Cannabis prohibition isn’t dead yet, but it’s safe to say it’s dying. And nothing announces the funeral louder or more happily than the emergence of cannabis consumption lounges and social-use venues.
Before COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions on social gatherings, consumption lounges were popping up worldwide, and in Canada, the drumroll for consumption lounges was building. Lawmakers in Ontario were accepting comments for legislation that would permit social-use within the province. It’s safe to say those regulations are currently on hold, and far from finalized, but the pandemic has proven the industry resilient and customer demand steadfast. If anything, it’s only increased the appetite for consumption lounges and mainstream social-use of cannabis.
Plenty of customers are wondering where, where, and how they’ll be able to consume cannabis in Canada — and entrepreneurs are eagerly awaiting the green light.
If you're thinking about opening a cannabis consumption lounge in Canada, get a head start now by considering your concept and customer experience. If you're looking for some inspiration, these five business models will get your creative juices flowing.
The Original Cannabis Cafe
West Hollywood, California
The Original Cannabis Cafe by Lowell Farms stakes a valid claim to its name. The West Hollywood cannabis restaurant was the first of its kind in the United States, beating out hundreds of other candidates.
The cafe is Instagram-chic. Hanging plants, rough-hewn wood floors, and vintage brick walls give off a trendy vibe, while the large windows open to a spacious patio. The cafe’s air isn’t as smoky as you might expect. Lowell uses a specialized odor removal HVAC to keep the neighbors happy.
Under the Original Cannabis Cafe’s business model, a “Flower Host” meets customers at the door of the restaurant. He or she serves as a personal guide throughout the experience, recommending pre-rolls or infused flower based on customers’ familiarity with cannabis.
But will the food get you high? For an extra $20, the answer is yes. Any dish can be dosed with 25mg of THC or CBD for a gastronomical experience like no other.
Less experienced consumers may feel uncomfortable using cannabis for the first time, so Flower Hosts are specially trained to help them stay safe. So far, the Original Cannabis Cafe has had no serious incidents of overconsumption or driving under the influence.
Las Vegas, Nevada
NuWu Cannabis does retail in grand, Las Vegas-style: large and loud. At 16,000 square feet, NuWu Cannabis is the biggest dispensary in the world —- and the only social-use establishment in Vegas. Social-use legislation stalled in Nevada’s legislature but NuWu gets a bye. They’re owned by the Paiute tribe — and located on tribal land.
Though the partitioned lounge features some comfy chairs, NuWu’s Tasting Room isn’t a cafe. It’s a place to “try before you fly.” After customers have committed to making a purchase, they can use NuWu’s sterilized pipes, bongs, and dab rigs to try whatever they choose and make their selections.
NuWu spices things up with social events like Puff ‘n Paint. The Puff ‘n Paint program breaks out the canvas and brushes to let customers get in touch with their creative muse as they smoke.
Amsterdam’s famous “coffee shops” serve more than coffee. Coffeeshop Relax — located just five minutes from the central transit station — offers the complete Amsterdam experience amidst historic buildings and centuries-old canals.
Relax is the quintessential Dutch coffee shop: a homely space with warm lighting like a casual neighborhood bar. Flower and hash are on the menu, with an emphasis on old-school genetics like Thai and Acapulco Gold.
Customers might expect the classic chalkboard list of the day’s offerings, but Relax is thoroughly modern. The days’ specials are displayed online with a breakdown of their terpenes and cannabinoids.
San Fransico, California
The SPARC Patient Collective is a five-store dispensary with consumption-lounge roots that go back to 2010. SPARC is strongly focused on helping disadvantaged patients access quality medicines. It comes as no surprise that their consumption lounge is located in a humble area of San Fransico rather than someplace gentrified.
At SPARC, patrons are more likely to sit with laptops than friends. It’s less like a brewery and more like a Starbucks, making SPARC perfect for the high-functioning daytime connoisseur.
Members of the collective have free access to a Volcano Vaporizer to consume their purchases. Ironically, SPARC won’t let you spark up a bowl; it’s a vapor-only establishment.
San Francisco, California
Of all the consumption venues on this list, Moe Greens dispensary feels the most like a true lounge lounge. The swanky interior design is pure Art Deco, with pressed-tin ceilings and mahogany panels.
Customers relax amidst a distinctively 1920s vibe that echoes the underground “speakeasy” clubs of the alcohol prohibition era. But instead of secrecy and flappers, you’ll find a well-lit room with dab rigs and overstuffed leather booths. Maybe it’s a throwback; maybe it’s fitting decor for the 2020s — and the end of cannabis prohibition.
Ideas for consumption lounges are practically endless. If you’re looking to tap this new corner of the cannabis market, stay tuned for more from Cova. Subscribe to our blog for the latest news and tips.