Is Roanoke Valley ready for its first brick-and-mortar cannabis cafe?
For now, this question is theoretical, because the Bodhi Lounge has no fixed location. Founder Clarissa Clarke aims to have a real place with a real roof by the end of the summer. Yet the living room is already much more than a glimmer in his mind.
Bodhi Lounge sponsors local events – a big event is happening April 20 in downtown Roanoke. In case you didn’t know, it’s the international holiday to celebrate cannabis and cannabis culture.
The Cannabis Family Reunion kicks off this afternoon inside WellNest, the holistic community healing center at 16 Church Ave. This is the same spot where crowds of people lined up for a giveaway of cannabis seeds on November 13.
Unlike this occasion, there is a $5 admission fee to WellNest for the April 20 Cannabis Family Reunion.
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It will feature another seed giveaway from Jonathan Zinski, the Amherst County hemp grower who donated seeds distributed to WellNest in the fall. In the upcoming event, it’s giving away 600 seed packs, each containing three to five seeds. (Seed seekers must be able to prove they are 21 years old.)
Zinski is just one of the cannabis entrepreneurs who will be at the meeting. Clarke has put together a lineup of around 30 exhibitors, vendors and speakers who represent a wide variety of cannabis culture and new age interests.
For example, one of the suppliers is The hybrid clinic, a cannabis health center at 15794 Stewartsville Road. It belongs to nurse practitioner Rikki McConnell. She processes and writes certifications for the use of cannabis to medical marijuana patients.
McConnell charges $200 for this service, which includes the $50 Virginia Board of Pharmacy registration fee. (Most medical marijuana patients sign up personally and pay the fees to the council; McConnell takes care of that lengthy hassle for them.)
She estimates that she wrote nearly 2,000 prescriptions for medical marjuana in the past 18 months and paid more than $100,000 in certification fees to the board.
Also present that day, Ian Hill, owner of Garrett Farmsa three-generation family vegetable operation in Roanoke County near the intersection of Poor Mountain Road and West Main Street.
Hill told me his grandfather started growing vegetables on the farm’s 25 acres in 1945. Hill took over from his father in 2018 and added hemp to the corn and pumpkin crops produced by Garrett Farms. .
“You can’t make money growing food on a small scale,” Hill said. Last summer, he added a $200-a-year hemp-growing consulting business, where he provided each consulting client with four free plants in the pre-flowering stage, when they contain no THC and are legal.
He will be at the Cannabis Family Reunion to promote an event May 21-22 at Garrett Farms – the Springtime Cannabis Growers Meet & Greet.
The two-day deal will include music, food, and more, but they’re not hosting overnight guests. $10 advance tickets are available on the Garrett Farms Facebook page. At the event, admission will cost $20 per person.
“We will have vendors selling grow supplies, indoor grow facility consultants, outdoor consultants, medical marijuana card registration and many other products and services,” Hill said.
One of the speakers at the meeting is Roger Trenton Davis, who earned the nickname ‘marijuana martyr’ in the 1970s after a Wythe County jury sentenced him to 40 years in prison for possession of about 9 ounces of the weed with the intention of distributing it.
Another exponent is Ennis Fonder, who describes himself as a “ganjier”, who is more or less a marijuana sommelier. According to the meeting’s schedule of events, Fonder is consulting with marijuana growers “who seek to elevate their cannabis experience as well as individuals who wish to safely explore the benefits and splendors that cannabis has to offer.”
Another exhibitor, Crystal Faerie, sells “ethically sourced crystals” that “allow positive healing energy to flow through the body while repelling negative toxic energy.” Not sure, but I doubt this statement has been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Clarke, 40, is from western Massachusetts and said she has been using cannabis for 25 years. She moved to Roanoke 15 years ago via Los Angeles, where she said she worked in the music industry.
“There were too many parties; I couldn’t concentrate,” Clarke said of Southern California. At some point, her father had moved to Roanoke, and so had she, after visiting him here. She completed a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Radford University.
In January, Clarke announced the creation of the Bodhi Lounge in a Facebook post that tagged a handful of cannabis culture followers she knew.
“All I did was invite 12 friends to a Facebook group,” Clarke told me. “Since then, it’s been spreading like magic.”
As of Wednesday, the private Facebook group had 596 members.
The Cannabis Family Reunion is Bodhi Lounge’s first event, but it won’t be the last.
A traveling Bodhi Lounge will be on hand for the meeting, selling t-shirts and signing up those interested for “an engaging 3-month range of 420 fun activities, courses and events in beautiful locations provided by our staff”. All are in the Roanoke Valley.
By the end of this series, Clarke intends to operate the brick-and-mortar Bodhi Lounge.
The lounge’s Facebook page describes it as “a cannabis lounge, mini-café and non-alcoholic elixir bar opening in 2022…where Roanoke’s community of 420 can unite, socialize with new friends and old, network, dance, play, explore consciousness, and have fun.”
To comply with state law, it will be a private members-only club, with the coffee shop and elixir bar out front, and the adults-only and members-only cannabis lounge in the back.
If/when they open this year, Bodhi Lounge will not be able to sell marijuana or other psychoactive cannabis products, as recreational sales are not yet legal in Virginia, even if possession of less than one ounce l ‘East.
“Members must bring their own weed,” the Facebook page notes.