On January 1, 2018, California begins adult-use cannabis sales, and despite the awful wildfires that have wreaked havoc with Northern California’s cannabis crop, the state is still on track to become the largest recreational market in the country for cannabis. I’m in San Francisco as I write this, checking out how the state is prepared for a fully legalized recreational market. (I’ll be headed to LA for next week’s column—for a state that has the planet’s sixth largest economy, two columns barely scratches the surface.)
While I’m here, I’ve decided to get my California medical marijuana (MMJ) card. A Google search lands me on nuggmd.com, which has me upload a copy of my Oregon ID and some basic info, including what ails me. I pay $69, and two minutes later, a doctor calls me and asks how cannabis helps me with my stress and insomnia. I’ve barely answered when he says I qualify; 30 seconds later, his recommendation arrives in my inbox while we are still talking. He says San Francisco dispensaries have more liberal rules in allowing in MMJ cardholders even if they do not have a California ID, but when I’m in LA, I should use delivery services. Point scored for California for being faster, cheaper, and more convenient.
I get some recommendations for local dispensaries, although finding one isn’t exactly a problem. (As I leave one, I count off less than 50 steps before I’m at the front door of another.) My Lyft driver is twentysomething, and when my vape pen falls out of my bag and rolls across the seat, he picks it up and laughs. We trade pens and take a couple hits. “Daaaaaaaahym, man, yours is MUCH better,” the driver says. “What IS that?” Point: Oregon.
I visit four dispensaries. The first is divided up into a room each for flower, edibles, and concentrates. The flower room has bulletproof glass and a banker-style window. Flower is prepackaged, and I can only buy certain strains by the gram, or by 2- to 3.5-gram parcels. I tell the budtender the same thing I’ll repeat at each of my stops—that I’m interested in terpenes over THC content, want a sativa and indica, and am looking for organically grown cannabis.
The budtender in the concentrate room is adamant in his assessment that my request for a solvent-free concentrate is “what is up, man. Solvent free is what is up.” He’s also high AF, and shows me some live resin. I say all the resin I have seen is made with butane (and therefore isn’t solvent-free). He blinks at me several times. “Yeah, well, I mean... this stuff... it’s, like, double purged, so, like all the solvents are gone, you know? Plus it smells real good.” Point: Oregon, for budtender knowledge.
I check out their “vapor lounge,” which is up a flight of stairs in a loft. It’s a large, sunlit room filled with couches, bistro tables, a pool table, and TVs on mute. Bob Marley is playing, because of course it is. I count 26 other patrons as I smoke my free pre-roll of the Girl Scout Cookies strain. No one talks to me as I do; then again, “approachable” isn’t usually a term people use to describe me.
The next dispensary has a row of private booths 10 feet across the room from the counter selling cannabis. Trading my ID for a freshly sterilized Volcano mouthpiece, I vape a bowl of some Durban Poison and watch others shop. Again, no one chats me up. (Point: California. THIS is AWESOME.)
The third dispensary has friendly budtenders with a better understanding of solvent free, and I buy some bubble hash from a farm that touts their biodynamic grow methods.
The fourth and final dispensary is the best, with a fantastic selection of flower, full-melt hash from the legendary Frenchy Cannoli, and the most knowledgeable budtender yet. This place even has a lighted magnifying glass at the counter, in order to best showcase their absolute top-shelf flower. It’s difficult not to buy more.
California wins in terms of ease of access, lower taxes, and dispensaries where you can consume on site. Oregon wins in terms of stricter testing standards, better oils, and more craft cannabis. But four dispensaries isn’t a fully comprehensive sample, as the Bay Area has a thousand-plus dispensaries—or at least that’s anyone’s best guess. Regulation is a bit lax down here.
On Blogtown, I’ll be going into more depth about the individual products I picked up—including a complete list of what I paid for and thought of each product, and how they compared to Oregon cannabis. And next week I hit Los Angeles.