2018 was a prodigious year for the Emerald Triangle. Not only did California officially legalize recreational cannabis, the backbone of the area’s economy and cornerstone of its culture, but travel titan Lonely Planet named the Redwood Coast the number one destination in the United States.
The two events equal a potential so huge that comparisons of cannabis tourism to Napa Valley’s famous wine country are now the talk of the town. Like wine, cannabis is a pleasantly intoxicating substance with millions of aficionados. But unlike alcohol, cannabis is also highly medicinal and at the heart of countless miracle stories. For anyone who has personally experienced or watched a relative or friend overcome epilepsy or MS, get off opioid painkillers, or beat cancer with the help of ganja, it’s a plant to be revered.
Cannabis has also driven some of the most creative elements of America’s counterculture movement in terms of art, music, progressive politics, sustainable agriculture and holistic health all are on full display in Humboldt County. Add the pristine ancient forests, wilderness, coastlines, historic small towns, and the living jewels we call rivers, and what emerges is a cannabis tourism destination simply without compare.
Recognizing the rare and special qualities of life in the Emerald Triangle, the Southern Humboldt Business & Visitors Bureau
(SHBVB) has kicked off its Elevate the Magic campaign, branding the region as America’s Cannabis Heartland. On its website, the SHBVB produces high-quality video profiles of local Southern Humboldt (known colloquially as SoHum) farms, such as Alpenglow, Huckleberry Hill, and Lady Sativa. The footage showcases the region as a stunning backdrop for a cannabis-fueled adventure. The SHBVB also plans to welcome guests to America’s Cannabis Heartland through a Meet Your Farmer dinner series to be launched this spring, says Laura Lasseter, SHBVB director of operations.
While the historic farms of SoHum will undoubtedly draw visitors with their sun-grown ganja flowers and heritage, Northern Humboldt County is also positioned to become a cannabis mecca. In Humboldt County’s capital seat of Eureka, Matt Kurth runs Humboldt Cannabis Tours out of an office on 2nd and C streets in Old Town. In Kurth’s perspective, cannabis tourism is not in competition with other area attractions like the mighty sequoia sempervirens or the local art scene, but rather enhances them. For example, in Eureka, visitors can enjoy oysters, wine, Victorians, and local art in the waterfront district, while trails and beaches are only minutes away. At Eureka’s Sequoia Park Zoo, the world’s first old-growth redwood canopy walk is under construction. Such attractions add to the intrigue and excitement for cannabis tourists, visitors who crave the “real” Emerald Triangle experience.
Across the street from Humboldt Cannabis Tours, the Inn at Second & C is already welcoming cannabis tourists at their stylish hotel located in the historic Eagle House. “Eventually, we plan on applying to become an on-site consumption space for topical and edibles,” says co-owner Timothy Metz, who explains that the City of Eureka is working on approving the first batch of on site consumption licenses by May. On-site consumption permits will allow cannabis friendly guests and visitors to get elevated with premium Humboldt County products in legally designated spaces.
Over at the brand-new Proper Wellness Center
on 5th Street in Eureka, the new dispensary celebrated its grand opening in March, offering a wide range of edibles and topicals. The women-owned dispensary is proud to partner with 12 unique Emerald Triangle farms, many of which are female-owned and operated. The story behind each farm is on display at Proper Wellness so that customers can engage with the legacy behind the products they are purchasing.
While it’s exciting to see new facilities, events, and activities created around cannabis tourism, it’s important to recognize that the experience is about more than collecting tourist dollars. Cannabis tourism is a platform to share the culture and legacy of Humboldt County’s small, sustainable, and family-run farms with the public. In an industry threatened by corporate investment, mom and pop farmers are major players in the cultural shift around mainstream cannabis acceptance and education.
“For branding Humboldt, tourism can and will be invaluable,” says Kurth. “If someone visits your farm and then sees your product next to another product on the shelf, they’re going to choose your product.” Kurth explains that while Humboldt cannot compete with other potential growing regions pound for pound, the region should dominate the craft cannabis market tourism is key to making that happen. “You don’t need huge numbers to have a big impact,” says Kurth.
Despite its humble reputation, Humboldt is already synonymous with top shelf quality when it comes to the nation’s fastest-growing industry. It’s time to put the Emerald Triangle legacy to good use.