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Weekend Traveler

High time for recreational cannabis

The Green Door is one of California's oldest dispensaries. Photo: Patty Burness

The legalization of recreational cannabis means access to the industry has increased, including for tourism. Still in their infancy, cannabis tours are coming into their own. Companies are staking out their turf and feverishly working with dispensaries and farms to arrange experiences for prospective customers. And dispensaries are looking into the potential of tours to help cultivate their customer’s experience. This is all occurring amid the challenge of an evolving regulatory climate.

Recently, I explored some options in San Francisco and beyond.

SAN FRANCISCO

Green Guide Tours educates customers about the history of marijuana as they push to destigmatize it. Created by a passionate native San Franciscan, the two casual walking tours (Culture and Bud Crawl) offer insights into how the industry has evolved to what it is today with an introduction to the various kinds of dispensaries available to the public.

The Culture Tour begins in Union Square, then wends its way to Yerba Buena Gardens, with a guide recounting the legend of cannabis from its first use in China thousands of years ago for medicinal purposes to when it was brought to the United States in the late 1500s to early 1600s. The story goes on to describe the prohibition of marijuana during the last 100 years because some believed it to be a gateway drug. The tour winds down with a description of how the use of cannabis has changed since its legalization for recreational consumption.

The longer Bud Crawl starts in Yerba Buena Gardens and works its way from one dispensary to the next covering the science of marijuana and its medical applications. The dispensary visits let you see firsthand how the industry has matured. The tour is fairly laid-back (there is a liability release to sign) so customers can decide as they go how many dispensaries they’re interested in visiting. There are a variety of dispensaries in San Francisco, especially near Mission Street in SOMA, the path of the Bud Crawl.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, some dispensaries are changing their look and feel for a more upscale ambience as the usage rules shake out. Most offer similar products (flowers, edibles, topicals, concentrates, and so forth, as well as vapes, grinders and other equipment), and are usually available at dispensaries online and via delivery. Find special events, happy hours, demos, discounts (seniors and veterans) and much more as the business models change and specific audiences are targeted (check websites for details). On-site consumption lounges depend on a dispensary’s license.

Green Guide has expanded, purchased a bus and now offers a variety of tours (415-448-8077, greenguide.tours).

The first stop was The Green Door. This low-key dispensary opened in San Francisco in 2005, making it one of the longest operating in the state. Bud tenders are friendly and knowledgeable, and the place has the vibe of a neighborhood haunt. They are equally passionate about the community and get involved through cleaning up Hippie Hill after 4/20 festivities to partnering with several brands to donate a portion of proceeds to nonprofits. Look for design changes this fall (415-541-9590, greendoorsf.com/).

The Barbary Coast Dispensary is a local favorite. The interior is a throwback to the days of a speakeasy with its clubby atmosphere, oversized stuffed leather banquettes, and red brocade wallpaper. Bud tenders sell flowers at the bar and there’s a lounge where you can sit and sample purchased goods. Various equipment is available for use in the lounge (415-243-4400, barbarycoastsf.org/).

Enter Barbary Coast. Photo: Nick Wadler Photography

Enter Barbary Coast. Photo: Nick Wadler Photography

The smaller Bloom Room still has big offers for its no-charge membership, including the Vapor Lounge, cannabis consults, free massages, and a good selection of high-grade products. Dedicated to the community, the dispensary offers monthly activities for volunteers to get involved and celebrates local artists with monthly displays (415-543-7666, bloomroomsf.com/).

Stop in at the Bloom Room. Photo: Patty Burness

Stop in at the Bloom Room. Photo: Patty Burness

The Apothecarium Marina is exploring becoming a part of cannabis tours, but currently, they are one of three locations in the city, so you can create your own tour. I visited the Lombard Street location, a medical and recreational dispensary with a neo-Victorian storefront, and an interior design mix of modern and traditional. The cannabis consultants are well informed and can help you determine what’s best to meet your needs. It’s a sociable place to buy high-quality cannabis products (415-408-6986, apothecarium.com/).

Find what you need at The Apothecarium. Photo: Patty Burness

Find what you need at The Apothecarium. Photo: Patty Burness

SONOMA COUNTY

The Wine and Cannabis Experience offered by The Sonoma County Wine Experience is a day-long tour that helps remove the “drug stigma” by focusing on the similarities between wine and cannabis. Visit wineries and a cannabis dispensary with lunch at a traditional farm that grows cannabis, too. (The company also offers a craft beer and cannabis experience.)

Start in Fisherman’s Wharf where you board a comfortable bus. After a quick stop at Vista Point to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge, the ride continues north with mimosa in hand. As you go, the guide takes you through the cultivation of both grapes and cannabis, and then the real fun begins at the wineries and dispensaries (707-327-2063, thesonomacountyexperience.com/).

Larson Family Winery has a fun outdoor space that’s been an integral part of their ranch for years; it’s the perfect place to relax and taste wine. Especially good were the 2015 Pinot Noir and the 2014 Three Lab Cab (707-938-3031, larsonfamilywinery.com/).

Taste Hook & Ladder along the Sonoma County Wine & Cannabis Experience. Photo: Patty Burness

Taste Hook & Ladder along the Sonoma County Wine & Cannabis Experience. Photo: Patty Burness

At Hook & Ladder, started by a San Francisco firefighter, with a tasting room of firehouse memorabilia, find interesting wines like the 2014 Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Los Amigos Ranch (707-526-2255, hookandladderwinery.com/).

Solful is the one dispensary on the tour (there are few currently licensed in Sonoma). They’ve created a welcoming environment with their Health and Happiness consultants, eager to point out the benefits of cannabis and to find the right products for you. There’s even a handy guide to get the most out of cannabis (707-596-9040, solful.com/).

Visit Solful. Photo: Patty Burness

Visit Solful. Photo: Patty Burness

At Sonoma Hills Farm, guests experience a working farm whose crops include cannabis. The tour includes lunch with the head farmer and getting up close with the animals and cannabis plants in a demonstration garden. Permits are still in process; this farm stop was recently added and was not included on my tour (facebook.com/sonomahillsfarm).

 

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Patty Burness can be found on Twitter (@pattygb), Instagram (pburness) and reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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