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How to be a good weed tourist


As more states and countries legalize recreational marijuana, incorporating weed into your vacation is becoming as normal as sampling craft beer at a brewery or a flight of wine at a local vineyard. However, unlike bars and wineries, the weed culture is governed by a set of manners and rules that you likely won’t pick up from your grandparents.

“Cannabis has its own culture and etiquette. Many of us know ‘puff, puff, pass.’ That’s weed etiquette right there,” said Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute and author of the 2019 book, “Higher Etiquette.”

Though the laws will vary depending on the destination, several universal tenets apply. Here are some tips to help you move safely, smartly and confidently through the budding landscape.

Find places where weed is legal

First, make sure that recreational marijuana is legal in your destination. The federal government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance. However, 22 states have legalized recreational use, and more states are considering the issue.

Elsewhere in the world, some countries have fully legalized it, such as Canada and Thailand. Others have placed restrictions on the industry. In Uruguay, only residents can purchase it. Portugal and Mexico have decriminalized the drug but do not allow commercial sales. Spain and the Netherlands condone it, though Amsterdam is cracking down on tourists smoking in its Red Light District.

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For all travel abroad, the State Department urges Americans to follow the marijuana laws dictated by the host country. “Even if you are traveling with recreational or medical THC or CBD products you legally purchased in one country, you can face problems when traveling to another destination,” a State Department spokesperson said by email. “The penalties can be severe, and no one is exempt.”

For country-specific information, check the department’s online international travel section. For example, the profile for the Netherlands reads: “Despite common misperceptions, marijuana and hashish are controlled substances in the Netherlands, and although not enforced in defined tourist areas, possession is a crime that can result in a fine.”

In the United States, you must be at least 21 years old to buy and consume marijuana in states where it is legal. Dispensaries and lounges will accept a valid driver’s license, passport or military card, among other official forms of ID.

Bring the real thing. At the Woods, a dispensary and lounge in West Hollywood, security turned away a young woman who only had a photo of her passport on her phone. Abroad, use your passport, since foreign retailers might not recognize a US driver’s license.

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When purchasing marijuana, shop at licensed dispensaries and avoid black markets, which may deal in questionable products. Each state has its own verification system, such as the QR codes displayed at pot shops in California and New York. On the packaging, look for a “universal symbol” — assurance that the goods have been tested and are compliant. The icon usually features a pot leaf and an exclamation point or the words “Contains THC.”

Most cannabis businesses cannot access credit cards because of the financial companies’ ties to large national or multinational banks and their fear of clashing with federal policy, explained Morgan Fox, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Some dispensaries have an on-site ATM, but not all. For this reason, customers should withdraw cash before hand.

“Credit card service is incredibly rare — possibly nonexistent — at licensed cannabis retailers,” Fox said, “and many of them are forced to operate in cash because of the difficulty in obtaining even simple bank accounts or on-site ATM services.”

Ask your friendly budtender

Smoking a blunt or eating an edible is not as predictable as, say, drinking a Bud Light or sipping an Aperol spritz. At the dispensary, consult with a budtender, a role that is sometimes half-pharmacist, half-mixologist.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Stephen Brown, a manager at Jad’s Mile High Smoke, a Denver lounge with an on-site dispensary. “How are you looking to feel? Giggly or laid-back?”

One of the commandments of weed consumption is “start low and go slow.” Weed affects each person differently, but in general smoking works the fastest (almost immediately) and edibles are the pokiest (several hours). Moses, the lead budtender at Simply Pure dispensary in Denver, recommends microdosing, or consuming five grams or less.

“Look for small percentages and work your way up. A two-pack of prerolls is a great place to start,” he said. “Having too much too fast will put you in a bad headspace.”

The type of strain will also shape your experience, so tell the budtender what kind of activities you plan to pair with your marijuana. If you want to relax, choose an indica. For a jolt of energy, pick up a sativa. For a blend of both, go for a hybrid. If you’re a new user, start with a strain that has a higher amount of CBD than THC and work your way up.

The staff will also know the legal amount you can purchase per day. The state is trusting that you will not go to another dispensary for a second daily allotment, which is against the law.

A basic rule of thumb is that any place that does not allow tobacco smoking will most likely ban pot smoking and vaping. More than two dozen states have antismoking laws, though not all have legalized the drug. Some destinations (New York, California and Connecticut, for example) prohibit smoking at outdoor recreational areas including public beaches and parks. And, of course, federal lands — national parks, forests, monuments, seashores — are completely off-limits.

