At first glance, the scene unfolding on a leafy, semi-crowded patio in West Hollywood looks like any other gastropub on a Sunday afternoon. In one corner, a table of nine people is celebrating a big birthday around a vase full of 21 soft pink roses. In another case, a table of five is having three conversations at the same time while two smartphones set up are streaming football games.
The occupants of a table for two in the middle of the terrace whisper sweet words to each other and smile broadly. Nearby, a group of people in turquoise pantsuits with flared legs ponder a generous plate of waffles with fried chicken and syrup.
It’s only at second glance – or rather the first deep breath – that everything becomes clear: when you realize that not far from the rose vase the birthday guest is preparing to light up an hourglass gravity bong, it’s the football fans who are handing a dab rig in in the shape of Baby Yoda and the woman in the flared pantsuit has a fork in one hand and a lit joint in the other.
And they’re all busy consuming weed at the OG Cannabis Café, the first place in the state where you could get high and relax legally when it opened in October. January 1, 2019, only to close five and a half months later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, there have been ongoing rumors of a reopening, including a much-hyped rebrand by the owners of High Times magazine. Nevertheless, the doors remained closed.
Now, after almost four years, the OG Cannabis Café is open again.
However, the local consumption lounge scene has changed dramatically during this time, as three additional Puff Pot locations have opened to the public (and legally) within 2½ miles of the cafe’s North La Brea Avenue location: the Artist Tree Studio Dispensary Lounge, the Woods and PleasureMed, which also includes the Irie restaurant. (They’re all in West Hollywood, the only city in the greater Los Angeles area that has legally licensed consumption lounges.)
From recent visits, it’s clear that the OG Cannabis Café has remained largely as it was when it opened (and closed) its doors.
“To be honest, we haven’t changed anything – it’s exactly the same, except for the cannabis menu and some small changes to the menu,” said the original cafe’s co-founder Sean Black about reopening in an environment where he is no longer the only game in town. “I love the idea of having different types of cannabis experiences there. I haven’t been to Irie yet for the world class dining experience, but I can’t wait to try it out. And I love the forest. “I had such a lovely time there.”
When asked if he and his partners felt any pressure in the new environment, Black waved it off. “We believe we have created a cannabis tourist destination here… and we are committed to ensuring that people who come from other parts of the world and are cannabis enthusiasts have a public opportunity to experience cannabis for the first time to consume and eat something.” by [what we believe is] “The very first place in the world where you could do that.”
Rosie Aguirre brought her own Grogu dab rig and cannabis concentrate to smoke.
Nayeli Hernandez (right) smokes a bong on her 21st birthday.
What hasn’t changed
The space is still configured so that cannabis can be legally consumed both in the cafe (with 40 seats) and on the terrace (with capacity for 80 people), while beer and wine (but not weed) can be ordered on another terrace can be. A hearty bar food menu—think buffalo chicken wings, nachos, smashburgers, truffle parmesan fries, and the like—is available everywhere.
Behind the pub menu is a new chef, Jonah Johnson of Jonah’s Kitchen in Santa Monica, who replaced Andrea Drummer, who was at the helm the first time around.
Due to state banking laws, any cannabis purchased on site must be paid for in cash (there is an ATM). However, credit cards are accepted for food and drink purchases. In a small but noticeable departure from before, the same waiter takes orders for both food and fuel, rather than having separate waiters for food and flowers.
What has changed
Speaking of weed (that’s why you’re here, right?), the herbal offerings are probably the biggest change for this incarnation of the cafe.
There are only three brands on the cannabis menu, two of which are not yet available in pharmacies. On offer are flavored pre-rolled joints and ground flower from Dizzies with flavorful, colorful packaging ($25 to $60, the only brand available elsewhere); Indoor-grown Wav pre-rolls and flowers ($45-$100); and greenhouse-grown (and incredibly fragrant) Helena Farms, available in loose bud or pre-rolled form (from $20 for 3.5 grams of bud to $120 for a 1-ounce pack of 70 joints—a popular party starter if there ever was one).
