Cannabis enthusiasts have a lot to be thankful for and to look forward to in the coming year. Canada recently celebrated a year of fully legalized cannabis, adult use dispensaries opened in Massachusetts, and adult-use cannabis use just became legal in Illinois, with Michigan not too far behind. As policy changes in the US continue to expand access to cannabis, the industry as a whole continues to squash stigmas and tatter taboos.
Those of you living in states with no legal cannabis program (medical or adult use) may be frustrated by all this wonderful news that hasn’t yet made it to your backyard. It’s OK–we get it and we have all been there. Throughout the years of prohibition, cannabis users have relied on black or grey market products, which is far from ideal, especially for those treating medical conditions. If the idea of consuming high-grade, dispensary-purchased products still seems like a dream, you’ll be happy to know that there is a short-term solution to your cannabis needs—and it’s called “canna-tourism.”
Ever since Colorado legalized adult use cannabis in 2012, tourists have been flocking in to try some premium products. The industry in Colorado has been booming, with billions of dollars in revenue contributing to the community. And the sheer number of dispensaries that have opened, including cannabis lounges, reflects the support for adult use. In fact, Denver has more cannabis dispensaries than Starbucks.
But, of course, Denver isn’t the only city to provide you with a wide range of dispensaries and products to choose from. So, where should you start? And what are some tips to navigate a canna-tourist trip?
Plan, Plan, Plan
Once you’ve picked a city to visit, plan your trip carefully. While 4/20 is a great time to celebrate cannabis, remember that everyone else is probably thinking that too. Cities with adult use cannabis get flooded during late April and tourists often pack buses that take them to different dispensaries. Even if that sounds like something you’d be open to, maybe consider going at a less busy time for your first trip.
While looking for accommodations, make sure you read individual policies on cannabis. Don’t get in a tricky situation if your plan is to smoke in your room or on the back porch while staying at a place that is not cannabis friendly. Remember, just because you are stoked to be in an adult use state doesn’t mean every resident of that state is on the cannabis train. Be respectful.
Also, remember to bring some cash with you. Due to federal prohibition, it’s incredibly difficult for dispensaries to use banks, so many do not take credit cards. Look up prices online to get a sense of how much you should have on you before going out.
On your first canna-tourist trip, try not to get overzealous. It’s a common mistake to take a dose that is too high or underestimate the potency of cannabis products in a particular state. This can be especially common with edibles, where the onset isn’t as rapid as through inhalation. Inexperienced users may feel they need to keep eating edibles until they feel the effects, but that’s a plan that will likely spiral on you, and potentially induce a different kind of experience than that desired.
Before you leave, make a plan on how to consume products safely and responsibly. If you are not experienced with certain types of formulations, you may react differently than you expected. Also make sure that everyone you are traveling with is comfortable with the plan. If you are driving, you should certainly make sure to designate a sober driver before any products are consumed. If no one is sober, take a cab or order a car.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the effects of cannabis and are very uncomfortable, don't hesitate to ask for medical help. However, if you are not able to access help, you can try some “home remedies.” Many have used black pepper to negate the effects of cannabis intoxication, which can be effective due to its terpene profile. If you have some cannabidiol (CBD)-only product around, that may also tamper the “high.” These are not proven methods but could potentially help in a pinch. It’s important to remember that you cannot overdose on cannabis, so if you have too much than is comfortable, change scenes, try some CBD and/or a home remedy like black pepper or citrus, and most importantly, R-E-L-A-X.
Know the Law
If you decide to travel to a legal state, don’t forget your ID at home. Most dispensaries require that you show identification proving that you are 21 years or older before you can even look at products. This may vary by state but it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
If you are a medical cannabis patient, you may not be able to use your card out of state. While there are certain exceptions to this rule, fortunately, you will still be able to purchase adult use products if there is a recreational market, of course.
Also, read up on the state’s laws. For example, just because it’s legal to buy and consume does not mean you can use cannabis in public. Don’t miss out on any fun because your cannabis use was not in line with state regulations.
Don’t Take It with You
Cannabis remains a Schedule I substance on the federal level–that means it is illegal to cross state lines with cannabis, even if you are traveling from one legal state to another. Don’t risk it. Enjoy the products while in a legal state and don’t buy more than you can consume.
Canna-tourist trips can be very enjoyable. The ability to freely walk into a dispensary, talk to budtenders about different products, view and smell gleaming jars of vibrant flower, and read ingredient lists that describe cannabinoids and terpene levels can be both joyful and a bit overwhelming. Take your time and enjoy the experience. Just being in a place with like-minded people can create an immense sense of well-being and leave you feeling refreshed.
Keep these considerations in mind as you plan your trip and enjoy!
Written by: Loren DeVito, PhD