Cannabis tourism is growing quickly throughout California. With over 800 dispensaries, cannabis is as approachable as it is legal. With lots of ways to enjoy it, from smoking or vaping to ingesting edibles or drinking it in tonics or sodas, and with countless strains to explore, from indica to sativa, consumers will find as much diversity in the possibilities as they would in the wine, beer and spirits worlds. In fact, Sonoma Valley’s unique terroir has as much impact on the quality of our cannabis as it does our wine. The cannabis industry is currently in the process of creating appellations much like those for wines, so stay on the lookout as the industry grows and matures!
From a tourism point of view, there are many ways to experience cannabis in Sonoma Valley. Some hotels, like the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, offer cannabis dinners while spas, massage therapists, and chiropractors offer topical CBD treatments, taking your relaxation and healing to the next level. Touring companies like Happy Travelers Tours will take you out to explore and educate, offering wine and cannabis tasting experiences along the way. Our local dispensary, SPARC, opened in March 2022 in Sonoma Valley, and offers countless ways to enjoy cannabis. You can also visit their locations in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. Some dispensaries even deliver.
As the first state in the United States to legalize medical marijuana, and as one of the early states to legalize it, California is undeniably one of cannabis’ early pioneers. This said, there are still discrepancies between California state legislation and federal law, which, as of yet, has not legalized cannabis. Being mindful of state law is critical in starting your visit with safety and legality. (Click here to read the details of the law before you arrive.)
In addition to familiarizing yourself with your legal obligations, here are some tips to consider before your visit:
RULE #1: CANNABIS IS AN INTOXICANT, SO BE A RESPONSIBLE USER
Cannabis is an intoxicant. Period. It alters your mindset, behaviors, and your body chemistry. Michael Coats, President of the advocacy group, Sonoma Valley Cannabis Enthusiasts, emphasizes the importance of responsible use. “Adult use should equate to responsible use,” he says. “If we want the cannabis industry to thrive, we need to live inside the rules and not abuse them.” Know your limits and respect the law. This includes getting a designated driver before getting behind the wheel of a car, understanding your impact on others while under the influence, and keeping cannabis away from children.
Cannabis stimulates creativity, imagination and downright silliness at times. Have a good time, but please be mindful of your impact on others. Hospitality workers—particularly hotel workers and restaurant servers—might not be hip to what you’re putting down while they’re in the middle of their busy workday. Please stay in control enough to remember you’re visiting a town where people live and work and aren’t on vacation. Folks in Sonoma Valley use cannabis, too, but mindfully and respectfully of others.
RULE #2: GET TO KNOW THE DOSAGE & STRAINS THAT ARE RIGHT FOR YOU
When you go to a dispensary, tell the salesperson helping you what kind of experience you want to have, and ask them about dosages. In fact, ask lots of questions! If you’re new to cannabis use, opt for the lowest possible dose. More experienced users might tolerate something stronger. In addition, ask about individual strains, typically categorized as sativa, hybrid or indica. Sativa strains may make you chattier or more mentally stimulated. Indica strains are ideal for sleep or rest, as they tend to create more of a body high. Hybrids live somewhere on the continuum in between. Just because dispensaries sell cannabis cookies or cannabis sodas doesn’t mean you are supposed to consume the whole thing. Formats for cannabis consumption can be deceiving! Understanding the power of dosages and the individual cannabis strains are critical for your enjoyment and safety. Remember, when in doubt, ask! Retailers like those at SPARC are trained to answer your questions and are ready to help.
RULE #3: NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO IN CALIFORNIA, SMOKING IS FROWNED UPON
Whether you smoke or vape tobacco or cannabis, know that the prevailing winds in California do not favor smoking of any kind. As an early pioneer of health and tobacco-use prevention, the state of California has long prohibited smoking in public spaces. Smoking cannabis is only permitted on private property, with permission of the owners, and never within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or youth center while children are present. If you spark up a regular tobacco cigarette, be prepared to get negative comments and rolled eyes from passersby. If you spark up a joint or vape cannabis, be prepared for legal consequences.
RULE #4: ASK YOUR HOST ABOUT ON-PREMISE CANNABIS USE
Whether you’re staying in a hotel, B&B, or a vacation rental, make sure to ask your host about cannabis use. While smoking and vaping is permitted on private property, it is entirely at your host’s discretion whether or not they will tolerate it on premise. When it comes to cannabis, individual property owners’ rules supersede those of the state. If you break the rules, you may be subjected to penalties, steep cleaning fees, or eviction. Follow the rules, and enjoy your time here in the valley the way you deserve to.
RULE #5: PLEASE KEEP YOUR CANNABIS IN CALIFORNIA
If you come from a state where cannabis isn’t legal, it may be tempting to bring some home with you. Whatever you do, resist the urge! Traveling with cannabis, whether you’re crossing state lines in a car, a train or a plane, is illegal…even if you’re going to another state where it is legal. Federal airspace and federal properties prohibit cannabis—as do national parks like Point Reyes and Muir Woods, by the way—so please keep your cannabis in California and on state land, and feel free to come back any time to enjoy it again!