5 Cannabis Breeders Who Changed the Game

5 Cannabis Breeders Who Changed the Game

[Editor’s Note: These are the breeders who paved the road to our happiness. They’ve changed the cannabis game with the creation of strains you purchase today. This article rightfully honors them.]

Cannabis—like asparagus, dates, mulberry, ginkgo, persimmons, and spinach—is a dioecious species, meaning that the male and female reproductive structures involved in propagation are typically found on different individual plants, rather than on a single plant (as in a monoecious species). Cannabis is also an annual, so it dies off each winter, but not before dropping seeds that will sprout the following spring, allowing the cycle of life to continue for another year.

In nature, those seeds form in the late autumn—when the male plants pollinate the females. Each time such pollination takes place the result is a genetically unique seed—one that contains DNA from both of its parents—but without the direct involvement of human beings, the amount of genetic diversity seen from generation to generation is practically pretty limited.

In theory, each time two unique varieties are crossed in this way, the result is a wholly new strain. But in practice, only the most successful of these hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts. Adding to the complexity (and potential confusion) of this process is the fact that until relatively recently, all of this breeding still took place in the underground, so the documentation of who created what and how is often unknown or in dispute.

But that’s just all the more reason to properly identify and honor the amazing cannabis breeders of yore who performed the alchemical feat of bringing into the world all-new, genetically distinct cannabis varietals that truly changed the game.

Dave Watson (a.k.a. “Sam the Skunkman”)

One of the most fascinating and controversial figures in cannabis history, Dave Watson (far better known as “Sam the Skunkman”) is lauded by some and vilified by others, but nobody can dispute the outsized role he’s played in the once very small world of cannabis breeders.

Watson’s journey began in Santa Cruz, California in the 1970s, where he was linked to two of the earliest cannabis breeding outfits to ever gain notoriety—the Haze Brothers and Sacred Seed Collective—both of which were instrumental in developing the early hybrid strains that helped transform American “homegrown” cannabis from a ditchweed laughingstock to the envy of the world.

In 1985, Watson was reportedly arrested on cannabis charges in California. A month later, he landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, allegedly with a box of 250,000 seeds that included Skunk #1, Original Haze, and Afghani #1—all of which had been bred or stabilized by his cannabis compatriots. Watson met immediately with emissaries from Amsterdam’s burgeoning cannabis scene, which at the time relied largely on imported hashish to supply its coffeeshops.

Along with Robert Colonel Clarke (Author of Hashish! and Marijuana Botany), he would go on to form Hortapharm, a company dedicated to collecting cannabis seeds from around the world, both to create a stable genetic library and to breed new hybrids with desirable traits. By the late 1990s, they were doing business with Dr. Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is now licensed by the British government to cultivate cannabis for use in making “whole-plant extracts” with specific ratios of THC and CBD for use as prescription medicines.

GW has since created “the first cannabis plant-derived medicine ever approved by the FDA,” but at the time, the company was in its earliest stages and still looking for cannabis seed stock to use in developing its pharmaceutical preparations.

Ben Dronkers

In the late 1960s, Netherlands native Ben Dronkers sailed on merchant ships to exotic ports of call, where he initially sought out fabric to start his own clothing company, but eventually began collecting local cannabis seeds instead. In time, his collection was truly unparalleled and boasted genetics from throughout Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. He then used those landrace strains to breed his own hybrids.

In 1985, Dronkers formed Sensi Seed Bank and began offering for sale the strains he’d collected and hybrids he’d created, including after crossing his own discoveries with recently arrived American varietals.

Among his most endearing and enduring contributions: Jack Herer, one of the all time most popular cannabis strains, named for one of the all-time most influential cannabis activists.

DJ Short

“#DjShortNewberry #DjShort. The red hue is from unintentional light bleaching. Photo and grow cred goes to: @secondgenerationgenetics” (@secondgenerationgenetics/Instagram)

According to a lengthy 2013 Grantland profile titled “The Willie Wonka of Pot,” DJ Short—the legendary, nearly mythical cannabis breeder behind Blueberry and many other classic strains—is part of a long line of plant medicine workers. His great-grandmother “used to grow pot, opium, tobacco, sage, and lavender in a backyard garden. The curtains in his grandmother’s house were made of hemp. His family used to joke, ‘If the house catches on fire, stay in for a little while and breathe.’”

