Chef Andrea Drummer puts the final touches on a fried-chicken sandwich while her sous-chef flits around the kitchen, popping ingredients into the fryer. “This brine is nice,” Drummer says, taking a bite of a pickle. “But see this?” She pokes at the bread collapsing under the weight of coleslaw and the hunk of meat. “This should never happen.” She turns to me and sighs. “This sandwich needs more work.”
It’s a scene like countless others in the tense, giddy leadup to a restaurant’s opening night — but the establishment in this case is Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, the first legal cannabis restaurant in the United States. “It’s intimidating,” the 47-year-old chef confesses.
In the stuffy kitchen of the under-construction site in West Hollywood, California, Drummer has been experimenting all week in preparation for the fall opening. Despite the pressure, she appears calm and focused as she stands by the stove in a dark denim apron, a red bandanna holding her hair and beaded bracelets decorating her wrists.
“There are a lot of eyes on me,” Drummer says softly over the din of carpenters and kitchen fans. “I want to do right by everyone.”
The restaurant, co-owned by cannabis cultivators Lowell Herb Co., marks a shift in an industry hoping to appeal to a market that includes college kids as well as their parents and grandparents — and an industry with a long history of racial tensions and high incarceration rates. Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana use since 2012, and though the industry raked in a total of $10.4 billion in 2018 and is projected to be worth $32 billion globally by 2022, there’s still plenty of room for social integration. And that’s just what this fine-dining experience offers.
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