steve elliott.jpg

? Welcome to Toke Signals, Seattle Weekly's newest column. Your guide is one  Steve Elliott, the very handsome man pictured at right who also edits

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Toke Signals: Let's Find the Best Marijuana in Town!

Where should you go if you need couch-lock indica for serious pain control or insomnia? Sweetly cerebral sativa to put the kibosh on your nausea? Or say you're just starved for some of those edibles -- how much is enough and which ones taste best?

steve elliott.jpg

?Welcome to Toke Signals, Seattle Weekly's newest column. Your guide is one Steve Elliott, the very handsome man pictured at right who also edits Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media's site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor. Toke Signals is a weekly review of a local medical marijuana dispensary that will run both in print and every Tuesday afternoon on The Daily Weekly at precisely 4:20, because, well, YOU KNOW.

Seattle's lively medical-marijuana scene can be quite entertaining. There was the time last year when one of the biggest dispensaries in town went on the offensive against a few of its rivals, going so far as to allegedly hack and commandeer their websites and post private answering-machine messages online. Not exactly a shining moment.

You see, many local collectives are great at making cannabis available to patients in need. But like members of any competitive industry, they haven't always excelled at playing well together. Old grudges and rivalries can be baffling at best and off-putting at worst, especially for a newcomer--and transplanted Southerner--like myself.

In 2008, not long after I learned I had hepatitis c (likely contracted decades before during a misspent youth), I found out that marijuana is one of the best and safest ways to control pain and nausea. Better yet, I learned that pot was legal for medicinal use in Washington, so long as you had a doctor's note. I wasn't exactly a weed virgin, having first toked out of a Budweiser can in 1977 at the tender age of 17. So I rushed out, $200 in hand, and got my medical-marijuana paperwork, thinking "This place is way cooler than Alabama."

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What happens when you try to understand Washington's convoluted medical-marijuana laws.

?The only problem was that I had no idea what to do next. The few collectives in town seemed reluctant to take on new patients, a paranoia due partially to internecine factionalism, divisions that became apparent when I found out that "this" collective wouldn't take "that" doctor's note. It seemed an unnecessarily cliquish way to treat new patients whose health issues had already given them enough to worry about.

I soon discovered that part of the problem was that Washington's medical-marijuana community operated in a particularly weird legal gray area. The nebulous nature of cannabis distribution in this state can be traced to the voter-approved 1998 initiative that legalized medicinal marijuana, but provided no clear, legal way for patients to get it. (Patients are allowed to grow up to 15 plants, with seeds they presumably get from their Fairy Godmother.)

In Washington, medical-marijuana dispensaries are neither explicitly allowed nor prohibited--which means that whether you're open for business or shut down with prejudice often depends on the whims of local law enforcement, which are harder to read than tea leaves.

So despite having been legit for more than a decade, it wasn't until 2009, when Obama famously announced that his administration would no longer actively seek to prosecute patients and providers following state laws, that the local medical-marijuana community finally felt safe to come into the light. In the two years since, a new strain of ganjapreneurs--especially evident in King and Thurston counties--have taken up the cause of cannabis capitalism.

State tax officials estimate that at least 120 dispensaries are now operating in the open, with dozens or perhaps hundreds more still keeping low profiles. Patients now enjoy a much wider selection, and the old paradigm of haughty exclusivity is out the window; pot shops aren't just open for business, they're also actively courting customers.

Although the potent connoisseur strains they carry are undeniably their biggest draw, many shops now stock cannabis-infused edibles as well: brownies, lozenges, lollipops, and cannabutter, all with wide variations in potency and taste.

So where should you go if you need some couch-lock indica for serious pain control or insomnia? Sweetly cerebral sativa to put the kibosh on your nausea? Or say you're just starved for some of those edibles--how much is enough, how do the effects differ from smoking, and which taste best?

By reviewing dispensaries and their cannabis strains and products, I hope to provide answers to all these questions and more, while also making the experience less confusing for you than it was for me.

So join me, won't you? Together, let's find the best marijuana in town.

(Author's note: Shout-out to Sherman Alexie for "sparking" the title idea.)

Toke Signals wants to review your dispensary. E-mail tokesignals@seattleweekly.com.

 
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