All three brands are owned by LA-based Elevate Holdings, where Black happens to be a partner and serves as chief creative officer. (He’s also one of 11 partners involved in OG Cannabis Cafe 2.0.) “They loaned us the money to reopen the cafe,” Black said of Elevate Holdings, noting that exclusively showcasing herbal offerings is one company corresponds to the original purpose of its restaurant: meets weed concept.
“I founded Lowell Herb Co. “In 2011,” he said, “and we initially opened it as Lowell Café.” Black said the original vision was to feature Lowell products on the smokeable side of the menu as a marketing effort. That all changed when he and Lowell split just months after opening in 2019.
“So [now,] “It actually serves its original purpose – promoting cannabis,” Black said, “plus it’s a fun little sidewalk cafe where you can get high instead of drunk.” That’s the whole premise. It’s pretty simple.”
A pub for pot people
Schwarz isn’t the only one making the comparison between alcohol alternatives and dive bars either. On a Sunday visit in mid-January, 25-year-old Montana Alexander was ready to smoke with a table full of friends. She made the hike from Santa Clarita after discovering the cafe on Instagram. “This place is literally a dream,” Alexander said between puffs, “because I don’t drink, and when my friends go to bars I always think, ‘So lame.’
Alexander’s sentiments were echoed by Nayeli Hernandez of Porter Ranch, the aforementioned birthday girl. “I don’t really drink,” she told the Times. “I’ve been thinking about doing this since I was 20,” she said. Hernandez’s mother, sitting next to her at the head of the table, intervened.
“I didn’t agree,” Christina Hernandez said of her daughter’s request. “That’s what they’re doing now.”
Miguel Aguirre lights up a Wav Purple Zushi pre-rolled joint while watching a football game.
A neon sign with the OG Cannabis Cafe logo illuminates a back wall.
Coming soon: comedy evening, queer evening and marijuana meditation
Although the cafe quietly reopened to guests in late October, it’s set to go into full swing this month, starting with a big watch party for the big football game in February. 11 (smoke a bowl for…well, you get it), hosted by former mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz.
“Super Bowl week is going to be busy,” Dejanae Evins, the cafe’s experiential marketing and events manager, told The Times. “We start ours on the 13th [every-other-Tuesday] queer wine evening called Verse, co-hosted by Ashlee Belzo[of cannabis collective] Puff Dao on our wine terrace where you can enjoy a glass of wine, small bites and a DJ. And then if they want to end their night with a joint and a sundae on the other side, they can do that.”
In addition, Evins said there will be weekly comedy nights on Wednesdays from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (next week it will be moved to Thursday because of Valentine’s Day). Also from February. 13 there will be morning meditations (think sound baths and guided meditation) on the second and fourth Tuesday mornings of each month. “People will be able to come here,” Evins said, “start their day really well and then do something productive, whether it’s working together or meeting friends for lunch.” That’s how we stay connected to the wellness community.
“We also have some really big plans for 420,” Evins said of the annual cannabis-themed celebration on April 20, which is less than three months away. “So definitely stick with it.”
1201 N. La Brea Ave.
Tuesday to Friday 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m
Know it before you go
- You must be at least 21 years old to enter the cannabis consumption area of the cafe. A valid, official ID is also required.
- Unlike the other local consumption lounges, you Life Bring your own cannabis (or cannabis extracts) to smoke here for a “tokage” fee, which is currently $25 for tables of three or fewer people and $50 for tables of four or more.
- Unlike other on-site consumption lounges, the cafe also doesn’t operate next to a traditional pharmacy, meaning you can’t just pop in, buy a bag and go. But you can consume a little and then give up, says Black.
- Cigarette papers, grinders, lighters and rotating trays are provided. You can also bring your own pipe or glass. Bongs and pipes can be purchased on site and Stindenglass gravity bongs can be rented for $50.
- On-site valet parking is $10 (for your selected driver). Remember: When you’re high, you shouldn’t operate anything larger than a soup spoon, let alone a vehicle of any kind.
- Walk-ins are accepted on a space-available basis, but reservations are encouraged and can be made through OpenTable.
- Although the establishment serves cannabis and food, it does not serve cannabis-infused food.