California marijuana guide: Day-tripping Sacramento dispensaries
Sacramento is home to one of the oldest medical cannabis markets in the state. Like the city itself, the licensed dispensaries in the capital are unpretentious and friendly. In addition to local growers and brands such as Hi-Fi, Cocoa Meds, and Dabface, you’ll also find high-quality products from the Emerald Triangle to the Sierra Foothills, often selling at prices below the Bay Area’s sticker-shock pot.
There are several reasons why Bay Area cannabis consumers should get off the freeway en route to Tahoe, or maybe even plan a Sacramento dispensary day-trip. Chief among them: visiting scores of great clubs; sparking a legal joint on the capital steps; and meeting a farmer for the backstory on your favorite strain. Let's do this:
1. Visit a Dispensary
All About Wellness
1900 19th St., (916) 454-4327
Why go? While wellness is a high-minded goal, this bodega-style corner-store dispensary is also all about retailing. It’s jam-packed with flowers, edibles, concentrates, a pleasing lineup of $5 joints, and specials for every budget. It’s also the most centrally located dispensary in the downtown/midtown core, on a major thoroughfare, a short walk from light rail and some of the city’s best restaurants.
Nearby: Hook and Ladder, housed in metal quonset huts two blocks west, is run by one of the most adventurous chefs in town and serves brunch all day, including a braised bacon Benedict. For fried chicken and magnificently sloppy burgers, head to South, and the locally minded Localis has a raved-about fried-chicken happy hour.
Northstar Holistic Collective
1236 C St., (916) 476-4344
Why go? Northstar has the same owners as Urban Pharm but lacks the San Francisco dispensary’s on-premises smoking/vaping/dabbing lounge and steampunk sex-club vibe. Instead, expect a no-nonsense clinic atmosphere, friendly service, a strong lineup of outdoor and indoor flowers, a smart selection of concentrates, and daily $50 half-ounce specials.
Nearby: Sampino’s Towne Foods serves fantastic sandwiches and Italian family-dinner specials in a cozy deli setting. If you’re looking for Mexican, Taqueria Jalisco, Sacramento’s oldest taqueria (since 1962), sets the standard. Nutty products of all kinds can be found at the headquarters gift shop of Blue Diamond Almonds. And for doughy treats, check out old-school New Roma Bakery, which sells half-priced bread, pastries, and doughnuts after 1 p.m. Hop on a downtown-bound light-rail train, a short walk away, and get your vintage arcade game on at Coin-Op Game Room on the K Street Mall.
Abatin Wellness Center
2100 29th St., (916) 822-5699
Why go? Connoisseur-grade genetics, patient-forward customer service, and easy parking. Cofounded by cannabis activist and former daytime TV host Montel Williams, Abatin is operated by the folks who run Phytologie Wellness in Oakland.
Nearby: You’ll probably pass Pushkin’s Bakery on the way to Abatin; stop in for gluten-free goodies. A short drive or bike ride away, you’ll reach smartly menued Pangea Bier Cafe. Across the street from Pangea, hit Gunther’s, a classic corner ice cream parlor. Or head east on Broadway into Oak Park, where Oakland restaurateur (and Sacramento native) Tom Schnetz is slinging $4 tacos at La Venadita in a gentrifying neighborhood.
A Therapeutic Alternative
3015 H St., (916) 822-4717
Why go? Massage therapy, sound therapy, and yoga are a few of the free services offered here. Located in a well-kept Craftsman house just beyond midtown, A Therapeutic Alternative features a deep menu of CBD-rich products, full-melt extracts, edibles, and topicals.
Nearby: Feed the ducks and enjoy the rose garden at McKinley Park. For top-notch breakfast and brunch, hit Orphan Breakfast House. Exhale Smoke Shop, which hosted an all-you-can-smoke 4/20 celebration this year, is on the other side of the freeway.
515 Broadway Collective
515 Broadway, (844) 722-9333
Why go? One-dollar joints — half-gram mini cones perfect for solo smoke seshes — will first draw you in and their above-average bud quality and fantastic value will draw you back for more. Tucked into a bunker-like building the size of a shipping container on a faded thoroughfare, 515 Broadway has a good selection of flowers, concentrates, topicals, and edibles.
Nearby: The Sacramento River is accessible to the west, at the foot of Broadway, where the road meets paved trail that leads to Old Sacramento and the Crocker Art Museum (and its atrium cafe) a mile north. For dive-chic Americana, including the priciest barbecue platter in town, Jamie’s Broadway Grille is on the next block west. Local fast-casual comfort-dining stalwart Selland’s Market recently expanded onto Broadway, two blocks east, across from Sacramento’s historic cemetery. The California Automobile Museum is just past the freeway tangle to the west.
River City Phoenix
1508 El Camino Ave., (916) 925-5696
Why go? Despite its heavily guarded location, River City Phoenix is a pleasant experience, a model and pillar in the local cannabis community, and the unionized employer of the state’s first certified cannabis pharmacy technician — a fancy term for journeyman budtender. River City Phoenix is certainly the most quality-assured dispensary in town, vigorously promoting the testing of its flowers, concentrates, and edibles. It’s easily accessible from I-80 and from downtown via light rail and a short walk.
Nearby: One of River City Phoenix’s owners recently opened a high-end paraphernalia studio next door. Honey’s Hideaway Gallery features blown-glass pipes, bongs, and dab rigs from California and the Pacific Northwest, some priced as high as $5,000. Hungry? Take surface streets or light rail to Chando’s Tacos, the flagship of the local street-food brand, where you line up to order mashed potato tacos and pineapple-pork tortas darn close to street traffic. A short hop from Chando’s on the way back into downtown via car, light rail, or bike, Woodlake Tavern smokes the toniest brisket, ribs, and chicken in town.
