The Rolling Stone Guide to Legal Pot: California - Rolling Stone
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The Rolling Stone Guide to Legal Pot: California

A few of our favorite ways to enjoy the sticky green in the Golden State

guide to legal pot californiaguide to legal pot california

Welcome to California, a veritable stoner paradise.

Photo-illustration by Liz Barclay for

This is part of our user’s guide to legal marijuana across America.

In these strange and uncertain times, the only self-care better than getting stoned is getting stoned and having an adventure. Now that weed is officially legal in California for anyone over the age of 21, a wondrous cornucopia of pot-related events and social spaces are opening up to the public, creating all sorts of groovy opportunities to enjoy the state’s most valuable crop. California has a rich and vibrant marijuana culture, from the tens of thousands of growers living off grid in the redwood-speckled mountains up north to the Los Angeles and Bay Area warehouse parties populated by colorfully dressed creative types passing around blunts, joints and vape pens.

Navigating the new legal landscape can be rather complicated even for locals, so let’s start with some basics. In order to find a marijuana dispensary or delivery service that has been licensed by the state to legally sell cannabis, go to this database, type in your location, and select one of the options involving adult-use retail (non-storefront means delivery, and most licenses will be temporary until later this summer). This may involve an extra step where you Google some addresses to determine who is closest to where you are staying and what the names of the actual shops are, but it is the most effective way to find legal businesses.

Once you’re at the dispensary, talk to the folks behind the counter about your experience level, and how you’re looking to feel. If you’re new to pot, don’t eat more than five milligrams of THC. If you tend to get paranoid, try something higher in CBD, like a 1:1 or 2:1 strain. And please don’t gripe about the taxes, or try to find an illegal store or drug dealer with cheaper wares: remember, way fewer people are now going to jail over pot. Would you rather pay for bail or an excise tax? If you’ve never gotten into any kind of trouble for buying cannabis illegally in the past, maybe consider why that might be. Try to appreciate the fact that we’ve come this far, and accept that the new system may require an adjustment period.

One thing that’s easy, though, is to find adventures that are only enhanced by cannabis. Here, a few of our favorite ways to enjoy the sticky green in the Golden State. 

Underground Weed-Themed Events 
For now, as the state gets its legal situation ironed out, many of the best cannabis-related activities are run as private events. Until more municipalities determine the best way to license and regulate the social use of marijuana, keeping the festivities private is the best way to protect them from being shut down.

This means that several months before you want to partake, you might want to sign up for some mailing lists. Start with Zen & Kush, the bohemian extravaganza run by healer and hip-hop entertainer Lizzy Jeff. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better executed pot bash: Jeff has a knack for bringing together art, music and wellness in a space that makes people feel welcomed and comfortable. Think tarot, glitter, rap and sound baths – all accompanied by weed. This is L.A. culture at its greatest: mystical, bombastic, and stoned. Each edition of Zen Kush has its own theme: May’s is called “Tease” and involves a “sensual wonderland of exotic dance, raw vegan delectables, eye gazing, infused massage and so much more.” As Jeff tells me, “It’s like an elevated playroom. The vibration is lit.”

If witchy artsy curated experiences are your thing, you might also want to hop on the waiting lists for Little Face Events, which continues to throw some of the best pot parties in CaliforniaMarijuana Madness, a cannabis-themed burlesque show; or the White Rabbit High Tea, an intimate afternoon gathering meant to mimic the stoney nonsense of the Mad Hatter’s infamous picnic. Dress up like the Red Queen, nibble on some cucumber sandwiches, take home a swag bag full of pot goodies and make some new friends that may or may not turn out to be imaginary.

Looking to find full expression for your weed-enhanced creativity? Several companies offer art classes aimed at helping you take advantage of the peculiar and mind-bending experience of being high. Puff Pass and Paint has regular events all over the state, while Brush Tokes and Paint Sesh are mostly in southern California.

Patrons smoke marijuana while sitting in a booth in the smoking lounge at Barbary Coast Dispensary in San Francisco. San Francisco plans to issue more permits for marijuana smoking lounges this year after health officials finalize updated regulations

Hang Out and Get High
When it comes to dedicated social spaces just for getting blazed and hanging out – the cannabis equivalent of a bar – there aren’t too many great options yet. More will likely open soon, but for now the best weed lounge in the state is likely at one of San Francisco’s classiest dispensaries, Barbary Coast. It’s all hardwood floors, exposed brick, red damask wallpaper and tufted leather banquettes. Ask the folks behind the counter for a strain recommendation, or take your evening to the next level with a potent concentrate like cold-water hash, rosin, or wax.

If you’re more into getting high while getting shit done, we recommend Wake and Bake, a café down in North Hollywood. Eat a pastry, sip some coffee or tea, hook up to that free Wi-Fi, and light a joint. This place is very cute and DIY, with an intimate yard space out back where they host live music events on Thursdays and comedy on Sundays.

