Touch screens, security guards and an endless amount of marijuana. Here's what it's like inside the fanciest cannabis store in LA, writes Andrew Bucklow
"When travelling overseas, it's always a good idea to try and experience the local culture. And given recreational marijuana is legal in California, it would be rude of me not to try it."
That was the pitch I made to my editor before my recent trip to Los Angeles, and she begrudgingly gave me her blessing.
There are plenty of cannabis stores in LA to choose from, but several Uber drivers told me the one to check out was MedMen. "It's the Apple store of Cannabis stores," they told me.
Now to all those reading I'd like to stress that I am not and never have been a pothead. I'd only tried it once before many years ago with my housemate while we watched the Hannah Montana movie. Halfway through the film we both swore we spotted our mate's dad in the background of a scene (it wasn't him) and we rolled around on the floor laughing for a good 20 minutes before our female housemate stormed into the room and told us to grow up. Clearly she wasn't a Hannah Montana fan.
So I was understandably a little out of my depth as I entered the MedMen store in West Hollywood. After showing my driver's license (you need to be over 21 and have photo ID with you to get in the store) I walked inside and boy, those Uber drivers weren't lying.
The MedMen store is spacious and stunning. Inside are tables displaying each of the products with interactive screens above each to explain them in more detail.
And there are many products to choose from. You can buy pre-rolled joints, edibles including gummy bears and chocolate bars, marijuana flower, marijuana concentrate and vape pens to name just a few.
Different products give you different highs.
The main strains are:
Sativa: Provides a euphoric, uplifting effect that is ideal for daytime.
Indica: Provides a relaxing and sedative effect that is ideal for night-time.
Hybrid: A blend of Sativa and Indica that provides subtle euphoric effects.
Staff members in red shirts are on hand to provide advice and give you more information about each product. After a lengthy chat with one such staff member, I decided to buy some cannabis-infused pineapple habanero flavoured gummies.
"They're perfect for a beginner," the staffer told me. "Just have one, then wait two hours for the effect to hit you. If you want more after that you can have one more. But be careful."
I handed over $US25 cash, about $NZ37 (you can't use credit cards or international debit cards so bring cash with you — FYI there's an ATM on site) for my pack of 20 gummies and headed back to my hotel.
Note: Even though recreational marijuana is legal in California, it's still illegal to consume it in public. Wait until you get back to your accommodation and if you've bought a joint, always check with your hotel or AirBnB owner before lighting up.
My friends and I gathered next to the pool at our hotel and each took a gummy. An hour passed and I was well on my way. But for some bizarre reason, me and my friends were all too embarrassed to admit that we were feeling the effects so we all went our separate ways.
The following day, my mate told me that she went back to her room, lay down on her bed and listened to music. After 15 minutes of tapping her feet to the beat, she suddenly realised she'd actually been bopping along to the sound of the air conditioner.
I too was a little confused. I could hear people on a neighbouring hotel balcony arguing. They were loud, so I turned up the volume of my TV. They got even louder so I went out on my balcony to ask them to be quiet. Once outside I couldn't see anyone and eventually realised it was the characters in the movie I was watching that were having the argument.
After roughly five hours, the effects of the single gummy started to wear off and I hit the streets of West Hollywood in search of a burger.
It's best to leave behind any cannabis that you buy in California when you leave the state, even if you're flying to another US state where it's legal. And under no circumstances should you take any cannabis products with you when flying internationally.
So at the end of my trip, I left the half-eaten pack of gummies in my hotel room. I'd like to think the hotel maid found them, took one and spent the rest of her shift cleaning while tapping her feet to the groovy beats of the air conditioner.