Marijuana goes mainstream - Page 5

Take a tour of the Bay Area's best cannabis clubs, which are proving that prohibition is the problem, not pot

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HOPENET

Hopenet (223 Ninth St.) is one of the few places in the city where you can smoke on site, in a comfortable, homey style, as if you're visiting a friend's apartment. In addition to the loveseat, two chairs, and large bong, there is a small patio area for smoking cigarettes or playing a guitar, as someone was doing during my visit.

Although the small staff is definitely knowledgeable, they all seemed stoned. And when I asked about the right weed for my writing problem, a gruff older woman impatiently dismissed any indica vs. sativa distinctions and walked away. But I learned a lot about how they made the wide variety of concentrates from the young, slow-talking guy who remained.

He weighed out a heavy gram of White Grapes for $15, the same price for Blue Dream, and $2 cheaper than I had just paid at Grass Roots. That was in the back room, the big middle area was for hanging out, and the front area was check-in and retail, with a case for pipes and wide variety of stoner T-shirts on the walls.

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: seven years

Price: Low

Selection: Moderate

Ambiance: Like a converted home with retail up front

Smoke On Site: Yes!

Thug factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

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VAPOR ROOM

Vapor Room (607A Haight, www.vaporroom.com) is San Francisco's best pot club, at least in terms of feeling like an actual club and having strong connections to its community of patients. It's a large room where customers can smoke on site, giving this collective a warm, communal vibe that facilitates social interaction and fosters a real sense of inclusiveness.

Each of the four large tables has a high-end Volcano vaporizer on it, there's a big-screen TV, elegant décor, and large aquarium. There's a nice mix of young heads and older patients, the latter seeming to know each other well. But, lest members feel a little too at home, a sign on the wall indicates a two-hour time limit for hanging out.

Its early days in the spot next door were a bit grungier, but the new place is bright and elegant. It has a low-key façade and professional feel, and it strongly caters to patients' needs. Low-income patients are regularly offered free medicine, such as bags full of vapor prepared by staff. Mirkarimi said the Vapor Room is very involved in the Lower Haight community and called it a "model club."

But they're still all about the weed, and they have a huge selection that you can easily examine (with a handy magnifying glass) and smell, knowledgeable staff, lots of edibles and concentrates, a tea bar (medicated and regular), and fairly low standardized pot prices: $15 per gram, $25 per 1/16th, $50 per eighth. And once you got your stuff, grab a bong off the shelf and settle into a table — but don't forget to give them your card at the front desk to check out a bowl for your bong. As the guy told me, "It's like a library."

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: six years

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Warm, communal hangout

Smoke On Site: Yes!

Thug factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy, but membership required

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