Category: Travel

Ex-Restaurant Critic/Current Cannabis Journalist Reviews Cannabis Restaurant

The world’s first licensed and legal restaurant serving both food and cannabis is open. As a former restaurant critic and current cannabis journalist, I’m uniquely qualified to review it. Here’s my preview:

By Ed Murrieta

The world’s first restaurant selling and serving food and cannabis is open for business. 

Good luck snagging a reservation. 

Lowell Cafe opened in West Hollywood Sept. 24, serving farm-to-fork cuisine and premium California-grown cannabis in a full-service restaurant, retail and lounge environment featuring sommeliers on hand to advise diners on food and cannabis pairings and table-side rollers to ensure the joints you smoke are prepared as well the food you eat.  

A quick caveat about Lowell Cafe’s food: Chef Andrea Drummer’s contemporary California menu contains no cannabis but is loaded flavors that complement and pair with herbal, fruit and earthy flavors in the flower. 

Lowell Cafe also downplays edibles, offering them for sale while advising customers that edibles are best enjoyed by experienced consumers who can tolerate their delayed and potent effects. 

Lowell Cafe emphasizes the enjoyment of cannabis with meals the way people enjoy wine and beer with meals and allows smoking and vaping throughout the restaurant and bar, which serves only non-alcoholic beverages. 

Sommeliers work the dining areas helping, diners choose the best flowers and concentrates to enjoy with Drummer’s fried chicken sandwich, peaches and burrata or sweet potato beignets.

Not only can adults purchase and consume cannabis while also purchasing and consuming food and beverages, diners and smokers can make reservations through Resy, a leading online booking service that handles reservations for top restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC. 

Lowell Cafe’s reservations were booked through October within four hours of initial availability on Sept. 1. 

But you can get in. Bar seating and some dining tables are available for walk-in customers.

Lowell Cafe is open 10 a.m. – 2 a.m. daily. Last call for cannabis sales is 9:50 p.m. 

Customers who want to smoke or vape after 9:50 p.m. have two options: make  reservations and pre-order cannabis, or bring your own and pay a $20 “tokeage” fee.

Non-smokers, rejoice: While smoking and vaping are allowed thought Lowell Cafe, one patio is reserved for non-smokers.

Lowell Cafe is not the first restaurant open to the public to pair cuisine and cannabis. The Green House Kitchen operated in Amsterdam circa 2015-2016 but under Dutch law could not sell cannabis (BYO was OK) and only allowed vaping, not smoking. 

Lowell Cafe opened under a pilot program by the City of West Hollywood. Like all new restaurants — and like cannabis businesses in particular — Lowell Cafe experienced pre-opening regulatory hassles. 

One kink Lowell Cafe smoothed out actually allows it to serve both food and cannabis.

Customers will receive one check for food and beverages and one check for cannabis. 

The only sign of this point-of-sales system work-around may actually be the most mind-blowing of all for cannabis consumers: 

You pay for your cannabis after you consume it. 

Lowell Cafe

1201 North La Brea West Hollywood
(323) 975-7676
www.LowellCafe.com

Las Vegas Museums: The Artful Side of Cannabis Tourism

Immerse yourself in cannabis and Instagrammable museums and art installations. 

BY ED MURRIETA

If you’ve been to Amsterdam, you know the allure of cannabis and museums.

Whether you’ve visited the Rijkuseum, Sex, Stedelijk, Van Gogh or Hash, Marijuana and Hemp museums, consuming the botanical drug deepened appreciations of art and culture.

Simply staring stoned at Vincent Van Gogh’s mad slathering swirls illuminating fields, flowers and famine immerses hedonistic art lovers in the visual, sensory and emotional relationships among artists, drugs and creativity.

And who didn’t crave a soothing spliff after two claustrophobic minutes inside the enervating Anne Frank House?

