All aboard the cannabus
Cities in the Bay Area gave the green light for on-site consumption at various cannabis lounges and dispensaries. There are even bus tours. What’s the deal Sacramento?
“Anyone in the back want more snacks?” asked Stuart Watts, tour guide and president of San Francisco’s Green Guide Tours.
It was a logical question for a bus full of vacationing stoners. Cannabis bus tours give visitors a safe way to experience San Francisco’s dispensaries and smoking lounges, especially if they don’t know how to begin.
“What a brilliant idea,” said my friend, as we drove down for a Saturday tour. “Could Sacramento have something like this?”
Cannabis consumption lounges are a growing trend across the West. Oakland has several, and Palm Springs authorized its first lounge last November. West Hollywood followed suit a month later. Starting in April, Alaskan dispensaries can operate on-site lounges. Las Vegas and San Diego are also considering them.
The hotel industry knows that travelers with no alternatives will smoke cannabis in their rooms. It’s legal, but owners don’t like it, and tack on a $250 fine if they find out.
To help solve the problem, San Francisco legalized cannabis lounges in 2018. At 10 dispensaries, customers can consume their purchased products in separate areas. Each lounge varies in interior design, from spacious mid-century leather booths at Moe Greens to the Western saloon-stylings of Barbary Coast.
Enter Green Guide Tours, which also educates visitors about the San Francisco cannabis scene. Its four excursions include a free walking tour, a “bud crawl” and a “Future of Cannabis” version that visits a manufacturer and a grower. We took the $70 “classic” bus tour, which covers the city’s historic relationship with cannabis. You can’t smoke on the 10-seat mini-bus, but the tour stops at two dispensaries/lounges where customers can light up.
Our tour included an on-screen PowerPoint lecture by Joseph Foriska, our tour guide. As he described California Spaniards and 19th century Chinese immigrants who originally brought cannabis to San Francisco, Foriska suddenly turned and asked, “So, what does San Francisco do?”
Nobody knew, so he answered: “We were the first city in the nation to ban cannabis.” The bus erupted with gasps and guffaws.
Our first stop was the Harvest dispensary on Geary Street. With an interior finished in blonde wood and chrome, Harvest allows customers to grab a shopping basket and select edibles and topicals right off the shelves. You still need a budtender to access the smokable products. But the normalcy of shopping with a basket, like a grocery store, is gratifying.
Harvest has a lounge in back, where we spent a half hour on couches, passing around pre-rolls. “Which joint is this one again?” one tourist asked. “The Puna Cookies? I don’t even know anymore,” said another. With visitors from New York, New Orleans, Dallas, and Santa Cruz, this was a fun tour group.
Over in the Mission District, Sparc dispensary/lounge allows customers to sit at tables across from the main counter and smoke vape pens, dab rigs or volcano-style inhalers until 4:20 pm. That’s to respect the neighbors, due to the smell. But after 4:20, you can smoke anything.
On our drive home, my buddy and I fantasized about bus tours in Sacramento. “How about a gold rush tour, or a Farm-to-Fork tour?” he suggested. “First we need legal lounges,” I said.
“We hope that eventually counties like Sacramento will begin allowing consumption lounges, especially with the legislative progress of AB 2020,” said Green Guide’s Watts. A new state law, Assembly Bill 2020, now allows local governments to permit cannabis events at venues other than fairgrounds.
Earlier this year, Joe Devlin, Sacramento’s chief of cannabis policy enforcement, asked the City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee to consider venues outside of Cal Expo. But the committee said it was too early.
“We are waiting for the industry to settle a bit,” said committee Chairman Jay Schenirer.
“Before we open on-site consumption to the city as a whole, current on-site consumption spaces need to run seamlessly,” added Councilman Eric Guerra, citing problems with Cal Expo events.
Schenirer said the committee will reconsider in “six months to a year.”
Can lounges and canna-tourism eventually come to Sacramento?
Watts, for one, is looking to expand his tours. “With or without lounges, we will continue to provide fun interactive cannabis tours all over California,” he said.