As the weather warms up and our coastal forest is blanketed in that summer smell of redwoods, have I got an idea for you. Go west, young human, for an afternoon of cannabis consumption at one of the sweetest, most historically significant spots in the new world of cannabis.

We’re talking about Riverside Wellness Collective in Guerneville, one of the cultural landmarks along the Cannabis Trail, a non-profit project commemorating the people and places that helped to establish the legal cannabis we know and love today. 

I spoke with the Cannabis Trail founder, Brain Applegarth, about the legacy of Riverside Wellness and the Cannabis Trail Project.

“Currently there are 10 cultural landmarks along the Cannabis Trail that are installed and ready for visitors … all the way from San Francisco up to Humboldt County,” Applegarth told me during a recent phone chat. So far, Sonoma County is home to two of those landmarks—one is Riverside Wellness. 

“Riverside Wellness is a cultural landmark that honors [not just the dispensary’s importance in] cannabis history,” he said, but also the story of Brownie Mary and what they call “the bust heard around the world.” This occurred when the medicinal activist Mary Jane Rathbun, already famous for providing cannabis to AIDS patients in the Castro, was arrested at the home of a pot grower in Cazadero.

The national attention given to the bust “opened up a huge dialogue around medicinal cannabis, and lo and behold four or five years later, [the bust] led to Proposition 215,” said Applegarth, referring to California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized the sale and use of cannabis for medical purposes. 

To get to Riverside Wellness, drive west along River Road from Santa Rosa. Just as you enter Guerneville, the dispensary is on your left. You’ll find that Riverside Wellness is situated in one of the most beautiful places in the world, right along the Russian River, in the little resort town known for a mix of hippy counter culture, farm-to-table foodie-ism and queer chill.

“They have a beautiful location with all kinds of sitting areas by the river. You can’t get a much better environment to be relaxed and enjoy nature,” Applegarth said. Right next door you’ll find the lovely Farmhand Cafe for bites and bevies. 

Ah yes, I think soon I’ll go get a half gram pre-roll and walk into town for some ice cream in Guerneville. Sounds perfect. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to the work of the pioneers celebrated by the Cannabis Trail than for buying a joint on a summer afternoon to be the most normal thing in the world.

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