Las Vegas is America’s Amsterdam. While Sin City lacks the Dutch capital’s open sex commerce and legendary smoking cafes, museums of all sorts bloom in the desert, offering visitors curated glimpses of  Las Vegas culture and history in venues dedicated to the Mob, neon signs, pinball and more.

Las Vegas’ newest museum, Cannabition Cannabis Museum, celebrates cannabis in the most totally modern expression of immersive art: Instagrammability.

Here are five uniquely Las Vegas museums and art exhibitions, plus recommended cannabis pairings and social-media poses.

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Weed Weekend: San Francisco

Legal cannabis is best enjoyed in social lounges, with gourmet food and in the hands of five-star hotel spa masseuses.

BY ED MURRIETA

SAN FRANCISCO — Like Amsterdam, this lusty city-state boasts picaresque history, edgy authenticity, mind-blowing art and Instagrammable sights,  and among inclined travelers is a cannabis bucket-list destination. From Barbary Coast Bohemians to Beat generation poets and the Sixties’ Summer of Love to today’s legalized renaissance, cannabis has enshrouded San Francisco in intoxicating fog, a heady come-hither whether you wear flowers in your hair or Kate Spades on your feet. Once, tourists scored baggies of pot from hygiene-challenged ragamuffins on hippie-haven Haight Street; modern visitors marvel at the commercialization and wide-spread availability of California’s top agricultural product now that it’s taxed and regulated by the state and innovated by artisans and entrepreneurs. So dive into world-class cannabis retailing; decadent social-consumption lounges; gourmet meals and five-star hotel spa massages incorporating the plant; and local craft beer and cocktails spiked with cannabis extracts, toasting San Francisco’s gay and high history.

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Cannabis Tourism Is a Thing in California

San Francisco Chronicle Travel section dives into Golden State’s legal new attraction.

sfchroniclecannabistourism

BY ED MURRIETA

I’ve got two stories in the San Francisco Chronicle’s California cannabis travel package today.

Here’s my story on the Top 5 California cannabis tourist destinations.

Here’s my story on the best cannabis-friendly lodgings.

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San Francisco Scores First Public Cannabis Lounge in U.S.

Update 2/11: ReLeaf Herbal’s bare-bones lounge is now serving recreational adult-use customers.
Update 2/8: Green Door’s Lounge847 is now open for recreational consumers.
Update 1/18: Urban Pharm opened for recreational sales and lounge use today, Thursday Jan. 18.

Decadent, safe, comfortable and regulated, Barbary Coast is now serving recreational cannabis consumers.

Barbary Coast

A view of the dab bar at Barbary Coast’s lounge. 

BY ED MURRIETA

America’s first legal cannabis lounge will not open in Denver.

America’s first legal cannabis lounge will not open in Las Vegas.

Forget about Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts, too.

America’s first legal cannabis lounge opened Thursday in San Francisco.

Actually, Barbary Coast Collective opened its luxe lounge next to its South of Market medicinal cannabis dispensary in March. Barbary Coast started serving adult-use recreational customers Thursday, making it the first legal, regulated cannabis lounge in America — the holy grail of the modern cannabis era.

“It’s something we’re proud of and excited about,” Barbary Coast director Jesse Henry told me. “I think we are going to get a lot of people who’ll think it’s like going to Amsterdam, and we’ll provide a safe, clean, comfortable place for folks to smoke.”

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Tokechella Is California’s Smoking-Hot Desert Cannabis Tourist Destination

Massive Cultivation, Most Dispensaries Per Capita
and Cannabis-Friendly Resorts and Rentals
Make Palm Springs, Cathedral City and
Desert Hot Springs a Pot, Pot, Pot, Pot World

BY ED MURRIETA

It’s high season in the Coachella Valley — for tourism and for pot.

Now’s the time to combine them both.

