After my video chat with a doctor, I immediately received digital verification within about five minutes. After a short process of verification with delivery service Eazeup.com, I was ready to order. Today, Eazeup was having what I now know to be a bad day for them – it would take 3 hours for my order to get to me that day. Thankfully – I knew this going into it, by the site’s projected delivery times as well as a call from my delivery guy. I planned ahead, and spent a few hours cleaning the new apartment and just generally getting my responsibilities out of the way with.

When my delivery did show up, after a convenient warning call, there was a quick handoff just down my front steps was no more complicated than a pizza delivery – and a much friendlier exchange than your average food delivery experience. After 27 years living under prohibition, the convenience of all this was shocking to experience, even though I had known it was out there. The feeling after that first delivery is hard to describe, but it was hard not to think at that moment that anything is possible out here in the west. The casual friendliness of the delivery driver was in a way my introduction to California cannabis culture – besides my online consultation with the doctor. What on the east coast was either taboo or at best made into a joke, was treated here with the optimism and seriousness of a practice designed for health and wellness. 

At this point I was really just barely beginning to discover my strong preference for indica strains – so I had ordered a sativa dominant, an indica hybrid, as well as a pure indica to really get a sense across the board, now that I had the opportunity. That first month was spent exploring central California – the redwoods lining the coast both north and south of San Francisco, from the lush green of Muir woods beyond the Golden Gate, to Big Basin State Park, far up a windy road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, down the coast to Big Sur with its windswept, palm lined cliffs. All the while, I tried out each of the three cannabis strains in different situations. I hiked amongst the tallest trees I’d ever seen, laid on dramatic, rocky Pacific beaches, and wandered the hills of San Francisco. If there was ever any question as to whether the cross country trip to California was worth it, the answer was now a clear yes. 

Within a few weeks, I learned that my “ceiling”, or limit for cannabis consumption was much lower with sativa and hybrid strains – especially in new situations away from home. Furthermore, this wasn’t because it was achieving the desired effect faster, but because undesirable side effects, such as racing heart, mental fogginess, and anxiety were much quicker to make an appearance. With the indica strain, however (in this case a Hindu Kush variety called Hindu Transcendence) I was able to achieve much more reasonable, therapeutic doses before encountering any negative side effects. The focus of an indica experience seemed to be more external, whereas the mental buzz of a strong sativa was more likely to get me wrapped up in my own thoughts. That external focus was the perfect mental backdrop for exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of the California coast. 

Big Sur  PC: Sam Bass 

Big Sur

PC: Sam Bass 

We also explored San Francisco neighborhoods like North Beach and the Haight, as well the more relaxed and surfy college town vibe in Santa Cruz. We checked out our immediate surroundings, the South Bay, too – but generally found it too sleepy, suburban, and expensive to want to spend much of our time off here when we had a choice. Our little corner of the Silicon Valley did however, offer a pretty amazing variety of South Asian food – Pakistani, Nepalese, South Indian, Thai – more vibrant and fresh than any such food on the east coast. Himalayan Kitchen, in Mountain View is a perfect example of this – with a focus on North Indian and Nepalese food. The difference in quality from anything similar I’d had back east was vast, and part of this is due to the higher quality of produce in California in general. 

The online doctor with HelloMD had recommended Leafly.com to explore the wide universe of strains, to see which would be most effective for treating both migraines and extreme sleep difficulties. Once I came to my conclusion about sticking with indicas, Leafly became my primary source for double checking Eaze.com’s shaky claims about genetics. They would often claim an indica dominant as pure indica, and Leafly was really the only way for me to tell if it was accurate. It also has a function which will locate any strain or product in a dispensary near you. Needless to say, this was leagues ahead of anything I’d experienced before in terms of finding strains that are relaxing and therapeutic. After a lifetime of not having any access to desirable and appropriate strains, I now could pinpoint what worked and what did not work with incredible precision, thanks to California’s open cannabis culture, and the growing internet presence of reliable resources. This internet culture in particular made it easy for me, new to the area not knowing anyone or knowing my way around, to jump in to the world of west coast cannabis.

Bearing in mind that I already came to California with at least basic knowledge of what to look for and how to find it, I hope that these internet resources – for cannabis clinics, delivery, and strain information will make it easier for people entirely new to cannabis to find what they need, and to have positive experiences as a result. In this way proliferation of knowledge and experiences on the internet could already be helping to usher in a new era of acceptability for cannabis. 

But in reality, finding the right strains goes much deeper than indica or sativa umbrella categories. Some sources will even say that indica and sativa are outdated labels from a time when cannabis was sourced from only a small handful of places around the world, and when the science of plant taxonomy was in itself in its infancy. While I haven’t seen enough evidence to call these categories irrelevant, there are exceptions to every rule, and the chemical makeup of each strain of cannabis is what really determines the effect. This involves the interplay of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD with terpenes – aromatic compounds, also found in other plants and foods, that may (according to recent research) greatly enhance and alter the effects of the cannabinoids themselves. If this research holds up, terpenes actually improve the efficacy of cannabis for specific conditions depending on the presence of certain terpenes – such as asthma, insomnia, stomach conditions and many more. 

Not only is information still inconsistent online – Leafly and Eaze do not always agree about what’s a sativa or indica (don’t get me started on message boards, either) – but Eaze doesn’t seem to lab test their strains for cannabinoids or terpenes. As I would soon learn, many dispensaries actually do this, resulting in a truly thorough process to help figure out exactly what chemistry patients need. I would soon learn that going to a good dispensary in person yields better results – not only is information present about the chemistry of specific strains, but the chance to tap directly into the knowledge of industry veterans will probably never be matched by online research. Humanity’s knowledge about cannabis has probably increased more in the past 20 years than it did the prior 500. Much of this is due to California’s status as a vanguard of tolerance and open mindedness. As I thought when I left New York, the west coast is simply more willing to abandon tradition when it becomes outdated, and when a more practical and humane way of doing things becomes available. Attitudes here are based on the science of cannabis use, rather than the propaganda claims of the past. My dispensary experiences would soon open up a whole new chapter of cannabis discovery for me, thanks to this new culture and industry.