Hey there, intrepid traveler! Welcome to one of the best places to smoke pot in the world. Not only is our weed amazing, it’s also legal—and there’s no shortage of beautiful mountains, amazing food, interesting art, and quality music to combine your pot with. So let me help you find the right pot for your visit to Portland.
Walking into a legal weed shop for the first time can be an intimidating experience for a lot of people. After decades of pot being criminalized, it’s natural for people to be a bit nervous when they belly up to the bud counter. Even for me, a pot writer who has visited legal pot shops hundreds of times in multiple states, it still feels surreal every time I buy weed. I have to pinch myself and ask, “Is this really legal?!”
Yes, it is legal! Under Oregon State law, anyone 21 and older can legally purchase weed from a licensed store. Pot is still, however, completely illegal in the federal government’s eyes, so a DEA agent or federal marshal can still arrest anyone purchasing or consuming cannabis. While there continues to be a lot of questions about how the Trump administration will enforce federal pot laws, it’s extremely unlikely that the hammer will come down on individual users like you and me.
So let’s go pot shopping! Just like when you go to a bar, you should have your ID ready before walking into a pot store. This is to verify that you are of legal age; retailers are prohibited by Oregon law from recording, retaining, or transferring your personal information. After you prove that you are at least 21, you’ll be introduced to your budtender and your personalized weed-shopping experience begins. This is where things can get confusing. In our state, weed is not a singular thing—there are dozens of different types of products infused with weed and thousands of different varieties of pot plants. A good budtender will kindly walk you through the specifics of different products and different brands, but here’s a little guide to what you can find.
What to Get: Flower, Edibles, or Concentrates?
Let’s start with the simplest product—flower. This is the green nugget of awesomeness that you can grind up, put into a glass pipe, smoke, and voilà—you’re stoned! We call these sticky little nuggets “flower” because they are literally the flowers of the cannabis plant. (You’ll often hear Portlanders say “cannabis” instead of “marijuana”—cannabis is the scientific name for the plant, while the word “marijuana” has an ugly history of being coopted from Latin American Spanish by the American government as a way of racially stigmatizing and criminalizing pot.)
There are two subspecies of the cannabis plant: indica and sativa. The types of high produced by each subspecies is considered by some people to be different, so most pot shops divide their flower selections into three categories—indica, sativa, or a hybrid of the two. Indica is said to be more of a relaxing body high, and sativa is thought of as a more energetic mental high. Don’t think of these as hard rules, though—there’s lots of evidence that every modern pot plant is a hybrid of indica and sativa, and predicting what kind of specific high you will get is a questionable exercise.
Cannabis flowers are filled with a group of chemicals called cannabinoids that make humans high. The cannabis plant naturally produces these chemicals, as do our own bodies, although the specifics of how and why these chemicals make us high is a matter of debate among scientists. The most powerful of these cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol, usually shortened to THC. While THC is not the only cannabinoid that gets you high, it is the strongest, so we can use THC as a good barometer of how strong a cannabis product is. The legal weed you’ll find in Oregon is considerably stronger than the reefer of the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, a cannabis flower was rarely more than 10 percent THC by weight. Walk into one of Portland’s pot shops today, and you’ll find hundreds of strains with more than 20 percent THC, with some even testing over the 30 percent mark.
But don’t just shop for the highest THC possible—some of my favorite strains test around 15 percent THC.
If you don’t have a pipe to put your flower in or the will to roll your own joint, you can skip a step by buying the weed tourist’s best friend: a pre-rolled joint. These are already perfectly rolled and are sold in singles or in cute little joint packs. Because it’s easy to conceal inferior weed in a sealed joint, I recommend splurging and not buying the cheapest joint possible.
You can also avoid smoking and opt for one of the many products infused with weed. It seems like I see a different food infused with pot every time I walk into a pot shop, so there’s something for every person’s taste. Whether you’re eating weed chocolates or bud-laced peanuts, or drinking pop or coffee with pot in it, the label will indicate how many milligrams of THC are in each serving. This is a crucial piece of information. Unlike smoking weed—which will affect you almost immediately—it takes about 30 minutes to an hour before you get high from eating weed. That means an impatient edible consumer can get way too high by eating too much before seeing the effects. It’s impossible to overdose on THC, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hurt yourself by getting too high and then freaking out.
I recommend starting with five or 10 milligrams of THC, and then waiting a full hour to see how it affects you. You can always eat more weed if you’re not feeling high enough, but there’s nothing but time to reverse the feeling of being way too high.
Speaking of being way too high, there’s a third class of products at our bud stores called concentrates. They go by dozens of different annoyingly similar names, but they are all essentially types of hash—a substance full of pot’s active chemicals without much plant matter. These concentrates can test at more than 90 percent THC and can be spread on top of a bowl of flower, rolled into a joint, or vaporized in a special type of water pipe called a dab rig.
At their worst, concentrates are the moonshine of the cannabis plant—an extremely potent drug that tastes like shit and will leave you in a no-fun stoned stupor. But at their best, concentrates are the essence of top-shelf weed with the best pot flavors and a powerfully uplifting high. Top-shelf concentrates are arguably the most interesting part of legal weed, and my money is on them only increasing their share of the pot market. If you really love pot, I would recommend finding a way to dab a top-shelf concentrate—it’s an amazing experience.
If you are still unsure about what you want to buy, feel free to ask your budtender any and all questions you have about the products they are selling. We’ve left the days of pot prohibition behind—when you would need to set up awkward interactions with a drug dealer and feel pressured into buying something. So if for some reason you don’t feel like buying the products a pot shop is selling, simply say “thank you” and leave empty-handed.
Where to Imbibe
Now that you have your bud, it’s time to smoke—and here’s where it can get a little bit inconvenient for visitors. Currently, you can smoke weed only on private property in Oregon, so you can’t legally light up while you’re walking down the street. If you’re staying in a hotel’s designated smoking room, you can legally smoke weed IF the hotel permits it. (Inquire with your accommodation before you light up, though, as some hotels have strangely draconian policies regarding smoking weed.) State law also forbids any Amsterdam-style weed cafés, which is a real bummer. Lobbyists are hoping to change that.
That being said, you can still reasonably get away with discreetly smoking weed in public in Portland. A cop isn’t likely to waste their time with you if you’re being unobtrusive and smoking away from any big crowds. And if a cop does decide to investigate a stinky smell, they may try to avoid writing a ticket if possible. With luck, they’ll just ask you to put it out and move on. Nevertheless, be careful: If you do get a ticket, you don’t have to worry about going to jail, but consuming weed in public is still considered a class B violation with a maximum fine of $1,000.
Don’t Do This
Driving while stoned is not treated lightly. If you are pulled over, a cop can make you do a field sobriety test, and if they have reason to suspect you are stoned, you’ll be detained and be required to undergo further tests. There aren’t breathalyzers or blood tests, but if you fail the various screening methods, you will be in big trouble. Don’t drive stoned, period.