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Welcome To A Joint At A Hotel California

SANTA CRUZ (dpa) – Marijuana motifs and hemp mosiacs adorn the vestibule while the guests smoke a joint at the pool or the terrace.

The Compassion Flower Inn in the Californian coastal town of Santa Cruz is so far the only hotel in the United States where everything revolves around the dried leaves of the common hemp in other words marijuana.

At first glance this hostelry doesn’t look a whole lot different from others in the Victorian style. The comfortable rooms are decorated with antique furniture and the breakfast is hearty. Yet even innocent tourists start to wonder when they walk into one of the “hemp” rooms with their characteristic pastel green wallpaper emblazoned with hemp tendrils.

Smoking cannabis is officially outlawed in California yet Maria Mallek, the German owner of this hotel, takes advantage of a common practice in these parts, the medical prescription of marijuana. Her guests are all smoking joints on prescription.

In liberal Santa Cruz people dying of incurable diseases like the immune sickness AIDS or suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis or even arthritis are even allowed to grow hemp in their back garden provided its use is strictly medicinal.

Mallek has put a lot of effort into renovating what used to be a dilapidated mansion built in 1865 and around a year ago she opened the Compassion Flower Inn. Guests have to bring their own drugs though. “A lot of people ask if they can buy drugs here but the answer is no since that wouldn’t be legal,” says the owner.

The bedding in the four main bedrooms is woven from hemp and the soap, shampoo and towels are all derived from the same natural source. The huge bathtub in the “Loving Couple Suite” is surrounded by marijuana murals, just like the handmade crockery in the kitchen.

The hotel owner and her partner Andrea Tischler regularly light up a joint using a prescription from a doctor who says it helps against arthritis. Yet anyone expecting to find wild drug parties on the premises will be disappointed.

Instead of the distinctive smell of marijuana they are more likely to detect the aroma of freshly baked cake wafting through the corridors. Back in the l9th century though life within these walls was more extreme.

The judge and civil war veteran Edgar Salsbury, who had the mansion built, allegedly cured his bodily and spiritual ailments with copious amounts of opium and morphine. Maria Mallek and her partner have been putting their faith in the healing properties of marijuana since the mid 1980s.

They used to live in San Francisco and administered the drug to AIDS victims. Although the majority of Californian voters voted back in 1996 for the legalization of cannabis for or medical use, the federal government fiercely opposed the move.

Only recently the supreme court ordered the closure of clubs where patients could obtain cheap “medical cannabis” on prescription.

But in Santa Cruz, a cosy town of 50,000 residents, there’s no sign of hostility towards marijuana consumers. On the contrary, says Mallek. The police recommend the place to tourists and point them in the right direction. Officers have even been known to drop in themselves – for a cup of tea.

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