Los Angeles Part One: The Land of Weed and Money

For visitors, legalization in California is a double-edged sword

Long have I associated Los Angeles with being the perfect city in which to get high. Years before recreational was legal, I was lighting up with generous friends in a wide variety of party situations across the LA landscape. Someone in this city always has the smoke. Within a half hour of arriving in Los Angeles, the sweet stench of weed will drift into your nasal cavity (and for some, it is probably not so sweet). It’s an essential part of the culture out there – a cornerstone of LA living.

If you are visiting Los Angeles, the legalization of recreational cannabis in California has been a sort of double-edged sword. You will learn that your smoke is not welcome on most hotel properties, and the owners are quick to let you know, usually through signage. I learned the hard way a few years back that the hippy dippy vibe you expect from Los Angeles has not carried over to hoteliers.

Some friends and I were lighting up on an airport hotel balcony, and within 20 minutes there was a knock at the door: a gruff, no-nonsense security guard. He barked at us and threatened to eject the man staying in the room (ironically, the only person not partaking), but ultimately didn’t since it was his last night. They did fine him $300 (which we potheads all chipped in to pay for), and the entire experience left all of us shaken and annoyed.

The view from the top of the Academy Museum. I was totally baked when I snapped this.

Back when recreational weed was still illegal, one didn’t think much about these issues, because we all engaged in the same surreptitious behavior in order to enjoy our herb. Now, most any place where weed is legal, we itch to be open about what we do. Many of us, quite reasonably, feel we shouldn’t have to hide our use.

I recently again visited the Land of Weed and Money, a label I coined because 1) Duh! and 2) the “greatness” of LA is largely dependent on whether or not you’ve got the resources to enjoy its many pleasures. Not much could be more of a challenge than struggling just to exist in that city without the necessary means.

Much of my time spent in LA over the years has been under the most ideal of circumstances. Always a free party to attend, always a free drink to be drunk, always free rides to and from events. Life is quieter now, I no longer drink, and the party fairies have mostly dispersed. This trip was funded entirely by me and Mrs. Fareye, though we got a good deal on our luxury hotel. But as soon as we checked in, I started to see the detailed “No Smoking” signs, which may have initially been put up in reference to tobacco, but now encompass cannabis as well.

Some might not give a shit and smoke anyway, but as I was on vacation, I didn’t need the extra stress. Of course, (and I know, dear reader, you were thinking this three paragraphs ago) cannabis comes in forms and formulas far removed from the traditional flower these days, so I knew I’d be experiencing plenty of highs throughout my week, just largely not via smoke.

In Pasadena, I dipped into a dispensary called Essence. It has been some time – pre-COVID, certainly – since I was last in a California dispensary. The storefront is so unassuming that it’d be easily mistaken for a perfume store, and I wager many have. Essence is high tech, with little screens dotted throughout showcasing the products they offer. There’s actually very little product on display throughout the establishment. It almost seems like something out of a science fiction movie. Essence is far more Apple store than head shop. If ten years ago you’d asked me to envision what a legal pot shop might look like, this is not at all what I’d have imagined.

A budtender named Raelene did a fine job of helping me navigate the screen and find the products I was looking for: namely some sativa-leaning edibles and a vape cartridge. Worthy of note: these screens offered loads of info on each product. Head to the checkout counter where they ring you up and your purchases are brought to the front from a back room. There was a 25% off deal on all vape cartridges, and since I was new to the store, I got that first timer discount. The infamous California taxes, which totaled nearly $12 on my order, effectively negated the discounts I received, save for 15 cents.

The edibles and the vape cartridge

Still, the amount of money I would spend over the course of the week on activities, Lyft rides, and dinners paled in comparison to the $50 and change I spent on these two items. Likewise, Mrs. Fareye’s wine bill for the week dwarfed what I paid to keep myself stoned for the same amount of time. $50 is not at all a bad deal and friends who live in Vegas tell me that Essence, which has five locations there, is one of their preferred dispensaries.

Between parks, museums, evenings out for dinner with friends, and even a trip to the Hollywood Bowl to see Sheryl Crow, the edibles and vape pen kept me in a mostly tolerant, uplifted state of mind. The first couple days were challenging as I tried to get the edible/vape pen balance just right. Eventually I found that if I popped a couple gummies (5 mg each) early in the day, that I didn’t even need the pen until later in the afternoon. Another two gummies just before dinner turned out to complete the equation. Note that I bought 5 mg gummies. This is because I knew I would be social over the week yet did not know who might ask for one. But whomever did, I didn’t want them overdoing it. Babysitting someone too high on edibles is not all that much different than babysitting a drunk, and I do not care to do either.

Come back to Cannabinthusiast soon for Part Two of the “Los Angeles” essay, which will detail the, ahem, high point of my LA trip.

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