Courtesy The Commune

Drugs & Leisure

Could Cannabis Work in the Workplace?

When I walk into the launch party for The Commune, the first thing that strikes me is the design. Between the brick walls, exposed beams and open floor plan, the space has an industrial feel that would appeal to the kind of hip entrepreneur-type you’d expect to find in a high-end coworking space in downtown Portland, Oregon. The second thing that grabs my attention? The cannabis cocktails up for grabs at the makeshift bar in the corner.

The Commune isn’t your average workspace as the very first cannabis-friendly event and co-working space, offering members the allowance to get high while they work. The brainchild of prominent cannabis attorney and founder of the Oregon Cannabis Association, Amy Margolis, The Commune hopes to establish itself as the go-to gathering place for cannabis entrepreneurs, industry professionals and anyone looking for a space where no heads will turn if you take a drag off a vape pen or pop an edible before digging into a spreadsheet or working through your inbox.

“There’s a need for meeting rooms and a space where people [can] come and hang out and network and I think the cannabis industry, when they built out their facilities, didn’t think about working there. So they don’t have board rooms, they don’t have offices...they have, like, a big warehouse that’s filled with reefer,” says Margolis. And as an attorney with nearly two decades of experience in the cannabis space, Margolis is the perfect candidate to navigate the challenges of bringing this vision to life. “The rules are very tricky. So the way we’re treating this is as if it’s a private space. And because it’s a private space, we are allowing people to consume [on-site],” says Margolis. “We’re not selling cannabis here, our brands who work here are not distributing cannabis in an unlicensed facility... we are [just] making that available for people’s personal use.”
People have drinks in their office with clients. You should be allowed to come in here and share a vape pen and that should be okay.
“People have drinks in their office with clients,” continues Margolis. “You should be allowed to come in here and share a vape pen and that should be okay.” If the reception at the launch party is any indicator, it seems the community agrees. The 4,000-square foot space is filled to the brim with industry professionals and cannabis enthusiasts, all clearly excited about The Commune—and, more importantly, what it represents.

“Back in the early days of [the cannabis industry], people were very collaborative. They worked really closely with each other. Everybody knew each other, and it was a really great sense of community,” Margolis explains. She furthers that the rise of the recreational market has transformed collaborative relationships into competitive ones: "We’ve lost a little bit of that community feeling. The idea was to create a space where people could come back together, start reforming that community, and really start engaging in the collaboration that made this industry great in the first place.”

When I visit The Commune the day after the launch party, it’s clear that sort of familial feeling is already taking place. Even though The Commune hasn’t officially launched its service, the space is filled with professionals from the cannabis industry. The group is eclectic; there are attorneys and growers, marketing representatives and budtenders, podcast hosts and educators. But the one thing they have in common? A passion for the cannabis industry—and budding excitement (pun intended) to finally have a place where they can connect and work with their peers.

“The thing I’m most excited about is just a meeting place for the community, for people all disparately working in this industry that see each other once or twice a month at an event. It’s a great meeting place where like-minded people in the industry can come and work together and swap ideas and get all the benefits of a coworking space—with a focus on cannabis,” says Mason Walker, CEO of East Fork Cultivars, a farm that specializes in growing CBD-rich cannabis. “The industry [is] fairly tight knit and small, and everyone’s struggling in their own way. And I always find motivation and encouragement through talking with other people in the industry who are going through some of the same challenges."
But as an industry outsider, I’ll admit—my first thought when I heard about The Commune was speculative: “A coworking space where people can use cannabis? How is anyone going to get any work done?” Once the weed kicked in, wouldn’t people be tempted to sneak a nap on The Commune’s plush leather sofa or abandon their work projects in search of a cupcake? Not necessarily. As I discovered during my visit to The Commune, cannabis can peacefully coexist with productivity (and does, as everyone at the coworking space is clearly hard at work on various projects)—it just depends on how you use it.

“Cannabis has always been synonymous with THC and that’s it. And so we’re just looking at this one compound—THC—which is actually a very small piece of the puzzle and offers a small piece of the potential experiences that you can have with cannabis,” says Chasen. “And yes, for many people, when you consume a lot of THC, you get sleepy, you get very high and sometimes...that doesn’t allow you to focus." Chasen makes clear that cannabis is a diverse plant, a "plant matrix," that affords various experiences. "So for somebody who is looking to stimulate productivity [or] to stimulate focus, they can look to something that’s maybe as a little bit lower THC, a little bit more CBD, and then really select the terpenes based on the experience they’re looking for.”“Something like limonene, which is the citrus terpene that’s found in the rinds of citrus fruits, boosts serotonin and dopamine,” continues Chasen. Whereas Pinene, another terpene found in pine needles, actually combats the psychoactive effects of THC. "Of course, you can always consume a ton of THC and fall asleep on your couch, but it doesn’t always have to be that way." And atmosphere at The Commune proves just that. I see teams from local cannabis companies are spread out across the space’s tables and workstations, discussing product and marketing strategies. CEOs and attorneys duck into The Commune’s private meeting spaces for discussions.

Everyone is engaged, focused, and clearly passionate—andthat includes Margolis, who is using The Commune as headquarter for The Initiative, a business accelerator aiming for gender equality within the cannabis industry. “The idea really is to take women, give them the skills they need to be successful, [and] provide them mentoring and support and funding,” says Margolis. “The hope is that if we do that enough times and enough places, we will make a real seismic shift in the gender balance in the cannabis space.” The Initiative is already generating serious buzz, with women reach out as far away as Brazil. “We’ve probably gotten 30 or 40 emails [and] we haven’t even reached into our communication network... I think that’s indicative of a real need.”

“If I had the opportunity to have a mentor in starting my business, everything would be so different. Everything, even now, would be very different. It’s pretty wild,” says Andi Bixel, founder of Drip Sweets, an Oregon-based edibles company. “I think it’s going to be really huge for women starting and continuing to grow their businesses [in the cannabis space] to have something like The Initiative where they have multiple eyes [on their businesses] thinking from multiple angles.”

The Commune and The Initiative may only be in their beginning stages, but with big plans (and even bigger support from the community), they’re poised to have a major impact on both the cannabis industry and the way we view the relationship between cannabis and productivity—for the better.

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