BY ED MURRIETA
SAN FRANCISCO — It was 8 p.m. and pitch dark when it dawned on me: I should not be smoking hashish in the rain behind the Greyhound station before my red-eye ride to Humboldt County.
Igzactly 420 was approximately three blocks away and wouldn’t close for two hours — precisely 10 minutes before my bus departed.
A seven-minute walk later, the medical cannabis dispensary and vaporizing lounge became my port in a storm, one of San Francisco’s models of public social cannabis consumption — a flaming-hot issue in states that have legalized recreational cannabis use by adults.
In Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, consumption of all forms of cannabis — smoking joints, vaping oil, dabbing wax or shatter, even eating edibles — is illegal anywhere except private residences or in businesses that give their permission. Tourists and locals whose landlords or housing boards do not approve of cannabis use have no options except to break the law or not consume.
Speaking as a cannabis tourist who visited Denver in 2014 and 2015, I am still sorely disappointed in the lack of places to consume cannabis with and among other people like it’s done in pot-friendly tourist cities from Amsterdam to Toronto to Vancouver to San Francisco.
Did I really want to suffer through a stoner painting class just to have a place to smoke pot in Denver? No, but I did.
Was I uncomfortable smoking weed in a glittery party bus with a stripper pole but grateful for not having to duck into the alley behind an art gallery to get high? You bet.
Did I mind smoking a joint illegally along the downtown river trail? Nope.
The one cannabis lounge I found open was next to a ramshackle garage in an industrial zone across the county line. “Don’t Mind If I Doobie” t-shirts for sale summed up the joint’s down-scale hippie vibe.
That’s my lingering impression of Denver. I hope Denver County voters can help change it this Election Day by voting in favor of Initiative 300, which would allow cannabis lounges locally under certain conditions. The Denver Post’s editorial board says Initiative 300 “would provide a welcome solution for users to enjoy cannabis together, without harming the public.”
If approved, a pilot program would require cannabis lounges wishing operate inside in any number of businesses, including coffee shops, yoga studios and laundromats, to negotiate with neighborhood organizations or business improvement districts and set restrictions governing pot consumption — including how and where and what times of the day. Smoking would have to comply with the state Clean Indoor Air Act. If things don’t work, the City Council could close cannabis lounges.
Those seem to be fair rules given the community service cannabis lounges can provide.
Consider my pot predicament on a dark and stormy San Francisco night. I had two hours to kill before my bus departed. My plan was to occupy a bench at the transit center, smoke the last of my Humboldt hippie hash and to fall asleep as the Greyhound crossed the Bay Bridge.
This part of the city is a jungle of concrete and high-rise construction. I felt exposed. The rain dampened my lighter’s flame. I checked Google Maps for the nearest coffee shop and there it was — Igzactly 420 at exactly the right moment.
It had been a year since I last visited this cozy and comfy dispensary and vape lounge so I got a free joint for renewing my membership. Never mind I couldn’t smoke it here; I tore the joint in half and poured its contents into the heating chamber of a Volcano vaporizer. The weed was Gorilla Glue #4, a sativa-dominant strain that speeds the senses. I made myself a cup of green tea from the tea bar, settled into a leather sofa and watched exotic fish in a wall-sized aquarium.
A couple of brogrammers came in. One of them told a budtender they lived nearby in a towering condo that prohibits smoking and vaping.
Igzactly 420 wasn’t the first cannabis dispensary lounge I’d visited that day. San Francisco allows dispensaries to provide patrons places to smoke and vaporize, as long as lounge plans are approved by the Planning Department. There are nine dispensary lounges in San Francisco today and at least two more are due to open soon.
Taking a break from a cannabis conference that was filled with more hot air than a Volcano vaporizer bag, I checked out two lounges: Re-Leaf, a no-frills smoking den, and Urban Pharm, where all forms of pot consumption — smoking, vaping, dabbing — are allowed in an atmosphere oozing reclaimed wood and steampunk metalwork. Both are near downtown hotels, shopping and tourist attractions.
Would I rather smoke joints on the patios of my favorite bars and cafes? You bet.
Will I smoke hash where I shouldn’t? Not if public-consumption cannabis lounges are open.
Vote yes on Initiative 300, Denver County residents.