mixed, diverse and friendly.
From the outside, Cannabis Cafe looks like any other hotspot restaurant or bar. It’s filled mostly with 20 and 30-somethings, and you won’t find any monoculture here; the crowd is diverse, pleasantly reflective of the breadth of the modern-day cannabis consumers. Upon sitting, and maybe interacting with your table neighbor, there is a natural sense of comradery.
No matter if you’re 25 or 75 (yes, some people do bring their grandparents), everyone has a shared appreciation and can’t help but bond over the mutual feeling of “wow, I don’t think I would have ever imagined this.”
Alcohol is served, only on the outdoor patio.
This might be a deal breaker for groups wanting to attend since while you might want to buy some flower and roll up a joint; your date wants to sip on a glass of wine at the table. But for now, the law does not permit alcohol and marijuana sold or consumed in the same venue. So, Cannabis Cafe has a separate outdoor patio with a beer and wine menu where you can drink.
What about the City’s other consumption licenses?
Other West Hollywood businesses are in the process of opening their consumption establishments. Of the permitted eight on-site consumption businesses for smoking, vaping, and ingesting, Cannabis Cafe has been the only one to open so far. WeHo also separately permitted eight on-site consumption businesses for edible ingestion only; a number of those businesses are slated to open in 2020. For now, Cannabis Cafe is making history and helping to normalize cannabis consumption while the progressive city of West Hollywood once again proves it continues to export culture, ideas and laws.