This month, the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra appealed against Lowell Herb Co., along with co-owner Brett Myers Vapnek, and its CEO David Elias, for allegedly engaging “in commercial cannabis activity without a license.” The lawsuit raises questions about the group’s future, as well as its past contributions to the Original Cannabis Cafe, the first nationally-recognized cannabis consumption restaurant that opened in October in West Hollywood.
The latest lawsuit filed by Becerra against the company that originally launched the nation’s first cannabis restaurant could have wider repercussions for the emerging hospitality field in the future, but in the immediate there is one big question being asked: Did Lowell Herb Co. change the name of the restaurant (it was formerly called Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Restaurant) to the Original Cannabis Cafe on December 1 in order to prepare for the lawsuit?
Some background on the project: Original Cannabis Cafe debuted on October 1 to national fanfare, especially within cannabis legalization circles. Customers queued up for hours to get a chance to eat chef Andrea Drummer’s non-cannabis food menu, all while smoking cannabis in the consumption lounge area of the same property. The place has been a hit ever since, even as Lowell Herb Co. decided to switch names and announce plans to open other projects in Nevada, instead.
Meanwhile, on December 13, California attorneys filed their claim stating that Lowell Herb Co.’s warehouse in San Luis Obispo had been inappropriately selling cannabis without a state license. What’s more WEHOville noted a civil suit from the Californian Department of Food and Agriculture stating a similar charge. A raid in the month of March by CDFA and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife seized 17,772 pre-rolled cannabis joints, 7,161 jars of flower, and more than 1,400 pounds of other cannabis products the CDFA alleges were illegally processed in 2018.
The litigations have possibly jeopardized the future of Lowell Herb Co., and could have spelled trouble for the Original Cannabis Cafe as well. According to WEHOville, Lowell characterized its relationship to Original Cannabis Cafe merely as a “partnership” that ended on December 1, 2019, in its name-change notice.
The same article cited Lowell’s spokesperson Ami Gan: “Going forward, the Original Cannabis Cafe will have no association with Lowell Herb Co. due in part to their dispute with the State of California over their alleged unlicensed cannabis activities.” Uncertainty remains about what will come of Lowell Herb Co.’s plans to open a cafe in Las Vegas, and how the Original Cannabis Cafe will continue to fight back against state and federal legislation, lawsuits, and even neighbor complaints.