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-quality pipes – some designed by Dracup himself. There’s Chalice California, which has served as a hybrid music and arts festival and cannabis competition for the past three years. 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 LA six years ago. Before moving to the West Coast, his first acquaintance with cannabis was through music festivals such as Bonnaroo, where he began forging a network of connections that now rival the High Times rolodex.
“I didn’t go to school on business,” Dracup says as we sit on the sunlit smoking patio behind Hitman Coffee. “I sold weed. The way I run my business is based on shit I learned from selling weed for a long time. The dynamism and training you get from a ‘street level’ company? I feel like a lot of those things taught me more than what I could learn in a business class.”
Dracup’s unique approach to education seems to be paying off. Before opening the doors of Hitman Coffee in March, it was already known in the space for its high-end glassware – and for the world’s only festival where you can check out Ice Cube and then go to a grower who goes home first. wins ‘Best Concentrate’ award.
You don’t have to talk long with Dracup to learn that money isn’t the end game with these ventures. Sitting on the patio, one of his acquaintances suggests that he might try to book Prophets of Rage – a supergroup consisting of Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Chuck D of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill’s B-Real – for Chalice California in 2018 .
“I mean, damn it, my attitude is I’m the kind of guy who’d rather take myself out of my comfort zone and try to spend millions of dollars to get full-band Rage,” he says. “That’s the kind of festival I want Chalice to be. That is the difference.”
Another key difference is the integrity that Dracup offers the completion portion of the weekend.
This is something he is rightly very proud of.
“[Chalice] is the only competition that collects lab results and ensures nothing that failed tests ends up in the jury kit,” he says. “Which means it’s the first contest in history where the people judging aren’t smoking entries who shouldn’t be allowed to enter the contest. We just went out of our way to build a prestigious competition. I have personally judged High times events for years. I understand how they are judged.”
Unfortunately, it seems that some of that assessment process is often soured by corruption and conspiracy, elements that may fit into the legal gray area currently occupied by cannabis.
“Several people offered me money to win the event,” Dracup recalls. “It opened my eyes to the industry.”
If one can distill Dracup’s mission as a leader in the cannabis world, it seems to hold a combination of others in the industry accountable for the standards needed to continue the transition from marijuana to 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 prize 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 man, but he deserved to win.
“His product was dope,” Dracup added. “It’s about the product, and too many competitions these days are about politics and not about 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 probably the first thing you notice when entering Hitman, a spacious building that begins as a gallery dedicated to functional pipes that double as art. An employee wanders by with a pyramid-shaped piece of glass composed of loose bubbles. Later I will learn that it is valued at $6,000. Beyond the glass are works on canvas and a sizable array of cubbies filled with Hitman branded merchandise.
“I’ve put everything I have into building this brand,” explains Dracup. “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.”
Hitman Coffee is in many ways the cannabis equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There is a pool table, a U-shaped indoor fishing pond and an upstairs lounge with a full DJ set-up and glass lamps. However, in addition to the novelty, there is a common sense of hospitality in the space.
When I arrive, Dracup isn’t there, but four people sitting around one of the store’s numerous tables immediately invite me to join them. For Dracup, that sense of security and camaraderie are central features of the grand plans he has in mind.
“This space is multi-purpose, but all the uses are for cannabis people,” he says. “It’s hard for me to roll over to Starbucks and grab some jars for your scent, roll up something while I’ve got my laptop, smoke it casually without people fucking whispering and looking at you.” There is something very beautiful about that.”
Over the course of our conversation, Dracup tells me that Hitman has also recently hosted musicians like Sizzla and Alchemist. He says members of the Wu-Tang Clan hold a monthly event in space. As he envisions it, Hitman Coffee is like an office space that you can rent for $400 a month. For that price you can come as often as you want with one guest and free drinks.
There’s wifi, places to meet, plenty of opportunity to network with other Hitman members, and of course a weed-friendly atmosphere where you can roll up something while you work out the details. No cannabis is sold on the property meaning Hitman’s members are fully within their legal rights to hang out and smoke. The establishment is also not exclusive to medical patients. The passage of Prop 64 last fall means that currently anyone 21 or older can possess up to an ounce of marijuana — and anyone eligible under that law is welcome to join Hitman.
Dracup explains Hitman Coffeeshops as “a new concept that is the future of adult consumption. They don’t make you feel like a criminal. They allow you to socialize in an environment where cannabis is your like-minded platform. You could here come and don’t even smoke. Maybe you just want to socialize. You could bring a date here.”
And soon, San Franciscans may be able to join in the fun.
“I’ve already searched,” he says. “I’ve been talking to some guys who are stronger on weed and have bigger brands in the Bay Area, and I’m going to open one in the Bay Area.”
According to Dracup, we may not have to wait long.
“I’m moving 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 it, and nobody wants to do it. The difference that Hitman and Chalice represent is that we’re doing it, and we’re not going to stop for any reason.”
As we talk about cannabis under a lazy Los Angeles sun, I ask Dracup what motivates him. Does it justify the cannabis space for consumers? Does it prove that you don’t have to be part of the establishment to succeed in the industry? Dracup mentions several times over the course of the afternoon we share that he hasn’t been the financial benefactor of his efforts, so if it wasn’t for the money, then what?
“It’s not even about weed,” he says. “People who went far before me took risks. There are now people in prison to whom I owe damn respect for even being able to do this. That needs to be addressed, because we are the newer generation. I am 31 years old. I am a youngster. There are fucking old men here who took the real risks before getting medical treatment. because I ain’t got no fucking dollar of this shit except the brand itself. But you know what? Damn. That has a value. That’s what Hitman and Chalice are to me.
“I would put my next $500 into a couple of coffee shop shirts before going out with my girl,” he says.