“I think the biggest mistake people make is thinking that cannabis can be consumed anywhere and that it will be welcome anywhere,” Post said. “You really need to pay attention to the situation around you and think about what is going to be appropriate and best for all parties involved.”

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Despite the laws, many marijuana industry experts say that some places are permissive, as long as you smoke at will. For lodging, April Black, co-founder of Higher Way Travel, suggests booking a hotel with a rooftop pool or bar and guest rooms with private balconies. She also said a comedy club and nightclub in West Hollywood, known as the Emerald Village, would tolerate pot smokers in their open-air areas.

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“Enjoy your cannabis on the down low,” she said.

However, your transition could cost you. Hotel Ziggy in West Hollywood caters to weed travelers with an edibles and THC-infused beverage menu curated by a local dispensary. But the property shows smokers no mercy: Violate its rules and pay $500.

Don’t consume on an empty stomach

Before smoking or consuming edibles, eat real food. THC is fat-soluble, so filling your belly can hasten your highs and also helps offset any negative side effects. “You get more out of it if you eat something fatty,” Brown said.

Some lounges sell snacks or more substantial bar food, such as the hamburgers, Philly cheesesteak and pizza at Jad’s Mile High Club. Other spots may team up with local restaurants for delivery: Guests at West Hollywood’s Artist Tree can order from Fresh Corn Grill and Junior Cookies. In Oregon, Flight Lounge offers its members a full brunch menu at its Portland location. The cafe is closing in May, but the owners are opening a new space with more food options and additional seating.

Be mindful of privacy in consumption lounges

If you are planning to visit a consumption lounge, familiarize yourself with the rules before arriving. Don’t bring outside weed if it’s not allowed, or pack a to-go baggie if it’s BYOW. In addition, most states do not allow businesses to mix weed with tobacco or alcohol products, so leave both at home.

At these venues, visitors can often buy or borrow rolling papers and bongs. For any shared equipment, clean the mouthpiece with an alcohol wipe before and after use. Return it to the proper shelf or cabinet afterward.

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One important best practice applies to anytime or anywhere marijuana is present: Never snap photos of participants without their permission. Recreational and medical cannabis can be a very private matter, even outside one’s residence.

“Respect your neighbour. Not everyone’s out,” said Leia Flynn, co-owner of Flight Lounge. “It’s really about privacy and a providing a safe space.”

As with any activity that involves a mind-altering substance, don’t go out solo; invite trusted friends along. Avoiddriving. Choose entertainment or social venues in well-lit and -trafficked areas served by ride hailing or cabs. Stick close to your hotel or rental property, in case you overdo it.

“Use ride share, have a spirit guide (designated driver), call a cab or just stay put until the right time,” Visit Modesto in California advises in its online guide.

If at any point you feel like you have been overconsumed, tell a friend and an employee who might have a remedy on hand. “Feeling dizzy? Lightheaded? Nauseous? Notify staff immediately,” reads a sign at the Woods’ Ganja Giggle Garden.

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Chris Chiari, who is building a marijuana-smoking lounge for his Patterson Inn in Denver, said sugar or black peppercorns — sniffed or chewed — can neutralize THC. Dextro energy pills, which he learned about in Amsterdam, can also work wonders. So can time. “You are coming down with each breath after your last hit,” he said.

Post’s go-to cure is CBD. She recommends carrying a CBD joint or gummy that you can break open in case of emergency. “CBD can be one of your best friends,” she said. “A high dose of CBD can help you come down from a heavy THC high.”

Traveling out-of-state with weed

You can travel across state lines with hemp products, which are legal, but not marijuana. All THC products must remain in their home state. Transportation Security Administration officers are not actively looking for weed in passengers’ bags. Even so, experts do not recommend flying with it.

Ask the dispensary if it can dispose of your unused items. Several airports have installed amnesty boxes, including Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport, Chicago O’Hare and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport. You can also try a composting facility.

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Some rental properties, especially those listed on Bud and Breakfast, may provide a donation box. You can leave behind your smoking accessories or pack them, as long as you thoroughly clean them. But don’t deposit any weed in the box, for health and safety reasons. The state of Connecticut recommends mixing your leftovers with kitty litter or coffee grains, sealing it in a container and tossing it in the trash. Make sure children and animals cannot get their paws on it.

The best way to avoid extra weed is to be a thoughtful and strategic shopper. Purchase small amounts. You can always go back to the dispensary for more.

“Just buy what you need for a day or two and use up what you can,” Post said. “It does suck to throw out a beautiful nugget of stinky, delicious weed knowing that you could have enjoyed it.”

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