Stoner Comedy
It was only a matter of time before California became a mecca for cannabis and comedy – and now some comedy clubs are encouraging us to get baked before, during and after the show. San Francisco dispensary Urban Pharm is even booking regular stand-up sets. I have to admit, I once saw the brilliant Kate Berlant basically bomb at a weed event because the audience was far too high to process what she was saying, but I also know that the right strains in the right doses will set you up for some giggles. Most promising might be the Hollywood Improv’s monthly pot-friendly event GLAZED, hosted by comedian Mike Glazer, whom you may remember from that viral video where he got high and met a sloth. Last month’s iteration featured beloved alt-rapper Open Mike Eagle, among others. Smoking needs to happen outside, where you’re risking a ticket for public consumption, but vaping is allowed indoors during the show, so come prepared. 

Get Mindful With Your Marijuana 
But perhaps all this stoned socializing sounds stressful. If so, head over to Venice Beach to try some Lit Yoga: an entire studio devoted to the intersection of stretching, cannabis and mindfulness – because you haven’t really been to California until you’ve been high as hell in downward-facing dog. Class opens with some herbal tea and some kind herb, consumed in a community-building circle. Several forms of cannabis are available, including joints, vaporizers, and non-psychoactive CBD options. Evening classes are by candlelight, and full and new moon classes are for women only. Farther north, the similarly lunar-minded Mirage Moon yoga, organized by Supernova Women co-founder and badass cannabis entrepreneur Nina Parks, fluctuates in vibe depending on the astrological bent of the new or full moon.

Package Pot Deals 
Anyone looking to take weed, wellness, and relaxation to the next level might want to consider a full-on marijuana vacation, like Cannabliss Retreats or the Ganja Goddess Getaway. Though the latter is for female-identified stoners only, both events feature yoga, hiking, organic food and a whole lot of pot.

If you don’t have quite that much time, try for the Moonlit Moveable Feast out in Joshua Tree. Some marijuana dinners can come off as amateur, but this one seems to be the real deal. Not only are you outside during magic hour in a gorgeous desert dotted with otherworldly trees, but the founders describe the flow of the evening as “Choose your own adventure.” At their next event, for example, there will be glassblowing, live music and “roaming educators” like Ashley Manta, a warm and wise blonde cannabis sex coach who calls herself the CannaSexual.

Customers line up for recreational marijuana outside of Med Men a dispensary in West Hollywood, Calif.

While you’re out in the desert, you might want to experience two of hippy-dippy California’s best known homeopathic remedies at the same time: smoking weed and soaking in the womb-like embrace of a mineral-water hot tub. At the clothing-optional Living Water Spa, in Palm Springs, there’s a designated area where guests can use marijuana before submerging their bodies in the kind of water that, like many products in California, offer the promise of some vague health benefit. If full nude is too much for you, the Desert Hot Springs Inn has the same water, the same cannabis-friendly policies, and even offers CBD-enhanced massages.

Weed-Country Tours
But where, you might ask, do they grow all the weed? Historically, nearly all of it came from three counties in the northern part of the state: the so-called Emerald Triangle of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity. These days, most legal pot is coming out of large grows farther south, but the mountains up north are well worth a visit. Chances are this is where the ganja you’re buying back home in your black-market state is being grown, anyway.

If you want to check out some dank bud on a real farm, Humboldt Cannabis Tours is probably your best option. It’s run by a former trail and river guide, who will show you all the steps in the cultivation process and even take you around to try local cheeses and other delicacies. Further south, in Mendocino, the small-farmer-focused pot brand Flow Kana has an 80-acre property with a cannabis tasting room operating out of a former saloon. Learn how to talk about weed the way pretentious jerks talk about wine! (Hint: make liberal use of the word “terpenes.”)

Cannabis Festivals
If you really want to go deep and try a dizzying array of strains, there are a handful of annual and biannual festivals worth your time. Be careful, though: a lot of large-scale pot events are largely focused on dabbing, meaning vaporizing hash oil and other concentrates, and don’t make much effort to create a pleasurable experience for you once you are stoned out of your mind. Two good options to consider: The Emerald Exchange, a marijuana farmers market that brings craft farmers from the north down to the south; and The Emerald Cup, a county fair-style cannabis competition that draws tens of thousands of people each year. Last year the Roots headlined.

A Stoner’s Paradise 
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the canna-tourist destination that is on my personal to-do list for the year: Room 420, a tricked out two-room suite in the woodsy paradise of Idyllwild. This place looks like some kind of weed-themed Japanese love hotel, but instead of being in the middle of a clanging, neon metropolis, it’s in a peaceful small town in the mountains. There’s a sunken bed, an in-room vending machine, an Xbox, a record player and trippy black-light posters and murals. It’s all a little on the nose, but also somehow delightful. As the website notes, “Smoking Allowed (No tobacco or crack).” Hell yeah. 


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