We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Fontein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started The Artist Tree brand with my co-founders Avi Kahan, Mitch Kahan and Aviv Halimi to highlight the synergy between the arts and cannabis. Our vision was to create a destination for cannabis exploration where visitors could consume cannabis while experiencing live music, comedy, and visual artwork from local artists. Throughout history, cannabis has inspired artists and enhanced our perceptions of art. Although The Artist Tree team has operated other dispensaries in California for over 13 years, we decided to develop The Artist Tree brand in 2018 to distinguish our West Hollywood retail and lounge locations from all existing cannabis businesses and to shatter public perceptions of cannabis.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
How did I get here? I didn’t set out to work in the cannabis industry, but I’m very excited to be here today. After graduating law school, I worked as a corporate attorney and then decided to shift gears and open my own bakery. I was approached by one of my Artist Tree co-founders about making edibles, began supplying cannabis infused baked goods to Los Angeles dispensaries, and the rest is history. Now I work as a cannabis attorney and co-own several cannabis retail stores and consumption lounges throughout California.
One of the major challenges in the cannabis industry has been navigating the ever-changing regulations and complex licensing requirements to ensure that our businesses are always compliant. Before 2018, a lot of cannabis businesses operated in a gray area and there was no regulatory framework for manufacturers or growers. Post 2018, regulations continue to evolve and each municipality has its own unique set of rules, so it’s a constant challenge to maintain perfect compliance.
What we want people to know about The Artist Tree:
The Artist Tree is a team of passionate cannabis lovers dedicated to fostering community and creativity. Our locations reflect local culture by showcasing artwork from a diverse array of artists from the immediate surroundings. We hope to educate visitors to about art and encourage them explore cannabis as a source of creative inspiration. We also promote art as a powerful medium for encouraging social change and empowering disadvantaged groups. We frequently change out art exhibits to bring attention to different social justice issues. For example, earlier this year we highlighted several Asian American artists in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month and to challenge recent racial incidents against our Asian American friends and neighbors.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had a friend visiting that had never been to LA before, I would want to show them some of LA’s quintessential destinations: Hollywood Forever Cemetery outdoor movie screening
Hiking at Runyon Canyon or in Pacific Palisades
Baseball game at Dodger Stadium
Concert at The Hollywood Bowl
Food: Dinner at EMC in Koreatown, Lunch at Langer’s Deli, Pastries at Porto’s Bakery
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to dedicate this Shoutout to all the cannabis pioneers who paved the way for medicinal cannabis and, eventually, to fully legal adult use cannabis. The world has changed dramatically since I moved to LA in 2004 and entered the cannabis industry in 2009. I’m grateful to all of the passionate fighters who proudly proclaimed the benefits of medical cannabis and successfully changed the public view of cannabis from a taboo and dangerous substance to a safe, natural, and effective wellness product. Our businesses, both The Artist Tree and past cannabis locations, were born out of the communal passion for safe and accessible cannabis, shared amongst dispensaries owners and cannabis consumers throughout California.