Once, the only way to stay overnight on a cannabis farm was either to be employed by or to start one yourself, assuming all the potential legal troubles growing a Schedule I substance could entail. Now, it’s an experience you can book on Airbnb.
Operating under Washington state’s medical co-op laws, Big Hat Farm is a cannabis farm and bed-and-breakfast in the Central Cascades, a two-hour drive from both Portland and Seattle. Though not licensed to sell, and too small to go commercial, it serves instead as a “stoner’s paradise,” where guests 21-and-over can get away from it all while still having unfettered access to all the cannabis they could want.
“We want to give people a different understanding of cannabis,” says Ryan, who owns and operates the farm with his wife, Alida. “We have bowls of it [cannabis] all over the house because it doesn’t have to be a precious commodity.”
Guests are encouraged to bring their favorite strains as well — everyone at Big Hat Farm shares. Ornamental pot plants are scattered around the ten-acre property – formerly used as an apple orchard, logging area and Christmas tree farm – with a cluster of eight or so between the house, which accommodates up to six guests in three bedrooms, plus camping areas. These clones start out puny in spring, but like much of the property’s undergrowth they can reach up to eight feet in height by the end of summer, with helpful predators like ladybugs and spiders naturally protecting the ladies from would-be pests.
It’s hard to overstate the pastoral beauty of Big Hat Farm, which would make it a worthy vacation spot even without the cannabis angle. With it, guests tromp through the woods that are teeming with life and are rewarded with a hand-rolled joint of farm-grown bud, or pretty much any other preparation of weed imaginable in the panoramic “Contemplation Room.”
The variety of available smoking devices is a boon both to picky connoisseurs and newbies experimenting to find their favored mode of consumption. Wanna dab? You can. Wanna use a vape bag? You can. Wanna smoke out of a glass bong shaped like a cluster of mushrooms? Guess what? You can.
The one exception to the rule is edibles, which Ryan and Alida decided to prohibit given the wide variation in dosage sizes, noting how often they’d caused problems in Colorado, where cannabis tourism is more developed.
Such precautionary measures are an act of self-preservation in such a legally ambiguous industry, especially considering their location in one of Western Washington’s most conservative and rural areas, more than 40 minutes from the nearest pot shop.
“We’re kind of riding the edge of the wave,” says Ryan. “When all gets settled and done, we think there’ll be a place for us.”
There’s certainly a demand. Big Hat Farm welcomes troupes of Microsoft programmers, couples and intergenerational families alike, all seeking cannabis-friendly accommodations no downtown Marriott or federally-managed park can legally offer. Even in relying solely on word-of-mouth and 4/20-friendly Airbnb searches, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive both from locals and out-of-state tourists, many of whom come to Washington for the legal cannabis but are stymied by state laws prohibiting consumption in public areas or commercial buildings.
“We’ll have rooms booked by three different groups, some local, some out-of-state or even international,” Ryan explains. “Everyone gets along over cannabis.”
One of the guests’ favorite activities on the farm is “getting their fingers sticky” by trimming or harvesting the cannabis, so the owners are strategic about planting at different intervals and using light deprivation to give guests the opportunity to trim throughout the season.
But as integral as cannabis is to Big Hat’s business model, part of the point is in making it as unexceptional as any other crop, just another part of the vacation experience to be enjoyed openly and shared with others. While the laws may have changed, people’s perceptions are often slow to follow. As such, celebrating and learning about cannabis in a new, guilt-free context — where you can light up to the sounds of woodpeckers and waterfalls, where grandma can get stoned and knit beside a flowering strain of Afghan Kush — could be a major perspective shift for many, helping the industry reach its full potential.
“We have guests who’ll come and spend their first three or four hours just thanking us for existing.”