If you want to visit California next week for a taste of historic cannabis legalization in the Golden State, the Coachella Valley — in particular the resort-town cluster of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs —  is one of the best places to plan a cannabis getaway for Opening Day of legal pot sales, better than other California cannabis travel destinations like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe, all lagging behind the Jan. 1 start date.

A longtime playground for movie stars, mobsters, sunseekers and alternative lifestyles 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley has the key elements intrepid cannabis travelers need to ring in California’s new legal era:

  • massive local cultivation;
  • most dispensaries per capita set to sell flowers, edibles and concentrates to adults age 21 and over;
  • cannabis-friendly lodgings, including two cannabis-friendly (and clothing-optional) hot springs resorts and a colorful mountain hotel with a vape-friendly cabin and smoke-friendly grounds;
  • and cannabis-fueled stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park.

Tokechella’s a pot, pot, pot, pot world for sure.

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The First Cannabis Lounge of the Legal Era in America Will Be in San Francisco

‘We have eight existing lounges in the City, and they will be able to continue operating in 2018,’ S.F. cannabis czar says.

san-francisco

BY ED MURRIETA

While Denver, Las Vegas and Massachusetts are racing to claim the honor of being the first place in America to host a legal, adult-use cannabis consumption lounge, eight San Francisco medicinal cannabis dispensary lounges are poised to give San Francisco claim to being the home of the first  legal, adult-use cannabis consumption lounge in America come 9 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2018 — the first day of the new legal era in which the city’s currently permitted medicinal social lounges can serve the recreational market.

Anyone wanting to be the first cannabis lounge in America has until 8:59 a.m. PST on the first Saturday  of January.  You’ll be competing with the Apple store of cannabis lounges, a Burning Man-inspired lounge that feels like a steampunk sex club and the newest most decadent lounge in town, which I just had the honor of helping to name the best cannabis lounge in the San Francisco Chronicle’s GreenState Awards.

“We have eight existing lounges in the City, and they will be able to continue operating in 2018,” San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis director Nicole Elliott told me in an email this afternoon.

California has not yet created a licensing scheme for cannabis lounges, nor does the state expressly prohibit cannabis lounges.  Absent state prohibition, local governments like San Francisco, Denver and Las Vegas can approve cannabis lounges.  San Francisco’s eight existing medicinal cannabis dispensary lounges — along with one that was shuttered by the federal government in 2011 and is preparing to re-open near Twitter headquarters — will be allowed to operate under city regulations they’ve operated under over the past decade.  Dispensaries that apply for new licenses in 2018 will be subject to stricter ventilation and  hermetically sealed smoking room requirements.

California pot czar Lori Ajax told regulators in Sacramento last week that when the state licenses cannabis lounges some time next year, lounge licenses will be tied to dispensary permits. There’ll be no stand-alone pot cafes in California.

San Francisco is the de facto model for pot lounges and social cannabis consumption in America.

Three of San Francisco’s leading dispensary lounges — Barbary Coast, Urban Pharm and Sparc — told they’re pursuing the state permit that’ll allow them to transition to the adult-use market. I’m checking with the other five dispensaries regarding their plans.

urban-pharm-san-francisco_320x240_826a-1

Urban Pharm

Sparc

Sparc

Barbary Coast

Barbary Coast

 

Here’s a tour of San Francisco cannabis lounges  I wrote last year.Here’s one San Francisco pot lounge story I wrote for the Denver Post’s The Cannabist in 2015. Here’s another.

Which San Francisco pot lounge do you want to visit when the first recreational pot lounge(s) opens in America on Jan. 6, 2018?

Burner Box Welcomes Pot Connoisseurs to the Playa

Cannabis essentials kit celebrating Burning Man experience on sale Friday in Nevada as Burners head to bacchanal of art and alternative cultures.

Photo by DopeFoto

Photo by DopeFoto

BY ED MURRIETA

Whether this is your first time or your 31st time attending Burning Man, you’ll be the envy of every pot-friendly theme camp when you open a Burner Box, a connoisseur-grade survival kit of cannabis products, tools and tips curated for the Playa-going experience.

