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A Complete Guide to Cannabis in San Francisco

All across America cannabis is becoming a legalized and well-accepted consumption product that is becoming more and more popular all the time. With a dozen states that allow for legal use of cannabis, another handful that allow for medical use, and almost all that allow for CBD use, the craze seems to be growing faster than anyone can keep up with.

This growth is known by all California residents due to the 2018 legalization of public consumption of cannabis. And boy, was 2018 an interesting year with dispensaries popping up on every street corner, and just as quickly disappearing. Well established brands close shop, and hobbyist opening up where they left off. It’s was a rollercoaster of a year in 2018 and there have been many ups and downs to it.

If you’re new to the cannabis legalization, we’re going to go over many of the basics here so you can understand the legalization of it, the dispensaries, where you can get some great products, and what all of the different products are. The last thing you want to do is go into consuming cannabis without knowing some important information first – so you don’t have a bad trip!

Legalization of Cannabis in California

So now that cannabis (also called marijuana, pot, weed, and other nicknames) is legal, does that mean it’s a free for all? Can you buy as much as you want just like cigarettes and alcohol? Well, the rules are a bit more complicated than that. This is why it’s important to understand the rules before you start making purchases in San Francisco.

Here are the rules and regulations set in place for cannabis purchase/possession:

  • Similar to alcohol, you must be 21 or older to purchase, use, or poses recreational cannabis including use for eating, smoking, vaping, etc.
  • You are not allowed to give or sell cannabis to minors (under 21).
  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • It is illegal to consume cannabis in any form (smoke, vape, eat, etc.) in public at all including bars, restaurants, workplaces, parks, sidewalks, etc. (so pretty much you can only do it at home).
  • It is also illegal to take your cannabis across any state lines, even if it’s legal to have cannabis in that state.
  • It is illegal to consume or possess cannabis on any federally owned land such as national parks even if it’s within San Francisco.
  • You must get a state issued license to be able to sell retail cannabis products.

To sum it up in short words, you must be 21 to purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer and you can only smoke it in your home in California where no children are present. If you’re a non-US citizen and are looking to try this within California, please take note that it is not federally legalized in the US and if you are found to have been using cannabis products you could receive a lifetime ban from entering the country. There is a lot of grey area for tourists using cannabis products in California, so it’s suggested to steer clear of it knowing the above risk.

San Francisco’s Best Cannabis Dispensaries

Before 2018 if you wanted to get weed, you’d just venture on over to Dolores park and wait for a shady looking guy to open his jacket to show you his goods. Thankfully with the legalization you can enjoy a more tasteful atmosphere to purchase and consume your weed in. Below are some of our favorite dispensaries in the Bay Area.

  • Barbary Coast (4.5 stars): This dispensary started in 2013 as a medicinal cannabis center originally, but with the legalization of it it’s expanded in size to include an indoor lounge where you can try out the products. You can find all sorts of smoking, vaping, dabbing, flowers, and concentrates here as well as all of the necessary accessories to go with them.
  • Apothecarium (Yelp rating: 4.0 stars): Stepping into any of the 3 shops in San Francisco will seem more like an upscale restaurant than a weed shop. Here you can find a large variety of edibles, topicals, oils, flowers, and other great cannabis products. Sit back in many of their fluffy chairs and try out your new products as it’s allowed inside this shop.
  • Grass Roots (4.0 stars): Now for those of you looking for a truly lab-tested product that’s safe and accurate, then Grass Roots is a perfect pit-stop on your cannabis tasting tour. They pride themselves on having some of the most knowledgeable “Budtenders” around and have a menu of over 500 products including vapes, topicals, edibles, extracts, and so much more. Step on up to their wooden bar and let the staff get you up to speed on what the best product for you is.
  • Harvest (3.5 stars): You’ll enjoy Harvest for it’s hundreds of different types of products including ointments, lotions, edibles, flowers, and other consumables. This isn’t a place to hang-out and chill, but rather the place to get a wide variety of products primarily sourced from local California growers. There are also educational classes and workshops for those looking to learn more about the products and their benefits.

Each of these dispensaries are extremely knowledgeable and helpful so if you’re a newcomer or a veteran alike, you can count on them to guide you along the way.

