Ed Note: We’re in Seattle right now and can say the scene here is different from what we’ve experienced in different legal states around the country. Will cannabis tours become the wine tours of the 2020s? Hard to tell, but here’s an interesting story about how cannabis tourism is changing.
There are monastic brewery adventures in Germany and Belgium, and winery tours from Napa Valley to Bordeaux. Welsh cheese treks and Vietnamese street food jaunts beckon the more adventurous. And now, there are cannabis tours, too.
In at least nine states and the District of Colombia, consenting adults over 21 can purchase marijuana for recreational use. (Finding a place to use it is another hurdle, but more on that later.) So the idea of a different sort of vacation was appealing.
Like many adventures these days, mine began with an internet search: “Seattle marijuana tours.”
Seattle’s entertaining Kush Tours popped up — a 3½-hour adventure for $150 plus an Amtrak train ride to get me there. They also offer advice on 420-friendly places to stay, such as the Bacon Mansion, a B&B on Capitol Hill, as well as hotels with smoke-friendly courtyards, if not smoke-friendly rooms. The Bacon Mansion is a convenient 15-minute walk from the new train line that runs from the airport to the University of Washington, with stops in the SoDo — south of downtown — neighborhood.
The tour rendezvous spot was Diego Pellicer, a high-end SoDo marijuana store that looks like a fancy jewelry design boutique, all glitzy glass and tiny sparkles on display. It was super fancy, with gold-wrapped “canagar” Cohiba-sized joints for easily more than a grand, if you really want to get decadent, but offerings for bargain shoppers, as well.
Our small group of seven varied both in age, which ranged from early 30s to 60-somethings, and expertise. One guy seemed to know even more than the master horticulturalist, who explained the marijuana growth cycle later on.
Following introductions, a “budtender” walked us around the shop, explaining everything from concentrates and flowers vs. edibles, to strains, types, THCa, THC, CBD, sativa, indica and more.
After the tour and some homework — not kidding, we actually got a cool crib sheet about how different terpenes affect the high from different kinds of marijuana — we piled into the van and headed off to the shores of Lake Union, where Drags Glass Studio sits in a cool, funky building across from all the fancy yachts.
We watched the owner blow a type of pipe called a “spoon” in about 15 minutes, all the while explaining what he was doing and how it worked. The Drags lobby has a map where tour participants can pin their hometowns. Washington State’s legal recreational market is only four years old and this map was already bristling with pins. I couldn’t wedge one in for Oakland; there were too many already.
Piling back into the van, en route to Craft Elixirs, we made a pit stop: Our driver pulled over at a lovely overlook of the city and encouraged us to “go do what adults do when the kids aren’t around.” For 15 minutes, we all wandered off and then wandered back.
And this is how the Kush Tour and the cannabis tour industry differs from a standard winery or brewery tour. Marijuana is legal here, but there’s a wink-and-a-nod feel to this. No one’s sitting in a tasting room at a massive marijuana farm, smoking a joint of their latest award-winning offering. You explore, you purchase and then you quietly — wink — wander off to do what adults do.
Of course, it’s early days yet. Denver only recently voted to take a first step toward Amsterdam-style “cafes,” and there is a Southern California tour where you can smoke marijuana on the bus, while you’re being driven around. And truly, my interest in the Kush Tour is more than just consumption.
The Bay Area has a number of these tours, including several that cover the city and its counter-culture history as well as the marijuana industry. One operator is even promising a future tour of North Bay farm operations.
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But on to Craft Elixirs in Seattle, winners this year of a Dope Cup award — it’s a Washington state competition — for an edible called, appropriately for Seattle, Pioneer Square. We tried a number of their candies, all gummies, none of them containing any THC and all of them delicious.
One of the nice things about the current edibles business is that the producers are primarily small-batch confectioners. No joke: Craft Elixirs is making some delicious candy. It’s also one of the few places I have seen doing a savory edible. They make some very tasty potato chips, flavored with garlic or cracked pepper and sea salt, plus a sweet-potato version.
We also learned more about the industry here, including shipping rules. There’s a 48-hour hold, for example, to allow for possible state inspection before an order can be shipped.
One more stop remained: the Dawg Star Cannabis grow site. Dawg Star’s recent Dope Cup award was displayed in the lobby, next to a rack of white lab coats we all donned before the tour began. The lead horticulturalist explained how a year-round Tier 2 operation like theirs — there are three possible tiers based on maximum allowable growing space — operates.
Dawg Star works on clones of female plants: They plant cuttings, not seeds. We started in the 18-hour daylight room, with blue-spectrum lights and plants that measured two to three feet tall, with a very mild aroma. The next phase, he explained just before opening the door to the “blooming room,” involved red-spectrum lights and 12-hour cycles for more enthusiastic growth.
The room was filled with almost fully mature marijuana plant, of various strains. We stood, the seven of us in borrowed white lab coats, gobsmacked. It was a stunning sight. And smell.
The final stop was the drying room, with lines of drying marijuana, and a chance to ask more questions.
And then it was done. Lab coats returned, we bid our host farewell, and headed back to the van for the return trip to Diego Pellicer — and back to life in the Emerald City.