Historically, California has been America’s leader in agriculture, with its vast expanses of land and temperate weather, the state accounts for more than 22 billion in farming ag revenue yearly, including its top producers of grapes at 5.54 billion.
While not listed among the top 10 ag producers in the state, due to Federal laws stubbornly clinging to the failed theory of “no medicinal value,” California cannabis sales certainly should be listed in the top 10, as its sales numbers climbed to 5.3 billion in 2022, following grapes.
Even more interesting to note, cannabis tax revenue doubled that of alcohol sales in California in 2021, with residents spending $832 million on cannabis products, as compared to $415 million spent on booze; prompting and further establishing the harm reductive Cali Sober movement of residents choosing weed over alcohol.
Yet, many cities and counties across the state have banned this most successful emerging industry, under the guise that it’s just not safe – and what about the children?*
I remain firm in my belief that the minute we called the plant recreational we blew it. Because recreational use left the door for criminality wide open, with nary a nod to what the plant really is, a medicinal super food with hundreds of beneficial compounds all working together with the human endocannabinoid system, delivering said compounds to all our biological systems, creating homeostasis in the body, or a place where illness cannot dwell.
Take away the high levels of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hybridized up over the years by human hands, and cannabis is just another boring healing plant no one would care about.
Raise the psychoactive compound of THC to a non-therapeutic level and call it recreational, and we as a species have created yet another controversy the politicians can use against us. The irony is, THC is needed in a high THC cannabis oil, known to put cancers and other serious ailments into remission. So, it’s a conundrum, or a problem with no easy solution..
Shades of Purple on the Left Coast
The more conservative politicians throughout California’s Central Valley are indeed using the plant as a fear mongering talking point, as evidenced by voting margins leaning purple in the mostly blue or liberal state, often referred to as the Left Coast.
The blue left coast was never so evident as seen on a precinct map of the state, showing Democratic voting cities and counties, with shades of pink to red denoting Republican leaning, conservative regions up and down the eastern region, north to south.
This Weed Traveler trip was made challenging by this fact, as my intent on planning these tours is to visit as many cannabis friendly communities and entities as possible. With no budget for travel, I rely on sponsors in the regions I’m covering. With safe access limited, the help I receive to tell these stories is silenced.
When a conservative demographic within a liberal state is allowed to ban safe access of a plant that was voted legal to do so, something is terribly wrong. Especially when said region allows a thriving delivery industry to covertly provide the same products in the dark of night. The “not in my neighborhood” theory is blown out of the proverbial water when delivery vehicles are allowed to pull up curbside, covertly providing the partaker with the same type of products that could be found in a retail establishment. And I don’t fault the services, the makers, or the farmers providing to this type of service. As long as the plant is getting to the people, that’s all I care about. Make your living, I say.
It’s poorly conceived laws, with way too high taxes, combined with a lack of real education on what this plant is that keeps its supply and demand in the dark, literally. The amount of trash can smoke seshes done for the some 200 miles covered across the valley for this trip is a good indication that more safe access and 420 friendly, safe partaking access via lounge locations are sorely needed. According to the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Americans want the plant legalized. With these high numbers, I’d say the purple zones in California, as well as the red, or conservative, states in the country need a good talking to.
Fresno – The Artist Tree
My first stop in Fresno was to visit an old friend and favorite concept dispensary, The Artist Tree (see Weed Traveler, West Hollywood), where I enjoyed its Santa Monica Blvd. location, complete with third floor yoga studio, and a partaking lounge, with a bar and patio seats overlooking the city. With no lounge ordinances in the City of Fresno, this Artist Tree location is solely a retail location, with its Art Gallery element throughout the store, hosting local artists’ work. There’s a greenhouse in the middle of each shop, offering up an educational, hands-on experience with the plant. The Artist Tree is known for its expansive array of products and its huge staff, earning it the nickname, The Apple Store of Cannabis, with the Fresno shop employing nearly 100 locals.
Another dispensary in Fresno, Embarc, recently attempted to open a second location, but protests from residents shut it down – even though the facility was fully compliant in all areas. Complaints included the smell and security. Not points for debate, but discriminatory talking points, as security issues once a shop opens is never an issue – it just makes a good fear mongering tactic prior to open. As for the smell, have you ever lived near a dairy farm? How about an onion or field of garlic? There are laws in the US denoting “Right to Farm,” prohibiting neighbors from suing farmers based on odors or general farming practices. As for dispensaries, if there are no safe access lounges nearby or allowed within the shop, you are opening yourself up for trash can, curbside, and back alleyway seshes – and their will be the scent of healing terpenes in the air.