Eventually he began collecting cannabis seeds from the bags of cannabis he bought as a teenager, carefully logging them and making detailed notes, as much later related in his own 2003 book Cultivating Exceptional Cannabis: An Expert Breeder Shares His Secrets:

Colombian Gold (“The smell was that of sandalwood incense, almost frankincense, and the flavor was that of a peppery incense cedar … truly psychedelic, powerful and long lasting”), Chocolate Thai (“deep, rich, chocolate, nutty, woody/spicy”); Jamaican (“Too damned strong and speedy! … It is a heart-lifting herb and I have a sensitive heart. So I am careful with the samples of the commercial J-ganga that I try”).

Then one day, in 1973, after moving to Oregon, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the sativa seeds he’d collected as a youth, but he found they took too long to mature and yielded too little. Next he tried smoking some indica, but found it didn’t stoke his inspiration or spark his imagination the same way as sativa.

So he set up a 16-square-foot closet grow and began to breed his own strains, mixing sativa and indica varietals and scrupulously smoking the results until he produced not just Blueberry, a marquee strain with the hue and aroma of fresh berries, but also Flo, Blue Velvet, Azure Haze, Whitaker Blues, Vanilluna, and many other varieties that have collectively changed the game—as has DJ Short’s tireless research into cultivation and breeding practices, a lifelong pursuit he continues today.

DNA Genetics

Don and Aaron (the D and A of DNA Genetics) met in Southern California and initially enjoyed the symbiotic relationship of weed dealer and customer. Then they became friends. And finally business partners.

There was never any question that they’d enter the cannabis business, as both men share a true and abiding passion for the plant. But rather than try to compete in the still grey market medical cannabis industry developing in the United States at the time, in 2004 they decided to pull up stakes and open up shop in The Netherlands.

The move put them in direct contact with Amsterdam’s legendary cannabis scene, which had been serving as a center of breeding and seed banks since the days of Dave Watson and Ben Dronkers back in the 1980s.

As new kids on the block, Don and Aaron brought with them not just enthusiasm and youthful energy, but also a whole new generation of prized California genetics which they used to create next-level cannabis hybrids like LA Confidential, Chocolope, Tangie, and Kosher Kush.

More recently, they’ve moved their operations back to California, where they’re firmly established among the largest and most respected cannabis brands in the game today.

Lawrence Ringo

Before humans began actively breeding cannabis strains for desired traits, the plant produced much less THC than it does now, and lots more CBD—perhaps even a 1:1 ratio of its two best known and most plentiful cannabinoids. But because CBD isn’t intoxicating like THC, underground breeders seeking higher highs for decades unwittingly bred CBD out of the cannabis gene pool.

Well aware of CBD’s therapeutic potential, however, in 2010 a non-profit organization called Project CBD formed to boost research into the compound, and help identify and proliferate what few CBD-rich cannabis varietals remained in circulation. From its inception, Project CBD partnered with California’s commercial cannabis testing labs to flag any bud testing high in CBD, in order to build up a breeding stock of high-CBD strains.

Sour Tsunami—bred by Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt Seed Collective—was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain they found in California, a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.

Ringo himself had begun growing as early as 1971, though he remained largely in the underground until 2010 when he founded his seed company. That’s also when he had his crops lab tested for the first time, and discovered the unique medicinal properties of Sour Tsunami were due to its high CBD content (around 11%). From then until the end of his life in 2014, he focused on developing additional CBD-rich strains, including Harle-Tsu, Canna-Tsu, Swiss-Tsu, and ACDC.

Original Post: Leafly: 5 Cannabis Breeders Who Changed the Game

The Most Impactful Cannabis Studies of All Time

The Most Impactful Cannabis Studies of All Time

Ed. Note: Consistently over the ages, studies have shown cannabis to be of societal or therapeutic value. These are studies many of us have never heard about, until now… For history and cannabis enthusiasts!

The following compendium of landmark cannabis studies is exclusively focused on top-level research that either fundamentally advanced our understanding of the plant’s therapeutic properties, or thoroughly debunked some pernicious piece of official misinformation—such as “smoking weed gives you lung cancer.”

But that’s only half the story when it comes to the intersection of science and cannabis. So before we get to the good stuff, let’s start with an unfortunately typical example of the kind of spurious evidence that has been consistently used over the last hundred years to support the government’s all-out war on cannabis.

