South Lake Tahoe, a community which straddles the border between California and Nevada, has a laid-back, casual vibe. When visiting this city that boasts both the beautiful expanse of the world’s second largest alpine lake and an array of ski resorts, no place is more welcoming for lovers of choice flowers than Tahoe Wellness Cooperative. The dispensary is the only one located in Tahoe and therefore singularly defines the cannabis culture for the tightknit community. With activist and owner Cody Bass – a snowboard-loving cowboy hat-wearing Texas transplant – at the helm, it remains in good hands.
Open since 2009, Tahoe Wellness comes complete with a fully-integrated model that includes a line of house strains, a lounge for medical cannabis patients to chill and puff and a community center with free events open to the public at large. Located within a strip mall setup, TWC is an unassuming gem. The first thing you’ll notice when entering is the lack of an imposing security guard to check IDs at the door, Tahoe Wellness is a safe space that hasn’t found a need for this type of additional surveillance. Once inside, you show your medical cannabis recommendation as well as your ID and are welcomed into to dispensary and lounge.
Despite the large window offering a view of the parking lot outside, Tahoe Wellness feels like its own isolated world. It’s a world filled with reggae music and psychedelic art. A place where you can enjoy potent cannabis and rest assured that your medicine is clean. Bass said when he started the dispensary in 2009, 40 percent of prospective vendors were failing testing for things such as pesticides and mold. Since the dispensary integrated full-spectrum testing (testing beyond measures such as THC and CBD ratios to include information such as terpene profiles) with SC Labs about a year and a half ago, only about 15 percent of prospective vendors are now not up to testing standards.
The dispensary’s goal to provide healthy medicine is shown in the transparency of providing its testing results to patients. Within the large glass display cases at TWC, a wide array of strains is set out for purchase. Labeling on each strain includes a QR code that will take you straight to the testing results for the selection. Those results are also on public display in the lounge.
Tahoe Wellness has an ample selection of flowers as well as topicals and edibles. What sets TWC apart from other dispensaries is the lack of concentrates created with BHO. Tahoe Wellness is strictly solventless and carries an assortment of water hash and rosin.
“Rosin is my choice of extraction because I have yet to find any other method as organic, preserving all the terpenes provided by the plant,” Bass says. “It has also provided a safe method of extraction that people can do at there home and not be putting their neighborhood in harm’s way. Rosin, however, does need to be tested for residuals because pesticide oils will be concentrated and show up if used on the plant.”
While the smoking lounge area, complete with bongs and rolling papers available for use, is open all day at 4:20 p.m. it also becomes a hash bar. The hash bar includes e-nails available use and offers a unique service; If you purchase hash, the hash bar can expertly press it into full-melt rosin on the spot using a hair straighter to heat to coax the THC-rich oils out.
Onsite consumption, Bass explains, was written into the city’s ordinance as a way to prevent cannabis smokers from medicating in public and potentially offending tourists. It also keeps smoking out of hotels that don’t allow it.
New regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California set to come into effect Jan. 1, 2018 leave the ability to host cannabis consumption lounges within the jurisdiction of local municipalities.
“[The new regulations] leaves it up to the locals and our city has pretty much always allowed onsite consumption,” Bass says, noting the lounge is an asset to the community. “People come here for an outlet, for being social.”
The social activities extend to the community space next door, which hosts free events such as massage, yoga and dance classes in addition to informational sessions to improve overall cannabis knowledge. The lounge is also frequently filled with activities such as timed joint rolling competitions.
Because TWC is allowed to also grow its own strains onsite, the dispensary is able to offer three house selections. Bass equates this to a restaurant being able to serve house wines – only instead of red, white and rosé they offer a sativa (SourBand), indica (The Purps) and a hybrid (Girl Scout Cookies). Bass says TWC is able to grow about 10 to 15 percent of the medicine it supplies. The plants are housed in a small space via the sea of green method, a technique that forces plants to flower early in order to fit more flowering plants in tight quarters. Created with organic gardening methods, the cannabis is also grown alongside cover crops such as varying types of lettuce.
“It re-inriches the soil,” Bass says of the decision to use cover crops, adding that more nutrient-rich soil, “changes the flavor of the cannabis outcome.”
In addition to the conservation efforts within the grow room, TWC has implemented a buy-back program for its jars. When patients bring them in, they can exchange them for a $1 credit. The dispensary then sanitizes and re-uses them eliminating a large amount of waste.
“I was wasting a pound of plastic each month,” Bass says looking back to before the dispensary implemented the program three years ago.
All of these practices contribute to the devotion of holistic health and wellness at TWC. As the only dispensary in South Lake Tahoe, the dispensary has been targeted by law enforcement and faced several challenges in the past, despite that TWC continues to move forward.
“I began this mission as a 12-year-old kid visiting my father in prison, which made me find some weed and smoke it, which sparked a fire to change a policy that had my family in a cage,” Bass says. “I will never stop until we free the last prisoner. This is about the trinity of what’s right in the world and truly is the healing of the nation.”
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