Bottom line, banning safe access in a legal state should not be happening. A conservative faction of a populace should not dictate what the majority of people have voted on and want. See Tracy section below for more notes on legal lounges.
The Brass Unicorn
The Brass Unicorn and it’s Magickal Emporium opened in 1980, and offers a comprehensive selection of metaphysical tools and books, with incense handmade in the store. Rachel and I bought some stone bracelets to help bring our trip some good juju. Mine was made of amethyst, said to be the travelers stone. There’s always magic when I’m on the road for the plant. This shop was a seemingly random find off the path of an itinerary where there are no coincidences.
If you go:
The Brass Unicorn, 1007 N. Van Ness Ave. (599) 441-7107
The Artist Tree (retail & delivery) 7835 N. Palm Ave. (951) 405-4534
Embarc 4592 N. Blackstone Ave., #103 (559) 420-7999
Mexican food isa given in the heartland, as 84 percent of its ag workers originated from Mexico. Lucky for Fresno, as its tacos are epic and plentiful, with Dab Tacos getting high marks for traditional Mexicana comida from local cannabis farmer, We took an Uber to the nearby .
Westwood’s is a good example of a heartland eatery, with lots of barbeque on the menu, loaded sandwiches, and full dinners for a meat and potato meal that will stick to your ribs, as God intended for the heartland (but maybe not your cardiologist).
Shout out here for my traveling partner, neighbor and friend, Rachel “Sweet” Pack, for this is where she met her husband of more than 20 years, Sixx. She was waiting tables at Westwood’s and he was a working musician/local DJ, with an independent publishing business on the side. Together, they are traveling Blues musicians, Blues Against Hunger, raising funds, gathering food donations for food banks, and building good karma in every town they jam in.
Equally tempting was Veni Didi Vici, blending Asian and Italian in a way that’s not easy to describe, with one reviewer giving it five stars, and citing it with the “best and longest running Tower vibe.”
If you go:
Westwood’s BBQ & Spice Co. 8042 Blackstone Ave. (559) 449-9227
Grandmarie’s Chicken Pot Pie Shop, 861 E. Olive Ave. (559) 237-5042
Veni Vidi Vici 1116 N. Fulton St. (559) 266-5510
Dab Tacos 721 Fulton St. (559) 981-2785
Farming the Sierras
Sue Carlton of Rancheria Familia hosted us at her beautiful farm, complete with goats, chickens and a photo op with local photographer, Lucinda Ochoa. Carlton farms Hemp, cannabis plants high in cannabidiol or CBD. Hemp has the same full beneficial compound profile as high THC cannabis, but with a low THC count. She offers up prerolls in cartons, flower, salve, and crowns made of CBD prerolls. Her home is in Squaw Valley, perched on the edge of a lovely hill in the Sierras above the city of Fresno. A photo shoot in the garden had me wearing one of her crowns as the sun set behind the mountain.
Farming is hard and in this restrictive market, not easy to get your products to town. Carlton is hopeful for a benefactor to purchase a full crop outright. Until then, she’ll dream up new ways to market her flower, her products, and herself, while frolicing on her hillside for all to witness on her busy Instagram account.
Visit Sue Carlton on her website, at https://www.rancherafamilia.com/
Follow Sue Carlton on Instagram @rancheramami
Lunch with the Sisters, Merced
The Sisters of the Valley’s main farm is located in the farming region of Merced, an hour north of Fresno. And though I’ve had the honor of staying the night several times during my trips across California, this visit was just for lunch and a sesh, as Sister Kate, the order’s matriarch served us pasta and prerolls. The Sisters order was created by Sister Kate Meeusen, modeled after the Beguines, caregiving women who tended to their communities from the 1300s to the 1700s in France.
Like Carlton, the Sisters of the Valley grow low THC Hemp, making salves, tinctures and other remedies. They practice regenerative farming, planting and making medicine by the full moon. This isn’t witchcraft, as they are often accused – this is traditional farming, using tried and true practices found within the Farmer’s Almanac for centuries. The Sisters have fought with the powers that be in Merced, working to educate them on what this plant really is. They have struggled through a pandemic and two floods, with no federal subsidies to help them, as mainstream food farmers are given a leg up.
With the brand now global, Sister Kate hopes the Sisters’ brand – and the Sisters as educating influencers, can find synergy with other cannabis companies, and team up for the greater good, in an effort to keep the Sisterhood alive.
