You may have noticed that San Francisco is experiencing a green rush since the legalization of recreational marijuana at the beginning of this year. If the billboards advertising pot delivery services and the proliferation of weed-infused gourmet dinners weren’t enough proof that this town has gone crazy for what your uncle probably still calls “wacky tobacky,” look no further than the crop of cannabis tours sprouting up on both sides of the bay.
These tours offer smokers, vapers, edibles consumers and the cannabis-curious a chance to check out some of the city’s dispensaries, learn about the budding legal weed industry, dive into the history of drug subcultures, and … Who am I kidding? These tours are a chance to get high. Gloriously, gleefully, giddily high. If you’re open to it, there’s almost no way you won’t enjoy a cannabis tour.
Take it from me: I went on two and I won’t soon forget them. That is, if I fully remember them.
As even the most casual cannabis user knows, there are two dominant strains: sativa and indica. Sativa, the experts tell us, provides an energetic high, while indica tends to be more relaxing. Figuring out which is best for you is a highly individual thing and may require trial and error, but knowing your preference can mean the difference between a good time with friends and loved ones or a sweaty, anxious experience with people who apparently hate you for some reason.
So, too, are there two types of cannabis tours. For a heady, super-chill experience, I’d recommend Emerald Farm Tours’ San Francisco Cannabis Culture & City Tour ($149); for a raucous time that might have you popping your booty to Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” I’d suggest California Cannabis Tours’ Wine and Weed Tour ($129). Reactions may vary. Consult your doctor. (If your doctor smokes weed.)
My California Cannabis Tours’ Wine and Weed Tour started at a nondescript building in West Oakland where we gathered to sample some CBD-infused wine and sign our waivers.
Our group consisted of three parties (excluding a reporter and photographer) that would soon merge into one. There were three sisters who hailed from across the state and had converged on the Bay Area to celebrate a 69th birthday. A more local group was there to celebrate a 39th birthday. The third group asked that they not be quoted or photographed for fear of jeopardizing their careers, a good reminder that while marijuana is now legal, it still carries with it a whiff of scandal.
After some chitchat, Heidi Keyes, co-founder of Cannabis Tours and our guide for the day, ushered us onto a standard-issue party bus (stripper poles, curvy leather banquettes, neon detailing) that held a thousand bachelor party secrets behind its tinted windows.
“This is niiiiiiice,” one of the sisters said.
“No ashtrays?” someone else wondered.
Our first stop was Magnolia Oakland (161 Adeline St., Oakland), an eminence grise of the Bay Area cannabis scene that opened in 2009. As we stood near Magnolia’s nondescript entrance and handed over our IDs, a guy emerged with a hat that read “HIGH,” a pretty clear sign we were in the right place.
Inside, a friendly employee asked us if anyone had ever tried dabbing — ingesting a waxy, highly concentrated form of cannabis that’s heated to vapor using a small blowtorch. “Yes, I have!” said one of the sisters, who eagerly took a pull.
Back on the bus and freshly loaded up with products, the birthday girl pulled out the little Swiss Miss tin of weed and accoutrements she carries in her bag. The birthday boy, wearing his sunglasses inside, rolled a joint the size of a tree branch and passed it around. Soon, the cabin grew a lot hazier and coughing could be heard over the ’90s hip-hop that served as our soundtrack.
The bus flew — I think possibly literally — to Richmond, bumping past neighborhoods, homeless encampments and other drivers totally oblivious to the midday party going on inside. This was about the time I realized that everyone on board was really funny. I can’t remember any of their jokes, but there was a lot of laughter.
Soon we arrived at Riggers Loft Wine Co. (1325 Canal Blvd., Richmond), where we were treated to a tasting and a catered lunch, which came just in time because, man, we were starving. Riggers is on the waterfront, with views that were enough to make you feel a little lightheaded and warm all over, but then again, none of us was in the best state of mind to judge.
If you go
Emerald Farm Tours (https://emeraldfarmtours.com) offers two types of excursions with a multiday tour coming soon. The San Francisco Cannabis Culture & City Tour is an afternoon of marijuana history and culture with stops at dispensaries along the way ($149). The Seed-to-Sale Tour is a deeper dive into the business of legal marijuana, with stops at a nursery, a concentrate producer and a dispensary ($295).
California Cannabis Tours (https://cannabistours.com) hosts one local tour, with another coming soon and others in Los Angeles and Colorado. The Wine and Weed Tour is a rollicking bus ride punctuated by stops at a dispensary and two wineries for tastings and lunch ($129).
Back on the bus once more and heading for another tasting, at Urban Legend (200 Second St., Oakland), some passengers stared at their phones or out the windows while others sang along to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” which I’d never realized is such a good song. Soon, the slinky saxophone opening of “Rump Shaker” came on, and one attendee who’d been rather quiet until that point grabbed the handrail above her seat and shook her rump with more exuberance than any of us had probably ever experienced at 2:15 p.m. Met with applause, she sat down and returned to her quiet, blissed-out continence.
And that, for me, was the essence of the tour: The Wine and Weed Tour created a space where strangers became friends, got silly and even a little wild if the mood struck. As we said goodbye, the birthday boy and girl hugged and wished each other well. Friends with weed making friends indeed.
By comparison, Emerald Farm Tours was a more restrained walk-through of the Bay Area’s cannabis scene. Meeting near the Embarcadero, seven of us piled into a smaller limo bus (sans stripper poles) where we started our surprisingly informative dive into the history and culture of marijuana, supplied by founder and CEO Victor Pinho and operations director Fatty Jay. (“Is that your given name?” I asked Jay. “It’s the name I gave myself,” he deadpanned.)
As our bus inched through traffic toward Sparc (1256 Mission St., San Francisco), Pinho and Fatty Jay asked the group, which hailed from Philadelphia, Austin and the East Bay, about our experiences with marijuana. One attendee said he wasn’t interested in partying but rather in how to “transcend consciousness.” Pinho, a longtime cannabis advocate and entrepreneur, commented, “It gets real in here.”
At Sparc, we were instructed on how to use a Volcano to fill a plastic bag with cannabis vapor. Pinho and Fatty Jay, along with a Sparc employee, answered questions about what legalization meant for the cannabis industry and criminal justice reform. Were it not for swelling bag of weed vapor on the table in front of us, this could’ve been an adult ed course for which the syllabus included the Grateful Dead, Dennis Peron, Mary Jane Rathbun (a.k.a. “Brownie Mary”) and the possible origin of 420, the most important number in the stoner kabbalah.
If that sounds overly wonky, it wasn’t. Pinho’s high-energy patter and Fatty Jay’s laid-back command of marijuana history and lore shed light on the sticky connections among drugs, culture, race, the AIDS crisis and politics. Oh, and we got super high. By the tour’s end, which found us tucked into a reserved booth at Barbary Coast (952 Mission St., San Francisco) after a long walk through the Castro, I felt much better informed. Hanging with my new friends and enjoying Barbary’s goods, I felt much better in general.
Matt Haber is an Oakland freelance writer.
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