Yes, you can buy cannabis from the Hemp Bar. And yes, you can smoke that cannabis on the patio of Hemp Bar. But the Hemp Bar is neither a dispensary nor a consumption club. It is Portland’s first cannabis cafe. Sort of.
At first blush, East Fork Cultivars’ flagship brick-and-mortar looks like a typical Portland juice bar, but cross the threshold and you’ll also find a place where consumers can buy and smoke weed, with one caveat: Everything is hemp.
The only difference between cultivated nugs of dispensary weed and hemp flower is the amount of THC contained in each. Hemp, as defined by the federal government, contains less than 0.3% while remaining high in CBD. But there’s no taxonomic difference between what we consider hemp and what we consider cannabis. Sure, one is federally legal and the other is the devil’s lettuce. Scientifically, though, they are the same damn thing.
So when I asked the server behind the polished wood counter how “the whole weed thing works” and they replied something akin to, “Smoke ’em if you got ‘em, but keep it on the patio,” I nodded my head in understanding and proceeded to do just that, which is exactly how my homegirl and I came to spend the better part of two hours sipping CBD mocktails and puffing pre-rolls in clear view of one of Foster Road’s busiest intersections.
Here are the questions we asked each other as we settled into our inaugural stoner-lady mocktail brunch date at the city’s first and only neighborhood cannabis cafe, and also the reasons we were both excited to return.
Hemp Bar vs. Cannabis Club: What’s the Difference?
Unlike the more clandestine entryways to the city’s few cannabis clubs, Hemp Bar’s storefront is a welcoming, cornflower blue corner unit with floor-to-ceiling windows that show off glassy reclaimed-wood countertops, Gatsby-esque hand-painted wallpaper and the felted retro menu board of a modest neighborhood cafe. The only marked difference between this and other neighborhood hangs are the fat nugs of East Fork cannabis in countertop display bottles.
But Hemp Bar is neither a dispensary nor a private cannabis club. The hemp-derived CBD is simply a featured product in its cafe repertoire, not unlike any other fashionable wellness boutique, contemporary coffeehouse or bohemian juice stand. The cafe simply goes a step further than most by not just adding water-soluble CBD to the mocktails, but by also selling the flower those extracts are sourced from, and encouraging customers to light up at their leisure—so long as they keep it confined to the cafe’s lemon yellow, outdoor bistro tables.
While cannabis clubs typically require annual subscription fees as well as daily cover charges, Hemp Bar operates with open-door ease. Furthermore, cannabis club sipping and snacking options are usually limited to a parking lot food truck or an assortment of convenience-store munchies. Hemp Bar’s menu is a thoughtful assemblage of vegan coffeehouse grab-and-go fare like Higher Taste hoagies and Gluten Free Gem pastries, as well a deliberately designed collection of CBD mocktails. And though it’s frowned upon to light up a blunt and just kick it in front of a cannabis club, Hemp Bar downright encourages it, even selling locally made Sway hemp blunts from behind the bar.
Is Hemp Bar Family Friendly?
The shop operates just as a walk-up juice bar or coffeehouse, and each housemade drink features an optional 10 mg of CBD. But there are also a few unmedicated beverages as well, like kombucha and a full slate of Steven Smith teas. Though Hemp Bar has the potential, it’s not quite the family-friendly neighborhood hang spot it could be—or will be soon. The stylish yet sparse interior still has a COVID-era gloss that low-key deters a long hang, although there are plenty of stools were one inclined to sidle up to the bar for a while. But the sidewalk cafe tables make up for the less than cozy interior space, as evidenced by how long my buddy and I were posted up there.
Though it was the founder’s intention for the Hemp Bar to vibrate at the same frequency as an Amsterdam-style coffeehouse, the result is more Portland pretentious than posh international weed den. But speaking as a pretentious domestic pothead myself, Hemp Bar offers a refreshing take on what cannabis users actually want in a safe consumption space. Yes, you can roll up with a baby in your Björn, order a CBD cold brew and a Sway blunt and then bounce without any judgy side-eyes.
Who Is the Hemp Bar For?
Once my companion and I ordered our first round of CBD mocktails and took our seats outside, the shape of Hemp Bar began to come into sharper focus. Each of the four signature mocktails felt assembled for both a consummate cocktail enthusiast and a vegan on a juice cleanse. The Cocomo is a perfectly foamy interpretation of a classic daiquiri, and the Strawberry Basil Smash was a bright, fresh homage to a summer garden. The lemon and lavender Purple Llama was refreshingly fizzy, and the Orange Fire simmered with ginger and a flash of cayenne. Each drink had a satisfying balance of therapeutic botanicals and theatrical, mixologist flash. We were dazzled, soothed and blissed out all in equal measure.
Sitting in front of the shop, our conversation intermittently drowned by the busy traffic of Foster, snacking on salted and fried fava beans—which the server suggested as the fatty beans help the body absorb CBD—we decided the Hemp Bar felt like it was designed for us: contemporary adult cannabis users who appreciate both a surreptitious canna-lounge and a breezily uncluttered neighborhood juice joint, and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing the two concepts come together in way that supports long, cozy hangout sessions.
Hemp Bar certainly delivers on that basic concept, but my intuition tells me that it will deliver its goods with more savoir faire as the cafe matures. In the meantime, I recommend you pick up some CBD flower from behind the bar, order a Cocomo, settle yourself at a table, light up and enjoy.
GO: Hemp Bar, 6258 SE Foster Road, 503-477-7183, hempbarportland.com. 11 am-7 pm Tuesday-Sunday. Must be 16+ to purchase hemp products.