Never mind that possession and use of cannabis and drug paraphernalia  are illegal on the federally managed Black Rock Desert.

Available starting Friday, limited-edition Burner Boxes are a collaboration between Blüm, a cannabis chain store with outlets in Las Vegas and Reno, and Vegas Weekend Box, a Sin City startup that curates and markets Nevada’s best-selling cannabis products packaged in consumer-friendly style for tourists.

Like the big-ticket curated theme-camp experiences that brought Silicon Valley bro-tech vibes to the annual bacchanal of art and alternative cultures in the past decade, Burner Boxes aren’t cheap — $299 — but they are loaded with cannabis oil, edibles, bud and joints from leading Nevada producers, along with a state-of-the-art portable vaporizer and a high-end mini-torch that’ll withstand desert windstorms.

Burner Boxes have no affiliation with the radically anti-commercial Burning Man gathering that runs Sunday through Sept. 4 125 miles north of Reno, save for some employees and investors of both Blüm and Vegas Weekend Box being Burners themselves.

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Cultivate Your Ultimate Reno-Tahoe Cannabis Weekend

BY ED MURRIETA

RENO — The Biggest Little City in the World is dwarfed only by Las Vegas in Nevada’s newest bonanza — the greenrush of recreational cannabis and drug tourists’ dollars.

Thanks to Reno’s scale, getting a taste of Nevada’s newly legal recreational cannabis is a lot easier here than it is in sprawling Las Vegas, and Reno is a good place to begin exploring Nevada cannabis as growers, processors and edibles makers from Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Incline Village supply Las Vegas dispensaries. You can even buy a tourist-oriented welcome basket of Nevada cannabis products, marketed as the Vegas Weekend Box in both Las Vegas and Reno.

Whether you’re traveling to the Reno-Tahoe region to gamble, ski, see shows, engage prostitutes, make a pit stop en route to or from Burning Man, or solely to purchase pot legally, making cannabis part of your next visit here is easy — especially if you can swear off odiferous buds and commit to enjoying locally made edibles, tinctures and vape pens.

Arrive by automobile, bus or train and begin your Reno-Tahoe cannabis trip a short walk away from Reno’s “Biggest Little City” sign at Mynt, downtown Reno’s only cannabis store and creator/purveyor of Kynd, the locally produced, widely available line of flowers, edibles and concentrates.

Or reach Reno via Lake Tahoe, where recreational cannabis at Incline Village’s tony NuLeaf dispensary is the North Shore’s buzziest attraction since The Ponderosa Ranch “Bonanza” TV Western theme park invigorated the historic logging hamlet in the Sixties.

Along the way, behold breath-taking lake and mountain scenery, drink craft beer brewed from Lake Tahoe’s famous blue water and eat a cut above buffets.   

Bring your medical cannabis authorization from any legal medical cannabis state and avoid paying Nevada’s 10 percent excise tax.

California residents with medical cannabis recommendations will hit the pot-tourist jackpot a mile from the California-Nevada state line in South Lake Tahoe, where dispensary and grower Tahoe Wellness Cooperative operates a rare tourist necessity: a cannabis consumption lounge, in this case endorsed and sanctioned by city leaders expressly to keep people from smoking pot on South Lake Tahoe’s shore and streets.

South Lake Tahoe is also home to what the Reno-Tahoe region (and Las Vegas) needs to cultivate in higher volume — a bud, bed and breakfast run by an innkeeper who provides locally grown cannabis and the greenlight to smoke it legally, no matter where you come from.

Can’t bear the thought of foregoing joints, dabs and bong hits while you’re visiting Reno or the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe? Forget about staying at hotels. Instead, reserve a 420-friendly gypsy camping wagon, custom-made by a Burning Man artisan and easily towed or delivered to campgrounds or private properties in the Reno-Tahoe area.

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