8112 Alpine Ave., (916) 739-6337
Why go? A short hop off Highway 50, and near a light-rail train station, in a mixed industrial area, Alpine features a strong lineup of high-potency extracts along with edibles and topicals.
Nearby: New Glory Craft Brewery and Device Brewing Co. are Alpine’s neighbors. New Glory’s IPAs and taproom are popular among Sacramento beer geeks. Device recently installed a pizza oven. Squeeze Burger’s Food Network-famous cheeseburgers skirted with melted cheddar are just down the road.
2. Consume on the Steps of the State Capitol
Even though one local bong shop hosted a 4/20 smoke sesh this year, there are no smoking/vaping/dabbing lounges in Sacramento dispensaries, and smoking is banned in city parks and the American River Parkway. However, the law says you can smoke medical cannabis wherever you can legally smoke cigarettes — including the steps of the state Capitol and near many downtown state buildings built to accommodate tobacco breaks. Look for ash urns. Be sure to carry your Prop. 215 recommendation and ID. Does not apply to recreational cannabis use.
3. Buy Directly from a Grower
Sacramento’s official marketing arm touts the town as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. Fresh produce farmers’ markets abound. Cannabis farmers’ markets? Not so high profile. But search Instagram (#secretsesh, #weedallstarllc, #popupsesh, #saladbowlsesh) to purchase local cannabis directly from growers, maybe even try a dab and smoke a bowl at laid-back events that pop up in sketchy industrial neighborhoods.
4. Tour a Greenhouse
You can find Yolo Botanicals’ greenhouse flowers in leading Bay Area dispensaries such as Sparc and Grass Roots in San Francisco, and Harborside in Oakland. Qualified medical cannabis patients may also visit the one-acre farm in nearby Woodland, where the collective grows Blue Dream, Gorilla Glue #4, and other sought-after strains 20 miles northwest of Sacramento. Contact Yolo Botanicals for tour info. The farm is equidistant from Sacramento and Winters, where Berryessa Brewing Co.’s top-notch taproom, a farm relic fruit-packing shed, awaits on your drive back to the Bay Area.
Bike: Don’t envy the 12-passenger beer-party pedal vehicles carousing Sacramento streets: While riders can drink aboard beer-party pedal vehicles, you can’t smoke a joint on your bike or while riding as a passenger in a downtown pedicab, not even the one sponsored by midtown dispensary All About Wellness. Otherwise, you can get in a full day’s worth of exercise biking, or walking, to many of the dispensaries on this list.
Bus: MegaBus beats Greyhound for this trip. From San Francisco, it'll drop you off at a light-rail station where trains in either direction will shuttle you toward Abatin Wellness, All About Wellness, A Therapeutic Alternative, and River City Phoenix, and put you within striking distance of Alpine Alternative and adjacent breweries. One light-rail stop and a short walk away from the MegaBus boarding site is Sacramento’s iconic culinary mecca, Corti Brothers grocery and deli.
Train: Amtrak drops you off at Sacramento’s restored downtown train station. The adjacent light-rail train takes you toward dispensaries noted in the bus tips above.
Where to Stay:
Amber House is no stoner hostel; the elegant Craftsman home is a medical cannabis-friendly bed-and-breakfast in the heart of tree-lined midtown, where smoking is allowed on private decks, verandas, and gardens. Rooms $199-$299. Embassy Suites near Old Sacramento, the Sacramento River, Tower Bridge, and Crocker Art Museum has four smoking rooms on the third floor, from $179.
- Amber House Bed and Breakfast, 1315 22nd St., (916) 444-8085
- Blue Diamond Almonds, 1802 C St., (916) 442-0771
- California Automobile Museum,2200 Front St.,(916) 442-6802
- Chando’s Tacos, 863 Arden Way, (916) 641-8226
- Coin-Op Game Room, 908 K St., (916) 661-6983
- Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., (916) 808-7000
- Device Brewing Co., 8166 14th Ave., (916) 737-2739
- Exhale Smoke Shop, 2830 E St., (916) 382-4856
- Gunther's Ice Cream Shop, 2801 Franklin Blvd, (916) 457-6646
- Honey’s Hideout Glass Gallery, 1500 El Camino Ave.
- Hook and Ladder, 1630 S St., (916) 442-4885
- Jamie’s Broadway Grill, 427 Broadway, (916) 442-4044
- La Venadita, 3501 3rd Ave., (916) 400-4676
- Localis, 2031 S St., (916) 737-7699
- New Glory Craft Brewery, 8251 Alpine Ave., (916) 451-9355
- New Roma Bakery, 1800 E St., (916) 443-2346
- Orphan Breakfast House, 3440 C St., (916) 442-7370
- Pangea Bier Cafe, 2743 Franklin Blvd., (916) 454-4942
- Pushkin’s Bakery, 1820 29th St, (916) 376-7752
- Sampino’s Towne Foods, 1607 F St., (916) 441-2372
- Selland's Market-Café on Broadway, 915 Broadway, (916) 736-3333
- South, 2005 11th St., (916) 382-9722
- Squeeze Burger 5301 Power Inn Road, (916) 386-8599
- Taqueria Jalisco, 330 16th St., (916) 446-4834
- Woodlake Tavern,1431 Del Paso Blvd., (916) 514-0405
- Yolo Botanicals, Woodland, (323) 702-9329
Ed Murrieta is a Sacramento-based journalist who covers cannabis and food.