We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Fontein and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lauren, how do you think about risk?
Cannabis is an industry built by innovators and risk takers who are not afraid to challenge current regulations or create something truly original. Because the industry is new and constantly evolving, taking risks is the only way to advance and expand in the industry. I’ve taken many risks since entering the industry. I took a chance in 2009 when I transitioned from corporate law to starting an edible company and literally pounded the pavement seeking out potential dispensaries to carry my products. In 2018, my partners and I took a huge risk when applying for the West Hollywood retail and consumption licenses, contributing over $100k and countless hours of work toward our applications. Although the odds of winning were low, because of the huge pool of applicants, we felt the risk was well worth the potential reward of receiving one of the only consumption lounge licenses in all of California. Funding the build out of our West Hollywood consumption lounge and operating the space has also been a huge risk, since the long term viability of a cannabis consumption lounges has yet to be proven. We continue to take risks to expand The Artist Tree brand by applying for new licenses in cities across the state – we’ve won many but also lost some.

What should our readers know about your business?
I built The Artist Tree, together with my co-founders, to shatter stereotypes surrounding cannabis retail and consumption. We created the concept of an art focused cannabis business as a way to serve local communities and promote local artists. Simultaneously, we wanted to create an unique and interactive shopping experience that felt exciting and fun rather than transactional. I’m very proud of the stores and consumption lounges we’ve designed – from their beautiful interiors to the constantly rotating art exhibits and, most importantly, our warm and engaging team members.

We now have 5 retail locations in California – West Hollywood, Riverside, Los Angeles (2), and Fresno. We’ll be opening stores in Ventura, Oxnard, and El Sobrante within the next 12 months. All of our stores function as hybrids between a cannabis retail location and an art gallery. We display works of local artists for sale and take no portion of the sale proceeds from the artwork. We aspire to raise awareness of art culture and highlight the synergy between art & cannabis.

AND…we opened LA’s only cannabis consumption lounge & performance venue in West Hollywood in April 2022! The lounge is a truly one-of-a-kind destination where visitors can consume over 800 cannabis products, try out cutting edge smoking devices, attend performances, take painting classes and much more. As one of the only consumption lounges in all of California, it’s a groundbreaking space that challenges commonly held perceptions of cannabis by providing an inviting and high end environment for openly consuming cannabis.

Launching new cannabis businesses is far from easy. I’ve been in the industry since the early medical days in Los Angeles. I’ve had to navigate constantly changing regulations and work with cities to obtain licensing – something that takes months to years, a huge financial investment, and a lot of patience. As an attorney, I’ve been fortunate to have the legal background necessary to help our company handle all the paperwork, applications and red tape involved in getting licensed and operational, and I feel compassion for all the other operators out there who have to deal with the difficulties of opening a cannabis business. This industry is exciting and I love being part of cannabis culture on a daily basis. But it’s not all fun and games. Being a leader in the cannabis space requires a strong stomach to challenge regulatory hurdles and public misconceptions about the safety of recreational cannabis.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Here are my current favorite hang out spots
– Soulmate Restaurant in West Hollywood
– Tonga Hut Tikki Bar in North Hollywood
– Aroma Cafe in Studio City for brunch/lunch
– Seeing anything at The Hollywood Bowl
– Dodger games
– The Studio Lounge in West Hollywood by The Artist Tree of course!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
All my partners and team members at The Artist Tree. I wouldn’t be here without my fearless, intrepid and passionate team of colleagues – from my co-owners to all of the amazing staff members at each of our locations. At the end of the day, the in store teams are the most important aspect of the customer experience and I’m so grateful for their dedication and congeniality.

Website: https://www.theartisttree.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theartisttree/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-fontein-a94aa6b7/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-artist-tree-marijuana-dispensary-and-weed-delivery-westhollywood-west-hollywood

Image Credits
Wonho Lee

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