Photo Credit: Jordan Riggins
Washington, DC: With Trump in the White House and Jeff Sessions, a hard-line prohibitionist, as the nation’s top cop, D.C. is not the most obvious place to go for your weed needs. It is probably the closest destination to Athens where you can legally get your smoke on. But, like everything in that strange city, it is not easy to navigate.
The laws governing cannabis in the District are bizarre, and almost strangely utopian. A resident can grow six plants—12 per household—and give away up to an ounce. But you can’t buy or sell it, or smoke it in public or in coffee shops or bars. It cuts out all of the money—or tries to. As with everything in Washington, money will creep in.
But the skinny is, it is a terrible weed town for tourists and a great one for people who live there. Occasionally there will be a mass giveaway. As an act of civil disobedience, MJDC, the group primarily responsible for making it legal, gave away thousands of joints, which people openly burned around Dupont Circle. The lines, it seemed, were about as long as, or longer than, those to get into the the inauguration.
If you really want to book it right now, there is the DC Edibles Festival on Apr. 23. Dozens of vendors are signed up and, presumably (details are a little vague), your $25 ticket gets you access to those edibles, since you can’t legally purchase them from the vendors.
This is the way capitalism seems intent on entering the market. There are a number of services that allow you to make a donation for a delivery or buy something else—a popsicle or whatever—and it comes with weed.
But be careful. Weed is kosher in the District, but not on federal property. And especially if you’re hanging around the tourist areas, it’s really hard to know when you are on federal land or not, so it’s best to assume you are. You probably won’t get searched, but you still don’t want to fire up with Lincoln at his memorial one night.
Denver: We’d eaten the giant, green-chile-soaked burritos at the Sam’s No. 3 diner in downtown Denver, right after we got to town. It was near all the fancy convention hotels and stuff, but it was not a fancy place. Cheap burritos. Cheap beer. We loved it from the moment we walked in.
But not nearly as much as we did the next day, after we’d found Native Roots around the corner. Then it was out-of-this-world good—from the sizzle of the chile to the fizz of the beer, it felt ecstatic. That’s because I’d eaten a couple edibles and had a couple hits from a vape pen.
In Denver, the weed stores are really beautiful. In Native Roots, you go in, and they check your ID before letting you into the shopping area, where you wait in line and then point out what you want from behind the counter. Bring cash; because of the violations of federal law, they won’t take credit or debit cards. You also aren’t allowed to consume on the premises, so if you're staying at a regular hotel, get something discrete like a vape pen, or look for a hostel, hotel or Airbnb that is 420-friendly (they’re out there).
Another place—I can’t remember the name because I was so high—was set up more like an Apple Store, with wooden floors and tables with big buds in jars with nets over the mouths, so you couldn’t touch the buds but could still smell them, and iPads beside them with all of the relevant information.
But people aren’t just visiting Colorado for cannabis; they’re moving there. After recreational pot was legalized in 2012, the population grew by over 100,000. Even if you don’t smoke, the call of the weed is strong. The legal weed industry provided 18,000 jobs and generated nearly $2.5 billion in 2015. Last year in Denver, sales reached $1 billion.
But don’t pack up yet. According to some sources, this influx of people and money has also led to gentrification and a housing crisis. But there are also all those people who are still living there instead of, you know, prison somewhere. And there are so many people coming for the business, some growers say it’s like farming anywhere and anything else in America now: nearly impossible to make a fair living.
Still, it is a beautiful city up in the mountains—mile-high in every sense—and they won’t throw you in jail for something you decide to do with your own body.
Portland: I haven’t been to Portland in years, and things have changed a lot. But I am hoping to go back soon, so I contacted Chad Dean, a writer who co-founded Splimm, a pot and parenting website, with his wife to ask him what to look out for.
“Portland is a great place to experience the emerging cannabis scene,” he said. “Anyone 21 or older with a valid government ID can purchase up to 1 ounce of flower, 5 grams of concentrate [hash oil], 16 ounces in solid form [like a candy bar], and 72 ounces in liquid form.”
Dean said it’s best to start by heading down Sandy Boulevard on the east side of the Willamette River, which takes you through the “green mile,” which he describes as “a stretch of road adorned with a variety of recreational cannabis shops.” He recommends the dispensary Farma to his friends because of how knowledgeable the budtenders are.
It’s not legal to consume in public at all, so Dean says the best bet is to find an Airbnb, since hotels don’t allow you to smoke on site. “Tourists can try the Northwest Cannabis Club, which has an entry fee of $20 for the first visit and $5 for every additional trip. Smoking is permitted outside on the patio, and they have some equipment for vaporizing inside. It’s BYO everything else, though.”
Barcelona: People are calling Barcelona the “new Amsterdam,” which is in some ways true, but in many others misleading. It has become the capital of European cannabis cultivation and where all of the bomb seeds and interesting genetic breeding work are going on. So from the cultivator’s perspective, it is the new Amsterdam. From the consumer’s perspective, considerably less so.
That’s because all of the great cannabis clubs are private and work like collectives. Members started pooling their money together to get someone to grow for them so they could escape the black market. They argued that they were free to do what they wanted with their own bodies and, since Franco died and the country emerged from fascism, they were free to associate with whomever they wished. “They also say it is a sickness,” said Anna Obradors, a cannabis consultant. “And they can’t outlaw sickness.”
Obradors took me to one of these truly private clubs where I would not have been able to go by myself. It was beautiful, and you wouldn’t have noticed it from the street at all. You put money in an account, and when you order something, no money changes hands. It was like the nicest coffeeshop you could think of, a great place to sit and read and do some work—but it had dozens of varieties of hash and beautiful, often organically grown buds of every sort.
But even if you don’t know anyone, you’ll be fine. The first time we walked through the Gothic Quarter, someone approached us and asked us if we smoked weed. We followed him around the corner to a little place behind a big cathedral. We had to pay a 20 Euro membership fee and show our passports. Then a second door opened, and we entered a small dark bar with some stools, couches and a pool table.
The weed wasn’t nearly as good as at the private place, and the selection wasn’t stunning. But there were three or four sativas and a few indicas. It wasn’t bad, and they provide papers and bongs and whatever you need, and you can just order a beer or a soda and sit and chill.
Evidently, these places get shut down pretty regularly for catering to tourists. The address on our membership card was actually for the former incarnation of our club, so when we looked for it again, we couldn’t find it—only a shut green door. But we knew it wasn’t the same place, and we found the church and our spot.
It’s a spectacular city even without weed, but if you’re a head, the beautiful architecture and ancient streets, the sea and sky, the voluble and outgoing people and the exceptional tapas and drinks are all enhanced by the weed—a stoner’s dream.