Deliveries, Websites, and Apps for your Phone

Companies that deliver cannabis products require a different state license than the normal walk-in stores so it’s a bit rarer find delivery options. We will note that many of the results on Yelp are not correct that they offer deliveries so be sure to research properly first.

Delivery Companies
  • Green Rush: You have access to thousands of products available online through Green Rush. They cover not only San Francisco but many other locations across California and the rest of the US (where it’s legal) as they partner with multiple different companies across the country. (GreenRush.com)
  • Eaze: By far the most well known and popular due to the Snoop Dogg backing. While they don’t personally do the deliveries, they partner with other people who do so you can get their great products right to your doorstep. (Eaze.com)
  • Bay Care Delivery: You can either call or order online for all of the bay area and talk to real humans. They delivery right to your doorstep 7 days a week. (BayCareDelivery.com)

While on the topic of online market for the Bay Area, there are also some great apps you can utilize to make it easier to access cannabis on the go.

Cannabis Apps
  • Weedmaps: Sometimes you’re out on the go and you need to find a dispensary nearby. Well, Weedmaps is like the Yelp of the cannabis world.
  • MassRoots: While you can typically see cannabis products all over Instagram, there’s one social platform that’s specifically for weed. Mass roots allows for posting of text, photos and video with editing and filter capabilities. This helps you keep up to date with the different trends in the cannabis world.
  • HighThere!: If you’re on the hunt for a companion and don’t want to go through the hassle of determining if they’re “ok” with your habits, the HighThere! App is just like Tinder for cannabis users. Swipe left or right to show others if you’re interested in them and start chatting!

Cannabis Product Guide

While the most common thing everything thinks about when they think about cannabis is the type that’s rolled up in paper and smoked since that was the most common version, but there’s so much more to know about cannabis products.

Beginner Info

There are many different reasons as to why you want to try cannabis/marijuana products. This may be to help boost your creativity, to get inspired or energized, or maybe just to help you with socializing with others. For others it’s more medically initiated as it is known to help with depression or anxiety and also helps with chronic pain. This is why you’ll typically hear terms like medical or recreational cannabis.

No matter what your reason for trying it out is, do so with a clear head and a defined purpose so you can get the desired result. Below are some of the most common forms to help you in determining which you want to try to achieve the result.

  • Sativa: This is for those looking for a creative boost in their life. It helps to uplift your mood, increase your energy, and improve your focus. Great for athletes and artists alike.
  • Indica: For those insomniacs out there, Indica is perfect for you! It helps to reduce anxiety, relieve pain, and relaxes the mind/body.
  • Hybrid: The Hybrid versions combine Sativa and Indica together creating a nice balanced blend of the two.
  • CBD: The newest and most popular craze, CBD created little to no “high” making it highly popular as you receive most of the same benefits without the unwanted ones. This is perfect as a pain reliever, muscle recovery, and reducing inflammation.
Delivery Methods

First thing to understand is that there are 3 different types of delivery methods including inhalation, oral and topical. Each appropriate for different occasions and personal preferences.

  • Inhalation: This is when cannabis is inhaled into the lungs and then enters the blood stream. Typically, this enters your body by the use of hand pipes, water pipes, bongs, and rolling papers. The most common type being hand pipes as they are small and easy to use. They do say that the water pipes are quite popular as it cools down the smoke and may help to filter out harmful particles. You can also use vaporizer which slowly heats up the cannabis to a temperature which extracts the cannabis but without the harmful chemicals that happens when you burn the cannabis. This is the healthiest type of cannabis use and reduces the smoke that typically comes with smoking cannabis. Dabbing is also one of the newest forms of inhalation which is done by using cannabis concentrates which is a form of flash vaporization. You basically drop the concentrate onto a heated surface which quickly vaporizes it to be inhaled.
  • Oral: This includes any type of technique which is ingested into the mouth including food, drinks, tinctures, oils, etc. While the most common ways to ingest cannabis orally is through the digestive system by swallowing food or drinks, you can also directly swallow oils/tinctures or capsules with a gel inside to quickly get the cannabinoid oils into your blood stream. Many people are going for the tinctures and oils as it allows for quick action without the health risks of smoking.
  • Topical: The topical type delivery method utilizes the cannabis extract in a thick oil form which can be absorbed through the skin. While this type does not provide the stimulation that most people consider as “high”. The topical treatments ensure you still have a clear head but still provide many of the same benefits including relief from muscle aches and soreness

Now that you’ll understand the different type of delivery methods, we can dive deeper into some of the different products that you’ll find in the different cannabis stores around the city.

