One Day, You’ll Get to Travel the Northern California Cannabis Trail

Ever heard of the Cannabis Trail?

Someday soon people will be able to download an app on their smartphones, hop in a car and visit 30-plus spots throughout Northern California to discover the rich history, unique people, and stories tied to the cannabis movement.

That’s a plan Brian Applegarth, a cannabis historian and tour operator, says is going to be a reality in the next few years.

Applegarth has been raising funds, interviewing artists, and building consensus to create the Cannabis Trail, planned as a self-guided, 640-mile-long tour running from Santa Cruz to Arcata.

The tour as currently envisioned would take roughly 14 hours of drive time, and include 30 to 50 monuments honoring cannabis pioneers, significant events, and folklore.

Applegarth, founder of the California Cannabis Tourism Association, and his partners have used out-of-pocket money for startup expenses to create the nonprofit foundation that will launch the trail. Their investment covers legal fees, filing fees, a website, a logo, and other marketing initiatives.

The operation is getting to a point where it soon can begin accepting donations.

“This in the early stages of raising this capital to achieve this plan to create a historical Cannabis Trail that can act as a teacher for us for the cannabis movement and all the nuanced, layered storytelling that exits in the movement,” Applegarth told

The foundation’s fundraising efforts over the next two years will enable Applegarth to begin lobbying state and local authorities for specific monument locations, with planned placements starting in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

He estimates the first phase will require roughly $250,000 in funding. His goal is to have the first three monuments placed by the fall of 2019, with the guided trail app released the following year.

Applegarth hopes the trail is someday well-traveled enough to become part of the Northern California identity.

“It’s conceptually supposed to live along the Napa Wine Road and Marin Cheese Trail,” he said.

Applegarth decided he wanted to build the trail in 2015 after he met with Dennis Peron, a leader in the legalization movement who in 1996 co authored California Proposition 215, which allowed the use of medical cannabis. Peron died Jan. 27, 2018, at the age of 72.

Applegarth is one of many who believes that legalizing medical marijuana set the stage for legal recreational use to follow.

“He’s [Peron] the reason that cannabis is legal right now,” Applegarth said.

Peron is one of the cannabis pioneers Applegarth plans to pay tribute to along the trail. Other pioneers Applegarth wants to include are Dr. Tod Mikuriya, a well-known psychiatrist and cannabis researcher, and Brownie Mary Jane Rathburn, a cannabis rights activist known for baking and distributing cannabis brownies to AIDS patients. Other prominent activists, lawyers, cultivators and writers are also set to be celebrated along the trail.

One planned trail stop is Café Flore, where Rathbun first met Peron in 1974 in San Francisco’s Castro district. It’s said they share a joint soon after their meeting.

The pair of activists supported each other, along with the movement, as well as helping one another earn a living. Rathbun earned extra income by selling her brownies on the street and out of her home, while Peron sold her brownies at his pot supermarket in the area.

Cazadero is another planned stop along the trail. That’s where Rathbun was arrested in 1992 for possession. Her case garnered national media coverage, and she was eventually acquitted thanks to a defense based on the medical necessity of what she was doing.

“She was an old woman in glasses who was promoting cannabis as medicine on the news,” Applegarth said. “When she got interviewed, it started shifting the narrative.”

Another stop planned stop on the trail is the Sonoma coast to commemorate the Hippie Trail, a path carved out by travelers in the 1960s and ’70s who headed to exotic locales such as Nepal, Afghanistan and Thailand, and collected different varietals of cannabis seeds and returned to Northern California to cultivate in the area’s good climate.

San Rafael, believed to be the birthplace of 420, is another likely part of the trail.

Applegarth is currently in talks with several artists to build the monuments, an endeavor he sees as requiring the next 20 years at the trail grows and fills out.

“I’m trying to make it so in 20 years from now, you can look back and there’s this really beautiful trail with monuments and storytelling,” he said.

Fundraisers for the Cannabis Trail are kicking off in September. The first planned event is The Cannabis Trail Fundraiser & Auction, which includes a Sunday beer bust, with hot dogs, giveaways, and a silent auction, on Sept. 16, 2018 at the Lone Star Saloon in San Francisco. Another fundraiser is the inaugural Cannabis Trail Charity Golf Tournament in Monte Rio on Sept. 21.

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