Our story begins in 1974, when Dr. Robert Galbraith Heath published research conducted at Tulane University, where he chaired the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology. Today, the late Dr. Heath is a controversial figure in the world of neuroscience, largely due to his pioneering efforts to study deep brain stimulation (a.k.a. electro-shock) as a “conversion therapy” for homosexuals, and his willing participation in illegal, CIA-led human experiments of a “brainwashing” drug called bulbocapnine. But at the time, his credentials remained impeccable.

And so, when Heath produced findings supposedly showing that “the active ingredient in marijuana [THC] impairs the brain’s circuitry,” the press dutifully ran headlines claiming “Pot Causes Brain Damage” without a trace of skepticism. While anti-cannabis politicians like then California Governor Ronald Reagan immediately seized on the study as evidence that cannabis was far too dangerous to even consider legalizing. Like many federally funded studies of the era, Heath’s research was deeply flawed. In Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, author Martin Lee calls out his exceedingly small study of rhesus monkeys as “a textbook case of scientific fraud.”

“Shackled in air tight gas masks, Heath’s monkeys were [regularly] forced to inhale the equivalent of 63 high-potency marijuana cigarettes in five minutes. Lo and behold, the primates suffered brain damage from suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning, but Heath attributed the results to marijuana toxicity”

Heath’s findings were never replicated, and several prominent follow up studies—including one at the National Center for Toxicology Research—directly repudiated his conclusions.

Then in 2003, the US Department of Health and Human Services was granted a patent on “cannabinoids as neuroprotectants,” based on evidence that compounds found in the cannabis plant not only don’t cause brain damage, they’re actually effective in “limiting neurological damage following…stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

To this day, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic—a categorization that flies in the face of not just the latest cutting-edge research into the plant’s incredible medicinal potential, but also some of the oldest medical texts in existence. For example, The Divine Farmer’s Herb Root Classic (2727 BC)—widely considered the world’s oldest pharmacopeia—lists cannabis among the “supreme elixirs of immortality,” and recommends it as a superior treatment for “constipation, ‘female weakness,’ gout, malaria, and rheumatism.”

And as our list of landmark cannabis studies makes clear, that’s just for starters.

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (1894)

In 1893, India was under British rule, and the colonial government became concerned about the amount of cannabis (i.e., “hemp drugs”) being consumed by the locals. So teams of British and Indian medical professionals were dispatched throughout the country to collect information on not just the health effects of cannabis, but also the social and moral impact.

The result was a massive research paper (over 3,000 pages), with recorded testimony from almost 1,200 “doctors, coolies, yogis, fakirs, heads of lunatic asylums, bhang peasants, tax gatherers, smugglers, army officers, hemp dealers, ganja palace operators, and the clergy.”  Nearly all of the data in the seven volume report bolstered two key conclusions: moderate cannabis consumption is either relatively harmless or beneficial, and cannabis prohibition would be supremely unjust.

“To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so gracious an herb as hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance,” the report concluded. For the next 50 years, this research would stand as the most thorough and scientifically rigorous available.  

The Laguardia Report (1944)

(Gillian Levine for Leafly)

In direct response to the Reefer Madness-era misinformation campaigns of Harry J. Anslinger (head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics), New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia commissioned a blue ribbon panel of leading doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacologists, chemists and sociologists, and tasked them with making a thorough investigation of cannabis based on a comprehensive review of all available scientific literature, plus primary research.

Released as The La Guardia Report, the landmark study earned the endorsement of the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine, while unambiguously declaring that the prohibition of cannabis fails the smell test.

“Marijuana, like alcohol, does not alter the basic personality,” the report’s authors concluded. “Marijuana does not of itself give rise to antisocial behavior. There is no evidence to suggest that the continued use of marihuana is a steppingstone to the use of opiates. Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use. Quite the contrary, marihuana and its derivatives and allied synthetics have potentially valuable therapeutic applications which merit future investigation.”

The Discovery of THC (1964)

When a team of Israeli researchers led by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam first discovered THC in 1964 and identified it as the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, that was not just a breakthrough in our collective understanding of cannabis—it also led to a series of breakthroughs in our understanding of how the human body functions.

By the late 1980s, this would include the discovery of an entirely new system in the body—the endocannabinoid system—which can be thought of as your “root-level operating system,” a kind of central processing unit that regulates and alters the functioning of many other important systems and keeps them in balance.

Leafly’s comprehensive explainer on the endocannabinoid system breaks down exactly how it works, and why its discovery was groundbreaking not just for medicinal cannabis, but for medicine in general.

