For any tourist visiting Seattle there’s the standard bucket list: ride the monorail – ascend the Space Needle – pay a visit to the world’s largest building and if you’re not squeamish about tax avoidance – check out the first-ever Starbucks and the Amazon Spheres.
But as I discovered on a recent visit there’s a new attraction in town: the cannabis shops peppered through its downtown since Washington state legalised recreational marijuana.
They couldn’t be further from the smoke-filled coffeeshops of Amsterdam: this is very much America does weed.
Show your passport at the door and you’re waved into a cheery space filled with brightly lit glass cabinets displaying their wares.
Yes – there’s row after row of the little packets of greenish stuff you’d expect – with enticing names such as ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Chocolope’.
But lots of other cannabis-infused goodies too: vape pens – pre-rolled joints and ‘edibles’ – from brownies to jelly sweets to drinks.
Budtenders are on hand to ‘talk flower’ with discerning pot veterans and chat with canna-curious tourists about the basics such as the difference between the psychoactive THC which produces a ‘mind high’ and the non-psychoactive CBD – which results in a healing ‘body high’.
(Me: ‘But what’s the difference between a mind and a body high?’
Patient budtender: ‘One makes your mind feel high – the other your body’.)
It was fascinating talking to Washingtonians about what they’ve got right and wrong in regulating an industry from scratch.
And as I tucked into my first vegan mockburger on the plane home – nicely pink inside – my tastebuds honestly couldn’t distinguish it from the real thing – it left me thinking why are we so willing to wield the nanny state when it comes to cannabis but not something like meat – which does real social harm?