From the Archives: Gettin’ High in Surf City (2001)

Santa Cruz is the closest thing to weed paradise in the U.S.
Surf
Courtesy of High Times

By Cannabiz Chris

The sweet aroma of marijuana burning is commonplace. So, too, is the possibility of having a joint handed to you by a stoned stranger. Where the redwoods meet the sea, the Northern California beachside city of Santa Cruz has it all—culture, opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle and a laid-back vibe that is all-inclusive, especially toward marijuana.

Santa Cruz is well-known for its liberal political climate toward medical-marijuana legalization. Last year, voters overwhelmingly passed an ordinance authored by Valerie Corral, the founder of WAMM, a local nonprofit provider organization, which enables local residents to obtain medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. In fact, if you have the proper documentation, you can actually book a room at the Bed, Bud and Breakfast Inn in Santa Cruz, where medical-marijuana users can smoke comfortably in a homey, secure setting. Even local law enforcement seems to realize the futility of busting harmless pot-smokers who pose no threat to society. Their priority is to go after largescale commercial operations, and they have left medical pot patients and reefer-loving locals to smoke in relative peace. Which is nice, because the topography of Santa Cruz is a sensory circus—green forests, windswept beaches and a rugged Pacific coastline with secret coves hidden away from view. Jagged cliffs drop into deep blue water. Rustic lighthouses stand staunchly of craggy rock perches while scores of lounging, barking seals create a cacophony.

The town is also a surfing Mecca, worldrenowned for out standing, year-round waves. The surf world knows that the SC boyz are a bunch of cool, down-to earth dudes who are pushing the limits of the sport on all levels while maintaining a high standard of heavy-duty puffing. You can get an eyeful of these wave acrobats from the cliffs and bluffs of Santa Cruz’s prime surf spots. They battle the toughest-ass waves in frigid 50-degree water and keep their eyes peeled for sharks. Surfing is a spiritual sport and cannabis is a spiritual plant. Smoking relaxes the surfer and sets the proper frame of mind for riding waves. Surfers say it enhances their creative ability. Whether aerialist tricksters, big-wave chargers or cruising long-boarders, pot pushes them to perform their best in the water.

But there’s much more to SC than just the surf scene. Discovered in 1769 by the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portóla, Santa Cruz was established in 1850 as one of the first counties of California. Fishing, agriculture and logging were the main industries as the town developed, and a variety of races and cultures from around the world contributed to its growth, exploiting the region’s cornucopia of natural resources.

Landmarks were erected. In the early 1900s, the Swanson family created the Beach Boardwalk and Casino Amusement Park, attracting people nationwide, while the outdoor Pacific Garden Mall became the city center. Since then, the county has set aside an impressive tenth of the region for 19 state parks, and has preserved 13 miles of beachfront.

Although the October ‘89 earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, destroyed the downtown area, including the Pacific Garden Mall, the community rebuilt quickly and has thrived. Art and cultural events take place every week, and local college students and townsfolk commingle on weekends at a variety of premier music venues. You can be, dress, act or look like whatever you desire. No one really cares. Diversity is accepted. Nearly every ethnic group is represented here. Sexual orientation is hardly given a thought. It’s also an organic-food heaven. In fact, the county is one of the nation’s leaders in organic-food production. Dozens of health-food stores carry the freshest fruits and vegetables, plus a supreme array of whole-food products. Growers have discovered that Santa Cruz provides ideal conditions for growing premium pot—rich, fertile soil and an average high temperature of 69°F. The unspoken truth is that a lot of residents grow, in backyards, indoor growrooms and hidden in the middle of the Santa Cruz wilds. People love their weed here. No two ways about it. But more importantly, the citizens of Santa Cruz are establishing a model for other municipalities. They are finding out exactly what transpires when you lay the foundations for responsible marijuana use. Absolutely nothing. Life goes on. Happily.

High Times Magazine, October 2001

Read the full issue here.

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