Madison is, like many other cities, a kind of marijuana minefield. In the 1970s, the Common Council took a decidedly libertarian approach, and changed its ordinances to read: “A person may casually possess marijuana or cannabis in a private place. Such casual possession is not a crime and is not subject to forfeiture.”
But the state of Wisconsin isn’t so forgiving — not even a medical marijuana program has gotten far in the Legislature, let alone recreational use. So if you really want to go hog-wild, Madison probably isn’t your joint. Don’t worry, though. In honor of 4/20, here’s a handy travel guide for the serious toker.
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.
The laws governing cannabis in the District are bizarre — and almost strangely utopian. A resident can grow six plants — two 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 the money — or tries to. As everything in Washington, money will creep in.
It ends up being 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 that is primarily responsible for making it legal, gave away thousands of joints on Inauguration Day, which people openly burnt around Dupont Circle. The lines, it seemed, were about as long as those to get into the the inauguration.
If you really want to book it right now, there is the DC Edibles Fest on April 23. Dozens of vendors are signed up and, presumably, 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.
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 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, Euflora, was set up more like an Apple Store — 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 weed is strong. The legal weed industry provided 18,000 jobs and generated nearly $2.5 billion dollars 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.
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, to ask him what to look out for.
“Portland is a great place to experience the emerging cannabis scene,” Dean says. “Anyone 21 or older with a valid government ID can purchase up to one ounce of flower, five grams of concentrate [hash oil], 16 ounces in solid form [like a candy bar], and 72 ounces in liquid form.”
Dean says 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.”
Dean 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,” Dean says.
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 it’s where all the bomb seeds and interesting genetic breeding work is 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 that 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 however they wish. “They also say it is a sickness,” says Anna Obredors, a cannabis consultant, “and they can’t outlaw sickness.”
Obredors took me to one of these truly private clubs that I would not have been able to go to by myself. It was beautiful, and you wouldn’t have noticed it from the street at all. You put money on an account and then 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 if we smoked weed. We followed him around the corner to a small little place behind a big cathedral. We had to pay a 20 Euros 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.
Even after getting much better weed, we still frequented this club — because you didn’t have to buy something new every time. And it was in the Gothic Quarter so if we were on our way to the Picasso Museum or Gaudi’s Casa Batllo we could stop in, have a toke, and then go enjoy ourselves.
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.