The Shafer Commission Report (1972)

After studying cannabis for more than two years, a team of experts hand-picked by President Richard M. Nixon returned with a set of recommendations that started with immediately removing all criminal penalties for cannabis, including “casual distributions of small amounts,” since “neither the marijuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.”

“Criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use…It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.”

Known collectively as the Shafer Commission, the eminent researchers that compiled the report knew all-too-well that their findings flew in the face of the government’s official position on legalization, but hoped nonetheless their comprehensive research would spark a fact-based debate of the evidence that would in turn lead to significant reform.

Instead, Nixon attacked the commission and ignored its recommendations, before pushing the whole thing down the memory hole. The very next year, he created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and charged them with waging “all out war” on cannabis.

Original Post: Leafly: The Most Impactful Cannabis Studies of All Time

8 Rare Cannabis Strains Worth Searching High (and Low) For

8 Rare Cannabis Strains Worth Searching High (and Low) For

Here’s another paradox: Anyone seeking out obscure cannabis strains of the distant past—far flung exotic landraces that never made a commercial impact to begin with, or the hottest new hybrids that haven’t yet hit the commercial market—will like have better luck dusting off their old underground dealer rolodex and chasing after leads and clues like some kind of dank detective than they will driving over to their friendly local cannabis store.

Which raises two very significant questions worth addressing before you set off on your rare cannabis quest: Which hard to find strains are worth the effort? And how will you know it’s really the “real deal” once you find it?

What’s to stop someone from claiming to be in possession of a rare cutting of Pre-98 Bubba Kush when all they’ve really got is a run-of-the-mill OG? Nothing really, except honor, decency, and a desire not to be labeled a human paraquat and banished from the scene.


What’s in a Strain Name? A Lot, Actually—but Only If It’s Accurate

But anyway, putting all that unpleasantness aside, I recently indulged in a pleasant little thought experiment by asking some of the world’s leading cannabis connoisseurs two questions:

  1. What’s the rarest strain you’ve ever had the pleasure of smoking?
  2. What’s the one rare strain you’ve never tried but would really love to track down?

Culling through their responses—plus some “big data” supplied by Leafly’s in-house researchers—I put together this highly-subjective list of rare and highly sought after cannabis varietals. Consider this only the start, so please add your “holy grail” strains in the comments. And yeah, if you happen to know where to track down a nice nug or two of Kali Mist, I can be reached via Twitter: @pot_handbook

Chemdawg 91

The history of the Chemdawg (a.k.a. Chem Dog) line of cannabis strains is long, convoluted, and fascinating, with an origin story that dates back to bag seed salvaged from an ounce of primo bud sold on a Grateful Dead tour back in 1991. Perhaps most famous for its incredibly potent progeny—including Sour Diesel, OG Kush, and their many variants and offspring—the original Chemdawg varietal (now known as Chemdawg 91) remains among the most potent, flavorful, and sought after cannabis cuts of all time. Known for its earthy, skunky, diesel aroma and euphoric high, it’s often imitated, but rarely located these days.

Check to see if someone’s got Chemdawg 91 near you.

Mendocino Purps

Direct from the Emerald Triangle—Northern California’s famed cannabis growing region—comes Mendo Purps, one of the classic purple strains with a flavor profile redolent of caramel coffee and woodsy pine. A harbinger of the “Purps” craze that drove the underground weed market in the mid-2000s, the purple pride of Mendocino County started life as a clone-only cutting and remains in sadly short supply.

These dispensaries say they got the Mendo Purps.

Bubba OG

As any cannabis enthusiast in California can attest, there’s no shortage of OG Kush crosses on the market, but one of the oldest and best has largely slipped off the radar. And that’s a shame, because Bubba OG—a hybrid of Pre-98 Bubba Kush and Ghost OG from Canadian breeders Dr. Greenthumb Seeds—delivers the former’s flavor and the latter’s potency, a truly winning combo. BOG (as it’s known to those who remember) can work wonders for chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, and insomnia.

We heard you can find Bubba OG at these shops.

Four Way

Named for its four parents—three distinct landrace strains hailing from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, plus the legendary Skunk #1Four Way is one of the most pungent strains of all time, while also delivering a potent cannabinoid profile with up to 20% THC and 2% CBD. Predominantly indica with creeping sedative effects, this beloved but elusive strain retains the spicy, hashy taste and aroma of its exotic parentage, plus notes of pure stinky skunk.

These shops allegedly carry Four Way.

