BY ED MURRIETA
Like cannabis itself is to different people who prefer distinctive highs from smoking, vaping or eating, cannabis tourism is a different experience for different people seeking different things.
Cannabis tourism used to be as simple as being a tourist looking for pot.
We went to Amsterdam because that’s where pot was tolerated, sold and openly consumed.
Outside of Amsterdam, illicit whiffs pervaded pot tourism.
If you didn’t have a medical cannabis recommendation from home and couldn’t take advantage of reciprocity at BC Compassion Club Society and wanted BC Bud while vacationing in Vancouver, you saw the bald guy in the vestibule at the pub beneath the hostel near the smoking bar. $40 American got me 4 grams Canadian.
I’m sure the wafer of hashish I bought from an Istanbul rug merchant contained more henna than an Anatolian redhead’s tinted tresses. But its soothing smoke prepared me for a Turkish bath manhandling. And it was available to an American hashhead abroad, the deal done at a tourist cafe near Hagia Sofia.
From Colorado to California, cannabis tourism is among the many allures of legalization. What is cannabis tourism’s future?
Spliffs on the beach?
Cannabis fields you wander like corn mazes?
Clean-room tours of laboratories creating cutting-edge cannabis concentrates?
Hash truffles on your B&B pillows?
Like most pot on the market today, pot tourism is a hybrid. There are things for hippies, something for hedonists and a sprinkle of hope for Napa-dreaming haute heads.
In Colorado and Washington, where cannabis has been legal only since 2014, cannabis tourism is taking root. Tour operators take visitors behind the scenes inside grow rooms, edibles kitchens and retail stores. Visitors stay in bud and breakfast inns. Limousines and buses double as smoke-lounges-on-wheels for tourists with no place else to toke.
Here in California, where voters legalized recreational cannabis use by adults yesterday, pot-pampered farm stays and cannabis spa vacations — think weed-capital-meets-wine-country getaways — aren’t far-fetched or far off.
Hurdles remain until California’s legal cannabis travel market establishes itself and is ready to welcome a world of tourists seeking weed beginning in 2018.
California’s first bud and breakfast, Compassion Flower Inn, existed in Santa Cruz from 2000-2006. Love-In-It operated intermittently on the Mendocino coast before closing last year. Another bud and breakfast is being built out on a cannabis farm elsewhere in Mendocino.
Humboldt’s first and only cannabis tour company — promising guided tours of cannabis farms, concentrates manufacturing facilities and dispensaries — is in limbo because the county wants to classify Humboldt Cannabis Tours as a cannabis business, not a tourism business.
While Denver voters just approved public consumption lounges that should be huge boons for tourists and locals alike, Alaska officials debate whether cannabis cafes are legal, despite a state board’s recommendation. Recreational sales just started. Alaska cruise ship season begins in May; maybe they’ll sort it out by the time cannabis-consuming cruisegoers arrive.
In Nevada, where a legalization initiative failed/passed yesterday, the attorney general is cracking down on tour operators that facilitate Internet video medical cannabis recommendations, affecting Californians who partake of our neighboring state’s generous reciprocity law while spending tourist dollars in Las Vegas and Reno by requiring Californians to acquire medical cannabis identification cards before they visit Nevada, the equivalent of a $200 pot passport.
For California, cannabis tourism opportunities are as golden as our state moniker but as hazy as the smog that produces the golden sherbet sunsets that attract tourists.
Still, it is the only dawn of legalization. Hash truffles will be on your pillows soon.
Until then, we’ve compiled seven Northern California cannabis travel itineraries for California medical cannabis travelers — hippies, hedonists, haute heads — who should carry their doctors’ Prop. 215 recommendations like passports until 2018.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CANNABIS TRAVEL
The Aficionados’ Treat
California’s most sophisticated city promises the Golden State’s most sophisticated cannabis travel experience. Chic dispensaries, high-quality cannabis, smoking and vaping lounges, pot-paired dinners, edibles cooking classes and ganja yoga all available to visitors with valid medical cannabis recommendations. Plus all the general tourist attractions — restaurants, museums, shopping, big-city energy — that make San Francisco a world-class travel destination without weed.
Retired Hippies’ Heaven
Never has the tie-dyed dream of traveling back roads in a vintage Volkswagen bus been more palpable than when turning off Highway 101 onto Highway 128 wending west, where the landscape turns to grapevines and farm houses. Yes, this is Mendocino County wine country, and as the axiom asserts — where wine grows, weed grows — it’s also cannabis country. Seeds of cannabis tourism have been planted here and will mature over time like wine.
Firing Up Foodies
You think you’ve tasted Humboldt County? Clear your throat and try again. Humboldt’s farm-to-toke reputation overshadows its farm-to-fork roots — but behold grass-fed beef and grass-fed dairy; field-to-glass craft distilleries, cideries and breweries; single-origin drinking chocolates; and Humboldt Bay bivalves that account for 70 percent of California oysters.
The Outdoorsman’s Oasis
You’re midway into a 590-nautical-mile run down the Pacific from Seattle to San Francisco aboard your Tayana 37 sloop. Before you tackle Cape Mendocino, pull into the safe harbor of Humboldt Bay. Not a sailor? Bring or rent toys for paddling, surfing, rafting, biking and hiking. Take a pack-mule trip. Heck, just find naked swimming holes in any of the county’s six rivers. Humboldt’s a bounty of adventure — especially if you stray into the wrong pot patch.
Girls Spa Weekend
Don’t let the lack of an actual cannabis spa in the Bay Area keep you and your BFFs from enjoying a cannabis spa weekend in Marin County. DIY and BYO, girls. Load up on body-soothing edibles, topicals and frozen raw cannabis juice shots. Hike the Headlands. Soak up Sausalito. Book a private cannabis products demo for you and your besties.
For the bros
If the Ratpack (and not just Peter Lawford) had been stoners, it would be all buds and bros in Tahoe today. Wait — it is. Solar hits and back-country boarding. Ganja-fueled gambling at Stateline. Plus proximity to Nevada dispensaries and brothels. Free haircut if you’re lucky.
Perfect for The Parents
Sacramento is a political town, but even cannabis regulation and taxation take back seats to the interest in the Kings’ new downtown arena. The city’s culinary scene sizzles and beckons even San Francisco food critics. To spark your appetite for Sacramento’s farm-to-fork fare, or to quell the nauseating hype of the new arena, medical cannabis patients can smoke throughout the state capital’s walkable and bikeable downtown neighborhoods — even on the Capitol steps. Stick to the city core and you may not need a car.