Product Types

The cannabis industry is just booming right now with thousands of different entrepreneurs sticking their hands into the pot (literally!). While you typically could just find a few different basic products like pot brownies and marijuana joints, the variety of products has just spiraled into hundreds of different types. So, here are some of the best-selling product types that are trendy right now so when you walk into a store you can be a bit more informed about some that you’d like to try out.

  • Gummies: In 2018 the cannabis gummies industry reached sales of over $1 billion and are just growing exponentially every year. These little gummies are a perfect little first timer product as they taste good and don’t have the negative stigma that smoking does. One piece of advice is to take it slow. Gummies taste good and are easy to quickly reach that “too high” point!
  • Vapes: Just like smoking tobacco, millions have shifted away from smoking rolled leaves and instead are leaning towards vaping as it’s cleaner alternative. Vapes come in many different forms and come in a multitude of flavors and intensity levels.
  • CBD Oils/Tinctures: On every street corner now, you seem to be able to find a store selling different kinds of CBD oils and tinctures which can be added to almost any food or drink or can be taken on their own by swallowing them. The other great part is that CBD from hemp is legal on the federal level so you can still purchase these anywhere and use them all across the country.
  • Chocolates: While not as popular as before, for a first timer or those who want something tastier than vapes and oils, chocolates make it easy to swallow. You can find CBD infused chocolates in almost all shops which make excellent gifts or snacks for those that need a quick hit.
Product Strains

One of the last things to take into consideration is that there are different types of strains of cannabis. There are many different unique types of cannabis and some are more preferred over others. When you’re trying to pick what type of product you want, the strain can often be the most important part as the THC level will differ greatly between them. The THC level among most of the popular strains is above 15% whereas others can range as low as 6.4%. This is very similar to the alcohol content in beer and wine so you’ll know how potent it is if it’s higher.

It is important to note that you shouldn’t focus too much on the THC percentage level as similar to alcohol, the higher the percentage, the more bitter and rougher the experience may be. You may want to look for a product which you more thoroughly enjoy the taste/experience which will get you there with a smoother path along the way.

Below are some of the most popular strains on the market:

  • Irish Cream: This strain is one of the best when treating different medical situations including stress, anxiety, depression, and pain as it helps many fall asleep easily.
  • Godfather OG: This is by far one of the most popular strains on the market as it has more than 34% THC. While this is one of the most popular, for first time users it’s highly suggested to be careful as it could end up immobilizing you for the afternoon.
  • Girl Scout Cookies: Many experienced and beginners go for this strain as it has a very sweet scent that tastes similar to mint flavor. It has up to 28% THC content and will often put you into a very mellow and happy mood.
  • Blue Dream: Across the country, the most popular strain is definitely Blue Dream which originated in California. It has about a 20-22% THC level and gives you that overall relaxation vibe but still stimulates you mentally. In general, if you’re a new user and you want that chill yet talkative vibe, this is definitely the one for you as it doesn’t give those sedative side effects of the others.

Cannabis Tours

If you’re looking to take your cannabis knowledge and tasting to the next level, why not grab a few friends and take a cannabis tour of the San Francisco area! There are dozens of these tours by multiple different companies so you’ll have to do some hunting to find which one is right for you.

You can either get tours of different popular dispensaries, and underground tour of some of the lesser known ones, and even a farm tour of where it’s grown and made into products!

  • Green Guide Tours
    By far one of the most popular and friendly of these tours is done by Green Guide. They offer both public walking tours or private bus tours that help you understand the cannabis culture in San Francisco. They help break down the stigmas about cannabis and teach you the history and future of the cannabis industry. Cannabis is not offered or provided on these tours so if you’re only looking for information you can join, but of course if you want to try anything you can do this at your own cost.

San Francisco Cannabis

No matter what you end up trying, start small and enjoy your time exploring all that San Francisco has to offer in the cannabis world. Relax, make some friends and keep smiling 😊

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt’s tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.