Imagine being able to get high and hang with friends at a bar with ease, just like ordering a drink.
Many people are joining in a cultural shift by consuming less alcohol and adopting a “Cali sober” lifestyle––forgoing alcohol in favor of cannabis and mushrooms in moderation. But what happens when the bar is no longer where we want to spend our time?
Gathering spots like neighborhood coffee shops and bars serve a purpose in culture as a “third place,” a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg that describes public informal gathering spaces for serendipitous conversation. These places occupy a place between work and home, a third place where people can put aside their stress and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them.
For cannabis consumers, social gatherings and consumption has been historically cloistered inside and hidden from sight. Our third place is primarily in private spaces: in homes, in a car, on a stoop, a fire escape, or out of sight in a public park. This is quickly changing as cannabis consumption lounges are beginning to spring up across the country.
Rose Mary Jane
It was a blue sky and sunny day when my road trip companion and I stopped for a drink at Rose Mary Jane, a cannabis dispensary and bar located near Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. We desperately needed to stretch our legs and enjoy a cold refreshment after spending the last five hours driving the hot, dusty road from Los Angeles.
Inside, sunlight poured in from skylights above the modern loft-like space. Glowing white paper lanterns floated above our heads, suspended from the exposed wood beam ceilings. We pulled up a seat at the bright and welcoming wood-topped bar. “I’ll have a Not Your Father’s Root Beer,” I said to the bartender. “And I’ll try a Rose Mary Mule with Play, and a Lagunitas Hi-Fi Sessions, please,” said my traveling companion Rachel Burkons.
Rose Mary Jane features a cannabis bar and consumption garden, there’s zero alcohol and everything on the menu is infused with THC. From custom craft cocktails, canned seltzers, sodas, bottles of drink mixers, high-potency tonics, and shots, there’s something for every tolerance level.
“There’s no place else like this. We’re Oakland’s first and only Black woman-owned social equity cannabis lounge and bar,” said Rose Mary Jane store manager Sway Macaluso. “This is a safe place for the community and a new way for people to consume and experience cannabis.”
Cannabis Drinks + Cocktails
Within the lounge a rainbow of fresh fruit juices and cocktail mixers in glass beverage dispensers are ready to be paired with cannabis-infused mixers, like the 10 mg THC Play Koan cordial Rachel ordered with her drink. Our bartender offered samples of non-medicated lime and ranch tortilla chips, gummies, and licorice chews to snack on while we waited for our drinks.
“We created this cocktail program for Rose Mary Jane because people are looking for ways to be social even though they may not be drinking alcohol,” Sian Seligman, VP of marketing of Koan and Resonate Blends said. “Who wants to go to a bar and not drink something? This offers them an alternative.”
The menu features mocktails with a Koan botanical cordial of choice: Wonder, Delight, Create, Play, Love, and Calm. Refrigerators are stocked with cans and bottles of cannabis drinks, tonics, and mixers that can be purchased and consumed onsite at the bar or in the garden, including popular brands like Artet, Cann, Keef, and Pabst Blue Ribbon High Seltzer.
Outside, the vibes are friendly and chill. Rachel and I made ourselves at home on a set of comfy pillow-lined lounge chairs as we sipped our drinks and played a round of putt-putt golf on the putting green. Despite being outside, no smoking or vaping is allowed in the garden, only beverages and edibles. There’s also a Jenga set, dominoes, chess, and playing cards for guests to use while chilling on the patio.
“There’s no place like this in Oakland. We’ll have local food trucks and chefs pop up serving food like birria tacos, fresh shucked oysters, and vegan hot honey popcorn chick’n for brunch,” Assistant Store Manager Asha Manaktala said. “I’m excited to see the local community here and what the future of cannabis consumption looks like. It’s never been so public and affecting the way we interact.”
The allure at the lounge is the community and conversation, which is arguably more important than the infused drinks. People come to Rose Mary Jane for watch parties, happy hour, trivia nights, paint and sip, singles date night, holiday bazaars, and gatherings with local BIPOC groups.
“Rose Mary Jane has poetry readings, DJs, and barbecues in the backyard so the neighborhood can gather in a way that takes cannabis into the light,” Pam Kerwin, COO of Koan and Resonate Brands said. “It’s not only respectable, but a beneficial way to socialize. Providing a socially acceptable alternative to alcohol is of huge value to civilization and society.”
Oakland residents Heather Janssen and Andy McDade enjoyed the 15-minute walk from their home for a change of scenery.
“We go there because it’s a cool space and the drinks are good,” McDade said. “Heather got the Mari y Juana guava soda and I had the tamarind.”
“We’ll usually socialize on a weekly video chat with our Weed Wednesday friends,” Janssen added. “Rose Mary Jane is very aesthetic. It’s more fun getting together in person rather than virtually on a computer screen at home.”
These third places are “the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy,” wrote Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place, written and published in 1989.
“Life without community has produced, for many, a lifestyle consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community,” Oldenburg wrote.
At Rose Mary Jane the shelves are lined with a curated selection of products from diverse BIPOC- and women-owned brands. Employee picks and favorites are highlighted throughout the store, offering recommendations for new products and interesting things to try.
“People want to be a part of something,” Macaluso said. “It’s a vibe here and cannabis is the connector.”
This story was originally published in the May 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.