Los Angeles Part Two: Shangri-La

I found the place of my pipe dreams: The Artist Tree on Santa Monica Blvd.

My recent trip to Los Angeles, with regards to weed, was a pretty average stay…right up until the last full day, when my mind was blown and my world rocked. Mrs. Fareye and I took a trip into West Hollywood to visit her brother, an artist who has lived and worked in the area since the ‘70s. His boyfriend suggested I try out The Artist Tree, a dispensary just a few blocks down Santa Monica Blvd. But we’ll get to The Artist Tree in due course…

Ten years ago I quit drinking. I also quit tobacco and cocaine…but not cannabis, which I’d sort of lost touch with throughout “the party years.” I actually used cannabis as a means to quit all of those other nasty things I’d been doing for seemingly a decade straight, with no weekends off for good behavior. My party guy lifestyle came crashing down and my social life along with it. But cannabis may have saved my literal life because at the rate I was going, if I hadn’t stopped all that other shit, things could have gone disastrously off the rails.

Losing my community of fellow drunks took some getting used to. Our free time in America is to an almost absurd degree centered around drinking, these days seemingly more than ever. Wherever you go, drinks are available: drinks at the movie theatre, drinks at museums, drinks at the hairstylist, drinks at the bookstore. No lie, a fancy bookstore down the street from me recently opened a bar. Who needs to get drunk to shop for books?

What used to be my norm is positively nightmarish from the standpoint of today

When you don’t drink and don’t want to be around drunks and alcohol, the social pickings can be pretty slim. Sure, I can have folks over to my place to smoke, but half the fun of “going out drinking” is meeting new people. You can’t sensibly invite strangers into your home to enjoy some herb. Ever since I first started partaking at age 18, I have dreamed of a legal space that deals in nothing but cannabis, and alcohol is nowhere to be seen. Where the folks are mellow, nobody slurs their words or becomes unreasonably belligerent, and nary a fist is ever raised.

Finally, on this trip to LA, I found the place of my pipe dreams: The Artist Tree on Santa Monica Blvd.

Upon entering The Artist Tree, you immediately sense you’re in a business unlike the rest. Sure, you have to go through the usual check-in procedure at a front desk, but behind that desk sits an enormous glass grow room. I was so taken with it that I had trouble concentrating on the check-in process. The woman who checked us in seemed used to dealing with folks who have attention issues, and she laughed and was terribly kind. I announced my purpose, “I’m from out of town and I’m flying home tomorrow, so I can’t buy a bunch of product from you. What I want to do is buy one joint, and go sit in your lounge and smoke it. Can I do that?” She was more than happy to do her part to make my mission a success. Once we were checked in, she passed us off to a budtender.

The budtender gave me a whirl around the ground floor of the Tree, pointing out the myriad products they had for sale – not in any kind of hard sell manner, more as just a point of pride in their wares. His goal was to help me find the perfect joint (“sativa-leaning hybrid” was my request), which he did. One of the things I loved about the setup at The Artist Tree was these tiny little plastic boxes for each strain they offered – inside each was a bud you could smell through the box; real nice touch for any terpheads who enter the house.

Once I purchased my $10 j (which, it’s worth pointing out, is considerably less than you’d pay for one drink in most LA spots), we took the elevator up to the second level where the Studio Lounge is located. As soon as we stepped out of the lift, a hostess with a friendly smile greeted and took us over to the bar, replete with stools – only it was clean and the stench of spilled well liquor was nowhere to be found. Truth be told, not even the stench of weed was to be found. It was around 4 in the afternoon and the place was pretty empty. There were a few employees milling about, gearing up for an evening screening of “Billy Madison.” I’m no Sandler freak but hanging out with a roomful of stoners watching almost any comedy is 100% my idea of a great time.

I took a spot at the bar, looked down at an ashtray and a pack of wooden matches with the Artist Tree logo emblazoned across; popped the joint (Pantera Limone by Connected) out of its tube, lit up, and proceeded to smoke about half of it. It had been a somewhat stressful afternoon, so the smoke washed over my psyche like a salve healing a sick man’s wound. My wife took a hit as well, and my brother-in-law ordered himself a Keef brand Bubba Kush Root Beer for $7.50. Again, think about the cost of that cannabis drink versus an alcoholic beverage at any given bar. We had a great time chatting with a manager and a couple budtenders – a word that in this environment made more sense than it ever had in the dispensaries.

I asked the manager if I had to leave my half joint, and she happily proclaimed, “No! We encourage customers to take home what they don’t use.” Yet again, a far cry from the world of alcohol, in which driving around with an open bottle could land you in jail. I also learned that the Studio Lounge just opened up on 4/20 and that as far as she (the manager) knew, they were the only such place in LA. She was quick to add: “But not for long.” She knows well that this is an industry on the precipice of exploding.

Which brings me back to the hotels. The Artist Tree gives me hope for the future of going out of town. Hoteliers must get on this bandwagon. If they don’t want people smoking in their rooms, a designated pot smoking lounge in every hotel would go a long way toward addressing that problem. “While we prohibit smoking in our rooms, we invite you to enjoy some of the best California has to offer at the Conrad Hilton Cannabis Club, conveniently located on the mezzanine floor near the pool!” THIS. This is the world I want to live in. It’s been over a decade since the legalization engine revved up. It’s time to stop treating us like second class citizens who still need to hide their passion. Smoking lounges (which will naturally also feature dabs, edibles, cannabis-infused drinks and so forth) will help propel cannabis into the mainstream.

It cannot be overstated how accommodating everyone at the Artist Tree was – how they all went out of their way to make us feel welcomed. I’m a real customer service whore, and even I was taken aback by the professionalism on display. From the affable woman who checked us in to the various budtenders to that hostess with the smile and finally the unhurried manager who was willing to spend time chatting with us, it was just one pleasant interaction after another. The décor and design of the business are also to be commended. Not sci-fi sterile like the place in Pasadena, this is more like high tech hippie. Everything about my brief visit to The Artist Tree and its upstairs consumption lounge was an A+ experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to spend time enjoying cannabis in a completely legal, air-conditioned indoor public setting. Since I was from out of town and there for less than an hour, I didn’t get to find my lost community, but the potential for a rewarding one is painted all over its interior.

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