Sweet Tooth

This classic indica-dominant hybrid was on top of the world after bringing home 1st place at the 2001 High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, but nowadays satisfying your Sweet Tooth will take some serious searching around. A remarkable blend of landrace strains from from Afghanistan, Hawaii, and Nepal, the buds come coated not in sugar, but in resin, and deliver a truly sweet smell of flowers and berries.

We’ve heard tales of Sweet Tooth’s availability at these shops.

NYC Diesel

Winner of five Cannabis Cup trophies back in the early 2000s, NYC Diesel was bred by Soma Sacred Seeds and is a slightly sativa-dominant cross of Mexican and Afghani landraces that retains highly cerebral effects and deep body sedation. Distinguished by its powerful lime and grapefruit aroma, it’s an uplifting, creative, buzzy varietal that doesn’t spark anxiety, making it ideal for social situations.

Find out if NYC Diesel made its way to a dispensary nearby.

Amnesia Haze

Winner of two Cannabis Cups for top sativa (more than a decade apart), Amnesia Haze has ironically been all but forgotten today. Still, it retains a place of high honor in the memory of anyone lucky enough to have sampled the strain’s citrus flavor and experience its uplifting, energizing, buzzy effects. A hybrid of South Asian and Jamaican landrace strains, it became a sensation in Amsterdam more than a decade ago as the featured menu item at a coffeeshop named after the strain.

Or was was the strain named after the coffeeshop?

I forget.

Explore dispensaries stocked with this coffeeshop classic.

Hawaiian Snow

The Original Haze strain dates all the way back to the earliest cannabis breeding efforts of the late 1960s, and remains the standard bearer for all sativa strains to this day. Hawaiian Snow combines the genetics of three of the best Hazes of all time—Neville’s Haze, Pure Haze, and Hawaiian Haze—into one incredible varietal with the smell of spicy-incense accented by hints of citrus and eucalyptus. It also delivers a soaring cerebral high with THC levels that can reach 23% when properly cultivated and harvested a peak potency.

See if Hawaiian Snow has fallen at a dispensary nearby.

Header image by Yarygin/iStock

Original Post: Leafly: 8 Rare Cannabis Strains Worth Searching High (and Low) For

Cannabis Tourism in San Francisco: Exploring With Victor & Fatty Jay

Cannabis Tourism in San Francisco: Exploring With Victor & Fatty Jay

Ed. Note: I saw cannabis tourism advertised in Colorado. When I went into dispensaries, most of the clientele was middle aged or older. Same is true for the dispensaries in Michigan. A lot of people with grey hair are either continuing with their use, are taking it up again after raising a family or decided to try it for the first time. Cool.

On a sunny Saturday morning, Victor Pinho’s cackling laugh rings out above the hustle and bustle outside San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building.  He’s laughing at his own joke while corralling a straight-laced couple from Pennsylvania who’ve signed up for his “Cannabis Culture” tour of the city.

On the itinerary: Hippie Hill, the Dead’s Summer of Love house, two dispensaries and a cannabis lounge.

Scott and Susan (pseudonyms, at their request) are a middle-aged couple dressed in affluent-casual style: a knit sweater and capri pants, designer jeans and a collared shirt. This is their first full day of a Northern California getaway that will include a couple of nights “roughing it” at Lake Tahoe followed by a high-end swing through wine country.

“We feel like what’s happening in California with cannabis is quickly changing the conversation everywhere else,” Scott explains, when Victor asks what motivated him and his wife to climb aboard a Mercedes Sprinter van for a four-hour-and-twenty-minute excursion through the local weed scene. “We’re pretty much just occasional pot smokers, but it’s something we both enjoy and see the value in. We figured this would be a fun way to see the city and learn something new.”

Fatty Jay, second from left, stops to talk about the history of marijuana on the Emerald Farm Tour in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. Emerald Farm Tours delves into the history of marijuana in the city. (Photo by James Tensuan for Leafly)

Victor and Fatty Jay—Operations Director for Emerald Farm Tours—make sure everybody’s seated, hydrated, and well supplied with snacks before we depart.

Our itinerary today includes stops at “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park; the Haight-Ashbury house occupied by the Grateful Dead during the Summer of Love; and the Castro Castle, where local cannabis legend Dennis Peron lived until his death this past January. Our first and last stops will be SPARC and Barbary Coast, two of the city’s leading dispensaries and consumption lounges.

Tours for Social Change

Fatty Jay, right, talks about the history of marijuana during the Emerald Farm Tour of San Francisco. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Emerald Farm Tours began as a natural extension of Victor and Jay’s legalization activism. They met more than a decade ago as undergrad activists with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the student-run network dedicated to ending the war on drugs.