Modesto – 420 Friendly: Holiday Inn Express
In planning a Weed Traveler to West Hollywood in Los Angeles this past spring (Weed Traveler issue # ), I was happy to have the help and sponsorship of several public relations firms and representatives working with the City of West Hollywood, The Woods, and The Artists Tree – all fully acknowledging the importance of cannabis tourism for its surrounding businesses. Modesto was no different, as I was assisted by Visit Modesto, part of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau, helping to plan my every step in covering the city for cannabis and its businesses that never touch the plant. .
Todd Aaronson was a gift, facilitating the city putting us up at the local Holiday Inn Express, complete with a place out front from which to partake. To give you an idea of what a big deal this is, the Holiday Inn is one of America’s oldest hotel chains, established in 1952, in the southern State of Tennessee, with 546 more across the country; and over 1200 hotels, globally. Aaronson is confident that the city will add more options for cannabis patients and consumers, with Visit Modesto leading the way.
“We’re in the mid-stages of re-concepting our program around education, legal access information and consumption options,” he said. “There are at least two hotels that allow ‘smoking’ in designated outdoor areas that are not like the “trash can seshes” you mentioned. Those lodging partners will be highlighted in the new program.” Aaronson sits on the CalTravel Cannabis Tourism Committee, and he’ll be at the CalTravel Board meeting in West Hollywood, visiting several lounges, bringing back ideas for city leadership.
Sharon’s Notes on Holiday Inn Express Sesh:
There were two designated smoking areas at the hotel. One out front by the main entrance, overlooking the drive where cars pull in to check-in and unload. This area was denoted only by one tall, free-standing ash receptacle, placed just off the walkway, near a large air conditioning unit. Now, I feel a bit privileged to complain. After all, we were given this lovely suite, and were allowed to smoke weed outside this very mainstream hotel – at the entrance, no less.
To give my complaint some perspective, the second smoking section was located at the back entrance to the hotel, leading out to the back parking lot, and a gated entrance to the swimming pool, with a lovely wooden bench, a table and chairs, and the same tall, free-standing ash receptacle. The catch? We weren’t allowed to sit in landscaped, luxury on a wooden bench, with the calming blue water beside us – because, what about the children? What if children are playing when I’m medicating for myriad ailments? (*see paragraph # 4, this feature)
Finding 420 friend accommodations is getting easier in states copasetic to cannabis via AirBnB, with many listings that allow cannabis use, either vaping or smoking inside, or in a designated outdoor area. Many cities have welcomed cannabis tourism, realizing the economic benefits, not just for cannabis businesses, but for every other business in a city – especially food and lodgings. Because people who partake, like to do so in nice settings – and we like to eat!
All throughout California’s Central Valley lounges are sorely lacking. Plenty of bars and restaurants with alcohol, but nary a place to partake. Again, I point to the amount of trash can and curbside seshes my friends and I had to have as an indication of a regions lack of education on what’s needed for its people. To remind, the entire state legalized, not just the blue or liberal leaning parts. In that respect, bans are discriminatory. I’m a serious cannabis patient, I’m using cannabis purposefully – medicating to recreate, if you will. I may be choosing plants (and a little fungi – wink, wink; nod, nod), over alcohol, but I’m still a contributing member of society, as they say.
Even when I’m visiting a city for a story, yes I’m sponsored, but the monies are still going to the community I’m visiting, including, dispensaries, delivery services, hotels, b&bs, gas stations, markets, shops, cafes, and the occasional amusement park, along the way. My money is just as good as the guy’s sitting at the end of the bar, as the girl’s smoking a preroll out back by the trash cans. We are all contributing members of a community.
Boomers: Weed & Miniature Golf
We were ecstatic to find Boomers across the street from the Holiday Inn Express. Boomers is a multi-use amusement park with an arcade, a go-cart track, and a miniature golf course that caused us to literally squeal with delight. Memories of partaking and playing miniature golf go way back to high school and into my twenties, so this was a real treat. Rachel and I saved a special preroll of Cantaloupe OG by Raw Garden, found at the Modesto Cannabis Collective, smoking the entire thing between us purposefully in anticipation of the game.
Giggles and fun ensued, and I nearly peed my pants laughing – which is always a good indication of an excellent time.
