New Jersey’s first (and only) weed-themed restaurant is getting a revamp. The controversial Trenton business will reopen next month — on 4/20, naturally — under a new moniker: Weedbukx Cafe.
Unfortunately for NJ pot enthusiasts, Weedbukx won’t actually serve any cannabis products; the psychoactive plant will merely serve as a theme, with the cafe’s interior intended to “mirror an actual medical marijuana grow room,” according to a press release. (Though medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2009, the state has yet to legalize it for recreational use despite activists’ best efforts — and likely won’t until after its staunchly anti-legalization governor, Chris Christie, leaves office in 2018.)
Co-owner and manager Debi Madaio, a registered nurse with a criminal justice degree, perhaps seems like an unlikely candidate to open a weed-themed business. But Madaio is the parent of a special needs child who she says would benefit medically from the use of cannabis oil. Her partner, Ed Forchion, is an outspoken legal weed advocate who’s had his fair share of legal issues. The space housing Weedbukx was previously home to his NJ Weedman’s Cafe, which was raided in April 2016 by police who claim Forchion was selling marijuana out of the space. In return, Forchion filed a lawsuit against NJ police in federal court, alleging harassment and violation of his religious right to use marijuana.
The new version of the cafe apparently wants to keep things strictly on the up-and-up: “With Weedbukx Café, we’re hoping to provide an upscale environment where people can celebrate the wonders of marijuana in a fun environment without partaking in the actual use of it,” Madaio says in a press release. The menu will feature pot-inspired dishes from chef John Upshaw, such as a fish and grits dish called "Snoop's Dream" and the “Pothead Sandwich,” a spicy fried fish sandwich with shrimp and crab relish. Appropriately, desserts will include cakes baked in the shape of pot leaves, which also adorn the restaurant’s tablecloths.
As the press release notes, “No cannabis is used in any of the entrees.” Even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, such as Colorado and Washington, restaurants can’t serve food that contains it — though plenty of chefs have found ways around that by hosting private dinners or underground pop-ups.
But Weedbukx’s name and logo could prove even more controversial than its concept: They’re clearly inspired by a certain coffee chain, and it’ll remain to be seen whether the small business arouses the attention of Starbucks’ lawyers. The corporate giant has previously proven it’s not fond of marijuana-themed brand parodies: Last year it sued a company selling bongs designed to look like Frappuccino cups.