After college they kept up their friendship and their activism while pursuing careers in the emerging cannabis industry. Victor put his marketing skills to work for dispensaries and cannabis brands, while Jay focused on small-scale craft cultivation. In addition to tours of San Francisco, they also offer a Seed to Sale Tour that visits a legal grow and a concentrates manufacturing facility. Later this fall, they have plans to offer multi-day trips up to the Emerald Triangle to observe the harvest.

“An important part of our job as tour guides is to educate people from all over the country, and around the world, about what we’ve done correctly here in California, and also what we’ve done wrong,” Victor explains. “That includes digging into the history of cannabis prohibition, to explain why it was so damaging, and to honor those who risked arrest and incarceration to overcome it. Because we really want people to absorb that knowledge, and bring it back home with them, along with a really positive, unique experience. That’s how social change happens.”

Waiting for the Tourist Boom

A 2017 report from The Wine Institute estimated that California’s wine regions annually draw 23.6 million visitors, who leave behind an economic impact of $7.2 billion. Now stop and consider that you can buy and consume California wine almost anywhere on Earth, while California cannabis can’t legally leave the state.

Colorado has made life difficult for cannabis-friendly tourists. California could set a new tone.

So just imagine the pent-up demand from herbal enthusiasts around the world who can now hop on a plane, leave prohibition behind, and spend some quality time puffing on classic Cali strains like OG Kush and Trainwreck while paying a visit to the artisanal pot farms of Humboldt County, or exploring Los Angeles’s hot THC-infused dining scene.

Colorado, which got a head start on California when it came to adult-use legalization, saw a significant tourism boom after the start of recreational sales in 2014.

And that boom could have been a lot bigger. The Rocky Mountain State’s governor is a former brew pub owner, and Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival every year (drawing over 60,000 suds lovers), but Colorado has gone out of its way to make life difficult for cannabis-friendly visitors. It’s been nearly five years since adult-use sales began, and still in the entire state there’s only one cannabis consumption lounge, and zero events where cannabis can be sold and consumed.

Victor Pinho talks about dabs with an Emerald Farm Tour member. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Denver: A Cautionary Tale

Earlier this summer, police in Denver boarded two separate cannabis tour buses on the same day, arresting one driver and ticketing 30 passengers after an undercover investigation determined tour operators were breaking the law by allowing cannabis consumption in the back of their vehicles.

Representatives from both companies targeted by police—My 420 Tours and Colorado Cannabis Tours— denied any wrongdoing and vowed to appeal. They will presumably begin their defense by quoting from the official Colorado.gov guide to cannabis use in the city of Denver, which clearly states that while “it is illegal for drivers and front-seat passengers to use marijuana in vehicles designed for private, for-hire transportation in Denver… if the private, for-hire transportation operator allows for it, marijuana may be consumed in the rear passenger area.”

Currently, both affected tour companies are continuing to operate openly as the case against them moves forward. In the meantime, Colorado is far from alone in raking in cannabis tax money with one hand while pushing tourists into the margins with the other. A recent article in Tourism Weekly, a trade publication for the travel industry, detailed the many challenges those marketing cannabis tourism face, including resistance from local governments, advertising restrictions, few if any places to consume legally, and scant cannabis-friendly accommodations.

Try Leafly’s Dispensary Finder Today

Sumptuous Consumption Lounge

At Barbary Coast, our final stop, we present our ID’s to security at the door, then wait in line behind twenty or so other customers for our turn at the retail counter. Scrolling rapidly through an iPad menu placed strategically for our perusal, Victor explains all the different delivery systems and products.

“The fact that you can optimize the way you get high depending on the kind of experience you want is really interesting,” Scott says.

“This whole operation makes feel like I’m like 5-to-10 years into the future in terms of where things stand back home,” Susan adds.

An Emerald Farm Tour member prepares to use a volcano at Barbary Coast’s legal consumption lounge in San Francisco. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

After much deliberation, they purchase a Monarch vape pen from Legion of Bloom, plus a replacement cartridge of Grape Ape from P2. They’ve never tried a vape pen before, and look forward to taking small, discreet puffs to enhance meals and help them relax on the rest of their vacation.

In the adjacent consumption lounge, we made our way to a table reserved in advance. By now, Scott and Susan have loosened up considerably. Or maybe they’re just not quite so straight-laced as they first appeared. Because when the second joint goes around in the lounge, Susan gives her husband a little “why not” shrug and takes a couple of Marley-sized puffs.

