Is L.A.’s Hitman Coffee The Future of Cannabis?
What is Hitman Coffee?
The answer to that question is as complicated as the man behind it. Doug Dracup has his fingerprints all over the cannabis industry. There’s Hitman Glass, which produces high-end pipes — some designed by Dracup himself. There’s Chalice California, which, for the past three years, has served as a hybrid music-and-arts festival and cannabis competition. Now there’s Hitman Coffee, a cannabis social club and workplace on South La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
Dracup, 31, moved from Boston to L.A. six years ago. Before heading to the West Coast, he became involved with cannabis mainly through musical festivals like Bonnaroo, where he began to forge a network of connections that now rivals the rolodex of High Times.
“I didn’t go to school for business,” Dracup says as we sit on the sun-lit smoking patio in the rear of Hitman Coffee. “I sold weed. The way I run my company is based off shit learned from selling weed for a long time. The dynamics and education you get from a ‘street level’ business? I feel that a lot of that stuff has taught me more than what I could learn in a business class.”
Dracup’s unique approach to education appears to be paying off. Before opening the doors to Hitman Coffee in March, he was already well-known in the space for his high-end glassware — and for the world’s only festival where one can check out Ice Cube and then head over and see a grower take home first prize for ‘Best Concentrate.’
One doesn’t need to speak with Dracup long to learn that money is not the endgame with these enterprises. Sitting on the patio, one of his acquaintances suggests that he perhaps try to book Prophets of Rage — a supergroup composed Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Chuck D from Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill’s B-Real — for Chalice California in 2018.
“I mean, fuck, my attitude is I’m that kind of guy that would rather put myself out of my comfort zone and try to spend millions of dollars getting full-band Rage,” he says. “That’s the kind of festival I want Chalice to be. That’s the difference.”
Another key difference is the integrity Dracup affords the completion portion of the weekend.
This is something he rightfully takes immense pride in.
“[Chalice] is the only competition that totes lab results and makes sure that nothing that failed testing gets in the judge kit,” he says. “Which means that it’s the first competition in history where the people judging aren’t smoking entries that shouldn’t be in the competition. We’ve just bent over backwards to build a prestigious competition. I privately judged High Times events for years. I understand how they’re judged.”
Unfortunately, it seems that part of that judging process is often soured by corruption and collusion, elements that may seem at place with the legal grey area currently occupied by cannabis.
“I had multiple people offer me cash to win the event,” Dracup recalls. “It opened my eyes up to the industry.”
If one can distill Dracup’s mission as a leader in the cannabis space, it seems to be a combination of holding others in the industry accountable to the standards that are necessary to help continue marijuana’s transition into the mainstream. He says one of the highlights of this year’s Chalice California was the fact that he didn’t even know who some of the winners were.
“I didn’t know the people who won first place awards and best overall,” he says. “I had to acknowledge that on stage. I was like, ‘Do I even fucking know you?’ I didn’t, and it felt good. I don’t even know this guy, but he deserved to win.
“His product was dope,” Dracup adds. “It’s about the product, and too many competitions these days are about the politics and not the product.”
In many ways, Hitman Coffee is another extension of Dracup’s desire to legitimize the space — not by sanitizing it, but by demanding integrity from those involved.
The decadent glassware is likely to be the first thing catch your eye upon entering Hitman, a spacious building that begins as a gallery dedicated to functional pipes that double as art. A staff member wanders by with a pyramid-shaped piece of glass composed of individual bubbles. Later, I will learn it is valued at $6,000. Beyond the glass are works on canvas and a sizeable series of cubbies stuffed with Hitman-branded merchandise.
“I put everything I have into building this brand,” Dracup explains. “I think it’s one of the best names in the space. I’ll stick to that. I’ve trademarked the phrase ‘Take a hit man’ for all my marketing materials.”
In many senses, Hitman Coffee is the cannabis equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There is a pool table, a U-shaped indoor fish pond, and an upstairs lounge with a full DJ rig and glass-made lamps. Beyond the novelty, though, there is a communal sense of welcoming within the space.
When I arrive, Dracup isn’t there, but four people seated around one of the shop’s numerous tables immediately invite me to come and join them. For Dracup, that sense of safety and camaraderie are pivotal features of the big plans he’s envisioning.
“This space is multi-use, but all the uses pertain to cannabis people,” he says. “It’s hard for me to roll up to Starbucks and pull out a couple of jars for you smell, to roll something up while I’ve got my laptop out, to casually smoke it without having people fucking whispering and looking at you. There’s something really beautiful about that.”
In the course of our conversation, Dracup tells me that Hitman has also recently played host to musicians like Sizzla and Alchemist. He says that members of the Wu-Tang Clan do a monthly event at the space. As he envisions it, Hitman Coffee is like an office space you can rent for $400 a month. For that price, you can come as often as want with one guest and complimentary refreshments.
There’s wifi, places to take a meeting, plenty of opportunity to network with Hitman’s other members, and of course, a weed-friendly atmosphere where you can roll something up while you’re hammering out the details. No cannabis is sold on the premises, meaning that Hitman’s members are fully within their legal rights to hang out and toke. The establishment isn’t exclusively for medical patients, either. Prop 64’s passage last fall means that currently, anyone 21 or over may possess up to an ounce of marijuana — and anyone who qualifies under that law are welcome to become members of Hitman.
Dracup explains Hitman Coffee shops as “a new concept that is the future of adult consumption. They let you not have to feel like a criminal. They let you be able to socialize in a setting where cannabis is your like-minded platform. You could come here and not even smoke. You might just want to socialize. You could bring a date here.”
And soon, San Franciscans might be able to get in on the fun.
“I’ve already been looking,” he says. ”I’ve been in discussions with a couple of guys that are stronger in the weed space and have some bigger brands in the Bay Area, and I am going to open one in the Bay Area.”
According to Dracup, we may not have long to wait.
“I move fast, man,” he says. “I got this spot in March and it was open in April. My attitude is if we’re going to do it, let’s do it now! Four years ago, in an interview with High Times, I was talking about doing Chalice. What I do want to be is someone who does what he says. There are too many talkers in the industry, especially in cannabis. Everyone wants to talk about doing it, and no one wants to do it. The difference that Hitman and Chalice represent is we’re doing it, and we’re not going to stop for any reason.”
As we chat on about cannabis under a lazy Los Angeles sun, I ask Dracup about what motivates him. Is it legitimizing the cannabis space for consumers? Is it proving you don’t have to be part of the establishment to succeed in the industry? Dracup mentions several times in the course of the afternoon we share that he has not been the financial benefactor of his endeavors, so if not for the money, then what?
“It’s not even about weed,” he says. “People who far precede me have been taking risks. There are people in jail right now that I owe fucking respect to, to be able to even do this. That needs to be addressed, because we are the newer generation. I’m 31 years old. I’m a youngster. There are people who are fucking old men who were taking the real risks before medical out here. because I don’t have a fucking dollar from this shit, except the brand itself. But you know what? Fuck it. There’s a value to that. That’s what Hitman and Chalice is for me.
“I would put my next $500 into some shirts for the coffee shop before I’d go out with my girl,” he says.