By David Jenison of Culture Magazine
Even as the Dutch right-wingers get ready to shut down tourist access to Amsterdam’s famed coffeeshops, many progressive U.S. cities are moving in the opposite direction. Medical marijuana is now commonplace in several major cities, and it didn’t even set off Armageddon (sorry Rev. Camping). While it’s unlikely that Dutch-style coffeeshops will pop up anytime soon, the U.S. certainly has its share of budding cities. Olympia has the Oly 420 Cup, Boston boasts an annual HempFest, Vermont’s got the incredibly awesome Super Troopers movie and the Cannabis CafÃ© in Portland might just be the nation’s first smoke-in dispensary. There are countless cities worth mentioning, but with apologies to the East coast, these are CULTURE’s picks for the Top 5 American Amsterdams.
5. Los Angeles
Snoop Dogg. Cypress Hill. Kottonmouth Kings. Afroman. The Chronic. Is there another city on Earth with so many iconic, cannabis-touting music acts? Alanis Morissette might only be an adopted Angeleno, but she is arguably the highest profile female advocate for legalization. It’s even the storyline location for the first three seasons of Weeds. Above all, L.A. County reportedly has the highest concentration of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.
4. Maui, Hawaii
Did you know that Hawaii has the lowest arrest rate per capita for U.S. marijuana offenses? The Aloha State naturally embraces medical marijuana, legalizing it in 2000, and it’s home to the THC Ministry church “where spirit and science meet human needs.” Sure, Maui is not a city, but the whole island deserves credit for its world famous Maui Waui.
3. Fairbanks, Alaska
Ever watch Alaska’s ex-governor and wonder what she’s been smoking? Well, the possibilities are many since the State Supreme Court made two ounces of marijuana legal for in-home use with the Ravin v. State ruling of 1975. Despite legal wrangling since, cannabis users are still generally free to smoke and grow on their personal property. Anchorage is closer to the Matanuska Valley, home of the almighty Alaskan ThunderFuck strain, but Fairbanks is the best city for smokers to watch the Aurora Borealis. And whatever you think of Mama Grizzly, you got to love anyone with a grandson named Tripp.
San Francisco has Hippie Hill, Eureka claims Humboldt County and Berkeley boasts Green Day, but Oakland got the NorCal nod for its infamous Oaksterdam district. Located in the north end of downtown, the area features several green-friendly cafes, clubs, dispensaries and even a university for training the next generation of medical marijuana professionals. Want to try medicated peanut brittle? This is the place!
You got to love a town that names its basketball team the Nuggets! Still, the capital city takes the pole position for becoming the first U.S. city to legalize marijuana use. That’s right, they voted to legalize all marijuana use, not just medical. State law supersedes local law, but there’s currently a drive to get statewide legalization on next year’s ballot. Likewise, the nearby University of Colorado is Playboy’s reining No. 1 party school. What earned the school such an honor? The magazine credited the first-place ranking to the campus’ annual 420 smoke-outs, which regularly draw up to half of the school’s 24,000 undergrads. Add in the South Park guys, Carmelo Anthony’s pot bust and a thriving jam band scene, and Denver proves it truly is the Mile High City!
One cannabis-unfriendly city to definitely consider keeping at arm’s length is New York City. Why? It’s the marijuana arrest capital of the world, clocking in a stunning 400,000 arrests for minor possession charges between 1997 and 2007. Kurt Russell had it right–escape from New York!