Fast Five Q&A: Lauren Fontein, Co-founder of The Artist Tree

lauren fontein

Cannabis dispensaries are diverse entities. Some resemble old-school smoke shops, others are sleek and upscale. As the marijuana market expands, retailers must develop concepts that appeal to a wide range of consumers while reflecting their own brand ethos.

Lauren Fontein sought to create something fresh with The Artist Tree. The Southern California cannabis retail chain that not only offers a wide range of products, but gives local artisans the chance to showcase their work as well. Teaming up with local artists of all types, the shops provide a creative, community-based vibe that resonates with consumers seeking a little something different.

Fontein answered GreenState’s Fast Five questions, sharing how she started in the cannabis industry, the partnerships her store cultivates, and what’s on deck for the future.

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GreenState: How did your journey in cannabis begin?

Lauren Fontein: I’m a long-time cannabis lover and began my career as a corporate attorney in Los Angeles. After working in corporate law for a couple years, I realized big law wasn’t for me, and I transitioned to a career in professional baking. Soon after, a friend who happened to own a cannabis dispensary asked if I wanted to make edibles for his shop. I combined my passion for cannabis and baking and started an edible company that grew to servicing medical dispensaries throughout southern CA. 

After running the edible company for nine years, I co-founded The Artist Tree in 2018, launching a new brand of high-end, art-centered cannabis stores. 

GS: What is your favorite way to consume?

LF: I recently got a PAX Pro vaporizer, and it’s my new favorite way to consume cannabis flower. The device can be used to vaporize fresh cannabis flower or for concentrates. By vaporizing rather than burning the flower, the Pro preserves the flavor and terpene profile so you can fully experience it without the harsh feeling in your throat that you get from traditional smoking methods. I’m also a big fan of edibles with THC and CBN for sleep

GS: How did The Artist Tree come to be?

LF: The Artist Tree brand was created to obtain retail and consumption lounge licenses in the city of West Hollywood. In 2018, West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the state to license consumption lounges, and my partners and I saw this as a unique opportunity to open something that would truly be revolutionary. 

Since we’d been working in the cannabis industry for so long, we strove to create a unique concept that would stand out amongst Los Angeles’s hundreds of pot shops. With the new legalization of recreational cannabis, we also wanted to create a space that would be inviting to a wide variety of customers – a place where newbies would feel comfortable while also catering to hard-core stoners. 

Drawing on the strong connection between art and cannabis, we created an art-focused concept with stores that featured local artwork while looking and operating as art galleries. We opened our first location in 2019, delivering on our vision of building a one-of-a-kind cannabis destination with art at its core. Since our initial store in West Hollywood, we’ve built out seven other Artist Tree locations, with three more on the way. 

In addition to retail stores, we operate one of the only consumption lounge spaces in the US in West Hollywood, The Studio Lounge. Like our retail stores, the lounge highlights local artists, featuring art exhibits and a variety of performances from local musicians, comics, drag queens, burlesque performers, and more. We also host interactive events, like Puff Puff Paint classes, infused “high” teas, and yoga. Visitors can enjoy a full menu of food and canna-cocktails served tableside while consuming any of our 700+ cannabis products. 

GS: Where do the community partnerships at The Artist Tree stem from? How do people get involved?

LF: Each Artist Tree location operates as a true extension of the local community, and we spend a lot of time and resources on supporting local nonprofits and communities. We host frequent donation drives and blood drives and donate funds to numerous local and national nonprofits, such as the Last Prisoner Project, the Human Rights Campaign, Feeding America, and Youth Justice Coalition. 

While we support a wide variety of causes, we are particularly interested in supporting art-related organizations. For example, we work with the Fresno Arts Council to fund art programming for homeless individuals and sponsor a number of art walks throughout the state. 

We encourage our employees to get involved and offer paid time off for volunteer hours. We also sponsor community events so our team can be a part of important local arts events like the FresYes festival and the annual Oxnard Performing Arts Center Arts Festival. We love involving our customers in our campaigns by encouraging them to bring in donations in exchange for a discount or by donating a portion of our sales proceeds to nonprofits. 

Our art program is also an ongoing community partnership as we work with a large network of local artists and provide them with exposure and a space for selling their art, while taking no commission on artwork sales. We encourage artists to apply to exhibit at our shops online and also host a wide variety of performing artists at our West Hollywood lounge.

GS: What’s on deck this year for The Artist Tree?

LF: We have three new projects in development, including a retail store and consumption lounge in Hawthorne, CA, and our first location in Orange County. We look forward to opening the new locations this summer. We’re also actively pursuing new retail and lounge opportunities in locations throughout CA and out of state. 

Lauren Fontein, Co-Founder and Chief Compliance Officer of The Artist Tree, began her professional career as a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles. She transitioned to the medical cannabis industry in 2009 when she founded a cannabis edible manufacturing company.  From 2009 to 2017, she headed operations and supplied edibles to medical dispensaries in the Los Angeles area.  Lauren concurrently worked as legal counsel for medical dispensaries owned by brothers Avi Kahan and Mitchell Kahan. In 2018, Lauren partnered with Avi, Mitch, and Aviv Halimi to create The Artist Tree brand to promote the connection between art and cannabis. She launched the first Artist Tree location in West Hollywood in 2019 and has since opened several more The Artist Tree retail stores and one of LA’s only cannabis lounges.  


The answers given by Q&A subjects do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState. The subject is solely responsible for the views stated in this piece.


Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, Cannabis and Tech Today, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter