New Orleans is the nation’s best example of revelry done right, and it’s been done by millions of people who were hammered on six Hurricanes and three Hand Grenades at a time. But, in my opinion, far too few people have done New Orleans while tingling on a summery sativa or floating on an indica-induced cloud. On a New Orleans marijuana-influenced excursion, the jazz sounds better than ever before. You’re hungry enough to house all the jambalaya, gumbo, po-boys, and beignets that cross your path. The perma-smile on your face fits right in with the ones all the locals wear, and your frame of mind is as laid-back and uplifted as the city that surrounds you.
It makes little sense that cannabis has yet to be legalized in the Big Easy. That said, liberal-leaning New Orleans is leading Louisiana toward increased medical access, decriminalization, and overall acceptance of the plant. Ordinance 31,148 took effect in the city on June 21, decriminalizing cannabis possession to allow law enforcement to focus on more pressing issues. While NOLA isn’t as cannabis-friendly as Seattle, Denver, or Portland, there are plenty of things for cannabis lovers to love here – food, music, and good vibes among them.
New Orleans Vitals
Cannabis legality: Medical (but no system set up for sale)
Nicknames: NOLA, The Big Easy, Crescent City
Claim to fame: Mardi Gras
For the record: Ordinance 31,148 took effect in New Orleans last week, decriminalizing cannabis possession in the city (you can still receive a fine of between $40 and $100, as you can for public consumption in fully legalized states). However, officers technically have the option of enforcing Louisiana state law if they so choose, so be aware that you’re still consuming at your own risk.
At 4:20 p.m., you are: Checking into your room at the Q&C (short for The Queen & Crescent), tucked between the historic French Quarter and the avant-garde Warehouse/Arts District.
This boutique hotel boasts pet-friendly rooms, flat-screen TVs, amiable concierge, and the Q&C Bar (which has one of the best happy hours in the city). Plus, it’s walkable to everything you’ll want to do in the French Quarter while you’re here.
Vacation motto: Per the Q&C website: “Anything that is worth doing, is worth overdoing.”
At 5:00 p.m., you’re taking advantage of: The fact that it’s five o’clock somewhere (namely, right here).
Stroll through the French Quarter (gawping at the elegant old Creole townhouses along the way) over to the French Market, where you’ll find Organic Banana, a stand that serves up the best blended drinks in the Quarter. You’re ordering a Flaming Monkey (Bacardi, banana, Irish cream, coconut cream) and you’re taking it to go.
Pro tip: If you happen to have a dropperful of cannabis tincture to add to your to-go cup, so much the better.
What you’re skipping: Bourbon Street. It’s loud, seedy, dirty, and smelly. If you must see the shenanigans for yourself, walk down it on the way to Organic Banana, but no matter what, don’t step in the cloudy, filthy “Bourbon Juice” that fills the gutters. In the words of one local resident, if you do, “you have to cut your foot off.”
At 5:45 p.m., you’re walking: Back to the edge of the Quarter and hopping on the St. Charles Streetcar (with daiquiri in tow).
A mere $1.25 gets you an unbelievable sightseeing tour as the streetcar winds its way along tree-lined St. Charles Avenue past miles of enormous, exquisite mansions. Hop off at Louisiana Avenue and walk six blocks down to Magazine Street, then three blocks up past boutiques, bars, and bistros until you arrive at Ninth.
Word to the wise: Keep your head, phone, and arms inside the car on your ride unless you want to bash them against street signs and lamp posts along the way.
At 6:30 p.m., you are: Walking in the door at The Rum House, but you’re not here for rum – you’re here for the best tacos of your life.
Don’t believe me? Listen to these: Lamb Vindaloo (red curried lamb, mint yogurt chutney, sliced plantains); The Carolina (pulled pork, jalapeño slaw, barbecue sauce, roasted corn relish); Calypso Beef (marinated flank steak, guacamole, lime cream); and Chili Glazed Shrimp (fried, topped with a chili rum glaze with roasted poblano-red pepper relish). Every combination is imaginative (the website even keeps a glossary so you can figure out what ingredients like Scotch bonnet peppers, conch, and “paw paw sauce” are), and furthermore, the Rum House Salad (spinach, sweet potato, beets, pecans, goat cheese, red onion, curry vinaigrette) is the most remarkably delicious salad I’ve ever ordered.
Head’s up: Rum House doesn’t take reservations, so you may have to wait a minute or two (especially if it’s Taco Tuesday). The solution? Grab a cool drink and head outside to mill around and people-watch in the sunshine while your table clears.
At 8:00 p.m., you’re back: In the French Quarter, getting spooked on a dark, meticulously detailed ghost tour of one of the most haunted cities in the world.
Ghoul jokes, wild stories, incredible history, and plenty of hauntings – from voodoo queen Marie Laveau to the victims of murderous Madame Delphine – await you on Haunted History Tours’ French Quarter Ghosts and Legends Tour.
At 10:15 p.m., you are: Shaking off the scariness with some bacchanalia at Bacchanal, one of the best-loved bars in the country. It’s like scoring an invite to a badass backyard party with the locals, where that party includes Christmas lights, plants, laughter, crowds of awesome people, live music every night, and build-your-own cheese plates.
Buy your wine and cheese in the bottle shop up front, grab some glasses by the back door, and take them to the huge backyard garden where you can nab a table, kick your shoes off, and relish everything about your surroundings.
At 12:15 a.m., you are: Soaking up the music on Frenchmen Street.
Jazz is an absolute must while you’re in New Orleans – after all, the genre was born here, and you can find huge names playing tiny venues on any given night. All you really need to do is walk down the street and drop into any place you hear music emanating from, but we recommend The Maison for a series of shows that begin daily at 4:00 p.m. and frequently carry on past 3:00 in the morning.
In our opinion: Given jazz’s tight historic ties to cannabis, the two are best enjoyed together.
At 11:00 a.m., you are: Wearing your Sunday best, agonizing over the starters (get the turtle soup), mains (pecan crusted gulf fish? Cochon de lait eggs Benedict?) and desserts (think creole bread pudding soufflé and pecan pie a la mode) on the Jazz Brunch menu at Commander’s Palace.
Since 1893, this iconic establishment has been the uncontested crown jewel among New Orleans’ most exceptional restaurants. Every detail is perfect, from the service, to the plating, to the gentlemen of Joe Simon’s Jazz Trio who come to your table to serenade you. You cannot go wrong with whatever you order – and for a fun surprise, ask for your leftovers to be wrapped to go.
If you’re here on a weekday: Lunch is an equally decadent and classy affair (though note that it begins at 11:30, not 11:00). The signature element? 25-cent martinis.
At 12:15 p.m., you’re headed to:Audubon Park (the St. Charles Streetcar will get you there) to stroll amidst the greenery and feed the crazy birds.
You’ll find ducks, anhingas, herons, egrets, cormorants, and many more colorful specimens at the over-100-year-old rookery by the lagoon – bring birdseed or bread crumbs and they’ll suddenly be your best friends.
Pro tip: This would be a great place to break out a cannabis-infused brownie. Just don’t feed it to the birds!
At 1:15 p.m., you are: Ambling over to the waterfront portion of Audubon Park, known affectionately to locals as The Fly.
Every weekend, families and friends gather here to sip, snack, sunbathe, socialize, and generally enjoy each other’s company on the banks of the mighty Mississipp’. Don’t forget your swimsuit and beach towel.
At 3:00 p.m., you are: Deciding between two museums.
At the edge of the French Quarter, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art ($13.50; closed Tuesdays) represents the largest collection of Southern art in the world – exhibitions include Self-Taught, Outsider and Visionary Art, and Top Mob: A History of New Orleans Graffiti. For something with more of a cannabis bent, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum ($5; closed Sundays and Mondays) showcases a fascinating history going all the way back to questionable practices like bloodletting, leeches, and voodoo potions. The museum is housed in the historic shop of America’s first licensed pharmacist; among other curios, you’ll find antique blown glass prescription jars of cannabis flower, “indica plaster,” and “cigarettes indiennes au cannabis indica.”
At 4:20 p.m., you are: Fueling up for wherever you’re headed next with a true Crescent City coffee fix at Café du Monde.
You’re sitting outside under the green and white striped awning, admiring the bustle of Jackson Square, and ordering beignets and New Orleans-style chicory café au lait – there’s a reason everyone else will be doing the same.