Modesto Farmers Market & Walking Mural Tour
On Saturdays near the infamous Modesto Arch, is the Modesto Farmers Market. On this sunny day, Rachel and I enjoyed our walk through the market, serenaded by a local band, perusing many cottage industry food makers, with many CBD products tabled, including CBD dog treats. The City of Modesto is known for its murals, and you can do a walking tour starting at the arch, while listening and being guided via your iPhone. Tracy native, Proof Wellness Representative, and Weed Traveler sponsor, Jen Noska, gave us a tour of the Modesto Cannabis Collective with CEO, Deana Vasquez Garcia. The collective is part of a chain equitably run the women, that includes the Tracy Cannabis Collective, managed and owned by Michelle Trew, with more locations in the works.
Dinner was leisurely enjoyed at Bahaus Tapas & Wine, owned by Chef Tye Bauer, with small plates to die for. Tinned Fish of Sardines on toast, Cauliflower Ceviche Tostada, and a pork loin drenched in locally sourced blackberry confit. Small plates are perfect for cannabis partakers, as we enjoy sitting, talking, and eating good food. Leisurely dining means we also like to stop and partake in between bites. With no cannabis lounges within the City of Modesto, we were banished to the trash can out back. To give you a visual, I was dressed fancy for the evening with tall shoes, yet was made to stand by the trash to medicate. What’s wrong with this picture? When a state or country legalizes, ordinances must include safe access to partake, not just to purchase. Of interest and directly related to cannabis remedies, is the Sciabica Family Tasting Room, makers of fine olive oil. Olive oil has long been a favorite infusion base for cannabis and other plant medicine, so it makes sense to include farmers of olives on the tour. The Sciabica family has been growing olives and making oil since Nicola Sciabica migrated from Sicily, Italy, purchasing the rance in 1925, where his grandsons and great grandsons still produce fine olive oil.
If you go:
Modesto Cannabis Collective https://www.modestocannabisco.com/ (209) 488-4172
Holiday Inn Express 4300 Bangs Ave. (209) 543-9009
Boomers 4215 Bangs Ave. (209) 545-5248
Modesto Walking Mural Tour https://visitmodesto.com/murals-4/
Visit Modesto https://visitmodesto.com/
Bauhaus 405 Downey Ave. (209) 857-5819
Sciabica Family Tasting Room 2150 Yosemite Blvd. (209) 577-5067
The Tracy Cannabis Collective took a grueling four years to open up after approved. The good news is, it sits right smack dab in beautiful old downtown Tracy. The location is a sign that something is being done right, when most cities hide dispensaries away in industrial neighborhoods. That said, most of the cities in this region are dragging their feet when it comes to allowing dispensaries to open in a timely manner. Partner in the Tracy and Modesto Cannabis Collectives, as well as a Representative at Proof Wellness – an extraction company in California, Jen Noska is also a serious cannabis patient, replacing multiple pharmaceuticals for myriad ailments. She knows the importance of not only safe access to purchase, but to partake.
The lack of ordinances for safe access has allowed, what many now refer to as the “traditional market,” to continue. Some estimate that upwards of 80 percent of material and products produced are still going to this unregulated market. That’s the backlash of what a lack of education looks like on what it means to partake safely and why it’s needed. “The traditional market offers sesh events that create a sense of community,” Noska shared. “People gather to purchase and consume products together – often with food, music and live entertainment. It’s great that we have a legal market now, with safe access in dispensaries, with clean and lab tested products, but we do not have anywhere for consumers to come together.” And partaking lounges aren’t only used for seshing, as Jen adds, “Cannabis lounges offer a place for workshops and lectures on plant-based education. They become a place for cancer and other patients to come together and support each other. Seshing is already happening at private events, it’s time to bring medicating openly with cannabis in a legal state out of the shadows and back alleyways of the city and show the patients some respect.”
Food for thought: While researching for a piece on the City of San Diego banning cannabis at public events, I found that with thousands of cannabis event goers pouring out of cannabis events throughout the state, there are zero altercations of violence or disruptive behavior noted. As opposed to violence, abuse, DUIs and deaths reported after events where “Beer Gardens” are licensed in public events via the city. Not to mention the havoc that ensues after major sporting events, where alcohol is openly observed pre-game tailgate parties in the parking lot.
“And it doesn’t hurt to note, cannabis lounges will bring more revenue to a city that allows them,” Noska surmised.
If you go:
Tracy Cannabis Collective 85 10th St. (209) 650-3306
Eats: Juniors, highlight: Chicken & Waffles, 939 N. Central Ave. (209) 879-9043
California’s Political Geogrphy 2020 https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-political-geography
Images Supplied by Sharon Letts
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