And truly, why not?

This is certainly the place for it.  The décor is sumptuous and inviting, with dark wood paneling, stained glass chandeliers, plush leather booths and red velvet wallpaper. Plus there’s a state-of-the-art air filtration system, which complies with state cigar bar regulations and allows Barbary Coast to permit smoking, not just vaping and dabbing like most of the city’s other legal consumption lounges.

Emerald Farm Tour members share a laugh as the volcano inflates. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Tourists Turned Advocates

Meanwhile, the tour group’s collective shopping spree has morphed into a game of “try this, now try this,” with all of us eager to spark up and share. The conversation moves from chit chat to an impassioned discussion of how California’s new cannabis regulations have created serious challenges for the state’s traditional mom-and-pop growers and retailers. At which point I get my second pleasant surprise.

Victor and Fatty Jay give visitors the tools they need to enact change back home.

This time it’s when Scott and Susan—who seem like a couple with a pretty healthy stock portfolio—express their opinion that “the little guys” should be allowed to flourish without getting overrun by Wall Street types pushing their way into the industry.

Of course, they’ve heard a lot today to support that opinion. In course of explaining various points of interest, Victor and Jay touched on how San Francisco’s medical marijuana pioneers faced arrest and incarceration for providing cannabis to the desperately ill. They recounted the racist history and legacy of prohibition, and laid out their version of the near present—how “Big Marijuana” lobbyists and government regulators have created a legal marketplace with entry barriers that are often too high for the industry’s true believers and pioneers to stay viable.

Credit much of that messaging to Fatty Jay, who takes very seriously Emerald Farm Tour’s responsibility to educate their customers as well as entertain them and provide for their safe passage.

“I feel a strong obligation to not only celebrate the wonders of legalization, but to also pay homage to the outlaws and the mom-and-pop operations that are the true roots of legal herb today,” says Jay. “Most importantly, I want to ensure anyone who joins us for a tour will return to their home state or country well-equipped to advocate for sensible cannabis policies in their own backyard.”

Original Post: Leafly: Cannabis Tourism in San Francisco: Exploring With Victor & Fatty Jay

The Best Places to Smoke a Joint in Every Legal State

The Best Places to Smoke a Joint in Every Legal State

Ed. Note: OK, we need places to unwind after a hard day of whatever it is we do. If cannabis is legal where you are or live, here’s some good places to chill with your favorite bud.

Washington DC

Okay, Washington, DC is technically not a state. And this option is not really available to the vast majority of people. But did you know that Willie Nelson once smoked a joint of the roof of the White House?

Go ahead, try to top that. No wait, don’t, because pulling a stunt like blazing up at the Lincoln Memorial can land you in federal hot water. So instead, let’s head to one of the capital’s lesser known attractions, one with plenty of room to have a sneaky smoke.

Nestled into the west bank of the Anacostia River in Southeast DC and recognized by the National Registry of Historical Places, Congressional Cemetery originally opened for business as the Washington Parish Burial Ground in 1807, and currently houses the earthly remains of 55,000 former human beings, including many of the prominent citizens who helped transform this one-time two-bit backwater town from a fetid, mosquito-infested swampland into a world-class cesspool of corruption.

Sometime between then and now the place fell into disfavor and disrepair, but once you get past the barbed wire, turns out it’s a real neat place to take in some sightseeing that’s most definitely off the beaten track. Creepy mausoleums, a chapel on a hill with stained glass windows, massive oak trees, a 9/11 commemorative totem pole, a veteran from every American war, a former US Attorney General who ran for president against Andrew Jackson on an anti-Mason platform and had his skull mysteriously stolen from his grave in 2003 (later mysteriously returned)—the Congressional Cemetery has got it all, including more than a few out-of-the-way smoke spots!

Some dispensaries you’ll find along the way:


In 2016, of the five states that voted on adult-use cannabis legalization, only Arizona failed to pass its measure. Which means the Grand Canyon remains fully contained within a prohibition state, leaving a huge marketing opportunity for Gulf Hagas, a massive (and truly gorgeous) gorge cut into the mountains of central Maine that’s often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East.

