In search of Sacto’s premier strains

Our writer looks to the experts—and within—to find the area’s best cannabis

So, I’ve been high just about every day for the last three weeks. In fact, I’m high as I write this. But I have an excuse: I’ve been on a quest to find Sacramento’s best cannabis strains. There’s a ton of weed options in the City of Trees, and in Midtown it’s easier to score good greens than to contract chlamydia. But with so much ganja, which strains are truly great?

This is the point in the story where I’m supposed to write that getting paid to smoke lots of cannabis isn’t as cool as it sounds. But if I did that, I’d be lying. In spite of the occasional giggle fit, I did treat this project as seriously as possible. And for advice on tackling this strenuous assignment, I consulted my stoner friends.

Buddy “Mike,” who used to grow marijuana as a way to supplement his income, wondered how to best determine the top strains. “There’s best taste, best purple, the best high, the least high,” he said. “Some people just like the taste.”

Good point. But it seemed most logical to rate strains by which provides the best high. After all, isn’t that the real reason to suck in hot smoke off of a burning plant?

But then there are also the medicinal implications. Does the strain help with nausea? Arthritis? Sleeplessness?

But the biggest problem: How is this naive former Mormon supposed to discover as many strains as possible?

I consulted a friend, Melissa, whose eyes lit up while sitting in her living room as she packed a bowl. “You need a doctor’s recommendation,” she suggested. “Then you can visit the dispensaries.”

OK, but what should I tell the doctor?

“Just tell him you have trouble sleeping,” she said after passing over a coupon for $10 off a recommendation. Apparently, she keeps these coupons lying around.

A couple of days later, I was at a doctor’s office bustling with patients. The doc took my blood pressure and read over the multipage medical questionnaire I’d filled out while eyeing the stains on the dingy waiting-room carpet.

“I have trouble sleeping,” I told him. He nodded and scribbled something down. Then, with the ink hardly dry on my stay-out-of-jail card, I was off on the quest for Sac’s best cannabis. Ah, journalism.

First stop: El Camino Wellness Center (2511 Connie Drive), where Jessica (a cannabis cook; see her interview, “Pot chef,” on page 29) explained the difference between the two main marijuana types: sativas and indicas. The former gives you a relaxed body high, and the latter enhances your mood.

Now an expert in cannabis, I trekked to J Street Wellness (2321 J Street), where staff each recommended favorites: Trash, L.A. Confidential, Trainwreck, Sour Diesel, Voodoo and Bubba Kush. They handed over samples of each.

A Therapeutic Alternative (3015 H Street) hooked me up with Blue Dream. SaraJane & Co. (908 21st Street) had me try Ice and Cheese. All About Wellness (1900 19th Street) recommended Tangerine Kush.

I visited 13 dispensaries in all, in addition to interviewing patients and friends. Understandably, many people asked not to be quoted. Some were helpful, like Marley—yes, her dad named her after the singer—a bubbly blonde who told me to check out Northstar Holistic Collective (1236 C Street). Others, like William Hayward—yes, the only person in this story who let me use his first and last name—not so much.

“I just take whatever she gives me,” Hayward said while motioning to the “bud tender” at Nor Cal Alternative Healing (515 Broadway).

In the interest of full disclosure, here’s what I got: one jar of cannabis lotion, one Fruity Pebbles edible, two joints and some 20 sample buds. As the samples piled up, the variety of flavors and smells and highs made me feel like I was trying to pair wine.

“It’s a lot like pairing wine,” said Amy, bud tender at Capitol Wellness Collective (2400 14th Street and 2100 29th Street), who used to wait tables in Old Sac. “I like to talk to patients about their preferences before recommending something.” She had me try Sensei Skunk.

One problem: some of the best strains just weren’t available when I visited.

Friend Nicole told me her favorite, Blue Cheese, could only by found at Sacramento Holistic Healing Center (2014 10th Street). But when I got there the next day, Blue Cheese was sold out.

“Our best stuff usually goes pretty quick,” bud tender Mike said. He passed over some Afwreck, Blueberry Kush, GDP and Purple Diesel instead.

“So, you have to sample as much as possible?” Mike asked.

“I have trouble sleeping,” I replied.

As I made my way through the city’s dispensaries, I was surprised by the variety in ambience. Some places are as clean and well-lit as upscale clothing boutiques. But at one place near downtown, I stood outside the unmarked, uninviting metal gate for a minute before a guard walked outside and shuffled me into a dark and dingy pot dungeon.

“Unfortunately, some places still treat it like a drug deal,” said SHHC’s Mike.

I also discover that the collectives provide a lot more than marijuana. El Camino Wellness keeps a masseuse on-site for free massages. Capitol Wellness teaches free yoga classes most mornings. Others throw barbecues and charity events. Call me a pot-smoking, bleeding-heart liberal, but the you’re-a-member-not-a-customer approach of the dispensaries was a friendlier, kinder shopping experience than, say, Walmart. (I bet Walmart would sell bogus marijuana, anyway.)

But back to the pot: Sampling was as scientific as a story like this might allow. Kind of like a restaurant review. Buds were smoked at home at the day’s end. (Well, except for the time I met up with Melissa and smoked four different strains in a row.) I took notes on taste, smell, appearance and effect.

After two weeks, I experienced some unexpected side-effects: Seinfeld was suddenly funny, and I now owe my roommate a bag of Fritos. I also learned the best way to reheat a Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger, but I’ll save that for another article.

Based on Marley’s suggestion, I went back to Northstar. There, an employee recommended Tahoe OG Kush.

Ah, yes, the infamous OG Kush, the strain made famous by Snoop Dogg. The favorite of many people I informally surveyed. And it’s a damn good strain with a high worthy of its notoriety. In fact, all of the Kushes I tried ranked near the top of my list: OG, Blackberry, Tangerine—all fragrant with a deep, relaxing buzz.

And while the Kushes were great, the best high was Green Ribbon, available from Unity Non Profit Collective (1832 Tribute Road, Suite E). Bud tender Kay told me its tetrahydrocannabinol levels tested at 22 percent. It gave me an Adderall-like buzz and upbeat creative energy. In fact, I’ve been saving it for a time when I’m stressed for being late on a story deadline. (Sorry, editors.)

So now, while you fire off an angry letter to SN&R about how I overlooked your personal favorite cannabis strain, I’m off to score some McDonald’s.