Guide to Cannabis

Santa Barbara County has become one of the leading cannabis cultivation regions in California, and visitors have a variety of new cannabis tourism offerings to explore. After the Golden State legalized adult-use cannabis in 2017, local farmers and entrepreneurs took advantage of the region’s optimal conditions for premium sun-grown cannabis in the agricultural lands to the north and south of the city. In 2019, the first two Santa Barbara Dispensaries (adult-use cannabis retail shops) opened in downtown Santa Barbara, adding a new ingredient to Santa Barbara’s plant-based wellness scene.

When visiting The American Riviera®, veteran cannabis consumers and newbies alike can now shop products ranging from pre-rolls and gummies to canned beverages and tinctures. Those who might not be interested in consuming THC (a.k.a. “getting high”) can check out CBD and hemp-based product ranges that have zero psychoactive properties, such as topical lotions for pain relief, bath “bombs” and CBD capsules. This Santa Barbara County cannabis guide will help you tap into the higher-end side of California’s green rush.

Be a Kind Consumer

By law, you must be 21 and over to purchase and consume cannabis in California. If you’re new to cannabis, pay extra attention to dosage to ensure your experience is a positive one. Take advantage of knowledgeable budtenders’ expertise when visiting dispensaries to find the best products and methods of consumption for you. Please be courteous and abide to the same no-smoking rules applied to smoking cigarettes in public spaces and hotel rooms—that goes for vaping too. If you’re staying in a hotel, smoke-free items like cannabis drinks, edibles and tinctures are safe bets. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal, so if you’re consuming THC products, let someone else do the driving or stick to walkable activities. Find more cannabis legal and consumption FAQs here.

Methods of Consumption

THC products have psychoactive effects, whereas CBD products do not. (That’s why CBD goods are widely available nationally through all kinds of retailers, be it Sephora or CVS.) Adult-use cannabis dispensaries carry a wide range of THC products—many of which also include CBD—in addition to some pure CBD items.

Flower is the purest form of the cannabis plant used for smoking. It comes in jars as well as pre-rolled joints. Smoking and vaping are the fastest way to feel the effects of cannabis. Vape cartridges and “pens” are very simple to use and popular among first-timers. Edibles include gummies, cookies, chocolates, protein bars and olive oil. Generally, edibles can take 45 minutes to an hour before you feel anything and the effects can last for hours. Drinkables hit a bit quicker than edibles and the effects don’t last as long—drinks come in varieties like cold brewed coffee, flavored sparkling waters, hops-infused fizzy beverages, herbal teas and non-alcoholic liqueurs. Tinctures and sublingual strips can be placed under the tongue for fast absorption and tinctures can also be added to cocktails and mocktails. 

Topical ointments, lotions and transdermal patches are very popular for pain management and relieving aches and pains from muscle soreness, injuries and arthritis. They come in a variety of ratios of THC to CBD—and they won’t get you high. Infused bath bombs are another way to soothe aching muscles. These are just some of the many products you can find in our local dispensaries.

Photo Credit: Coastal Dispensary

Santa Barbara Dispensaries

Visit one or all three of the adult-use dispensaries in downtown Santa Barbara:  CoastalThe Farmacy, and Beyond / Hello. Each has its own laid-back luxury vibe and, while there might be some overlap of brands, dispensaries generally distinguish themselves by the different product lines they carry. So, it wouldn’t be redundant at all to pay a visit all, even if all you intend to do is browse. Organic Greens is Goleta’s go-to dispensary and over in wine country, downtown Lompoc is also home to a handful of dispensaries including another Coastal location, The Roots, Elevate Lompoc, The Greenhouse Collective, and others.

If you’ve never visited a dispensary, here’s how it works: You’ll be asked to show your ID to verify your age to be permitted to enter. The dispensary personnel will register you into their system which will enable you to make purchases. Then you can start shopping. One more thing to be aware of when visiting a dispensary—federal regulations currently prevent them from taking credit cards so they can only accept cash or debit card payments. Most will have an ATM on the premises.

Don’t be shy about asking questions and having a budtender guide you through their selection. Perhaps you want to try the local flower. They’ll ask if you like sativa (energetic), indica (relaxed) or hybrids (balanced). Or maybe they’ll get very technical and tell you about the terpene profiles. Either way, you’ll be invited to smell the various types of flower to find what resonates with your palate. If you want to learn more about microdosing, they might show you some vape pens that deliver small, measured doses and introduce you to different types of gummies 5mg and lower.

And don’t forget to tip your budtender!

Special Delivery

If you don’t have time to visit a dispensary or prefer to be more discreet, The Farmacy and Coastal have delivery services that go to hotels and locations in the city of Santa Barbara, plus Goleta, Isla Vista, Montecito, and Summerland.  Please note that delivery times and minimums may differ by shop.  When the delivery arrives, you will be asked to show a valid identification like a driver’s license or passport to verify your 21+ age.

CBD-Infused Spa Treatments

CBD has become the darling ingredient in the spa and wellness world thanks to its many benefits including reducing inflammation. (Remember, CBD has no psychoactive properties and will not make you “high.”) Try the CBD massage at Float Luxury Spa that features a high-quality organic, hemp-derived CBD oil. And be sure to leave time in your itinerary to enjoy Float’s relaxation lounge and serene back patio.

Take a Class

KopSun, a female-run business, leads educational classes on the what-why-how of cannabis including “Leaf Learnings” and “Coffee with a Cannabis Farmer.” Their sessions cover topics like the difference between hemp and marijuana, how CBD and THC differ, as well as dosing options and methods. Check their calendar for public events, or reach out to them to customize a private educational experience for your traveling party.