Formed by the west branch of the Pleasant River, the gorge exposes up to 130 feet of slate as it cuts through the landscape in a rush of whitewater broken up by a series of stunning waterfalls. So get up early and indulge in a hearty breakfast followed by a serious wake-and-bake if you want to hike the entire Rim Trail, as it’s eight miles long and will take about eight hours to complete. Get the timing right for autumnal leaf-peeping season, and the surrounding foliage will take your breath away.



And now for something totally trippy, namely Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea (population 5,136), a gracefully curving three quarters mile stretch of classic New England coastline where shuffling your feet as you move across the sand produces a strange, squeaky “singing” sound that to this day is still not fully understood.

According to the brainiacs at Atlas Obscura:

“This phenomena is not able to be fully scientifically explained, but some believe that the sound is produced by shear, in which the surface of one sand grain rubs against the layer beneath it. The process is very delicate, as even the smallest amounts of pollution, dust, or organic matter on the sand can reduce friction enough to quell the sound. The best part of the beach for hearing singing sand is on the dry side above normal high tide lines.”


Massachusetts Cannabis Product Guide

The sand also takes on an iridescent color at sunset, so time your joint smoking accordingly. Also, lower your expectations of what “singing” really means. Because, as Henry David Thoreau—famed naturalist, OG transcendentalist, and the author of Civil Disobedience once noted:

“The sound (of the sand) was not at all musical nor was it loud…I thought it as much like the sound of waxing a table as anything.”

But hey Thoreau, have you ever tried walking across Singing Beach—on weed?

Some dispensaries you’ll find along the way:


Okay, I’ll be honest, Las Vegas is not really my idea of a good time. Yes, I do love the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I also tend to agree with Hunter Thompson’s central metaphor that “Lost Wages” isn’t so much a great vacation spot as the clearest vision possible of the death of the American dream.

That said, not everybody wants to smoke a joint on a glacier or hike the rim of a gorge, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with preferring glitzy architecture and the never-ending clanging of slot machines. But where in that city built on vice can a humble cannabis smoker go to get high? I mean, Leafly published an entire article on this very cannabis conundrum.


How to Get High in Las Vegas

I know what you’re thinking—what’s more Las Vegas than renting a party bus that will let you spark up in the back? Several such enterprises used to exist, but then “the man” scared them out of business. So I dunno, maybe just eat a bunch of edibles, wander The Strip tripping off all those neon lights, and then gorge yourself at the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace.

Some dispensaries you’ll find along the way:



With all due respect to Southern California, which boasts plenty of amazing places to smoke a jay, the Golden State’s cannabis culture has always been rooted up north.

To get truly as high as possible (in attitude, not altitude) in California, you’ve got to drive north through wine country, all the way up to Weed Country, better known as the Emerald Triangle (Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt Counties), the state’s longtime remote and ruggedly beautiful haven for cannabis growers. Humboldt County in particular has made a global name for itself based on the quantity and quality of cannabis produced by its local farmers, and it’s also an incredible place to visit, as evidenced by Leafly’s official cannabis visitors guide.


A Cannabis Traveler’s Guide to Finding the Real Humboldt County

To pick just one location in Humboldt is difficult, but let’s go with the picturesque coastal town of Trinidad, where you can park by the old lighthouse (since 1871) and walk down a path behind it to a secluded beach. Be sure to keep an eye out for migrating whales as you puff some of the local greenery and take in the beauty of this remote seascape.

Some dispensaries you’ll find along the way:



Located at the crossroads of scenic Route 100 and Interstate 89, Waterbury, Vermont is like the Platonic ideal of a quintessentially quaint little New England town. Plus, within fifteen miles you can mountain bike on the breathtaking Stowe recreation path, explore a real life ghost town in Little River State Park, fish for trout, perch, bass and salmon in the Winooski River, go swimming in the local reservoir, or trek out to Vermont’s highest peak at Stowe Mountain Resort.

But more, much more than this, Waterbury is where you can visit the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. Time your visit for a Saturday, and in addition to the regular 30-minute tour of the facility, you can sign up for the Flavor Fanatic Experience, which promises dedicated cream heads the opportunity to “assist in whipping up a batch of ice cream, before retiring to the Scoop Shop for a scoop of one of your tried-and-true favorite flavors.”

Don’t forget to pay your respects at the Flavor Graveyard, where dearly departed fan favorites like Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, Brownie Batter and Sweet Cream Cinnamon are fondly remembered by those with a sweet tooth and red eyes.

Some dispensaries you’ll find along the way:

Header & flood image: (smartboy10/iStock)

Original Post: Leafly: The Best Places to Smoke a Joint in Every Legal State

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