Marijuana goes mainstream - Page 6

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



The newest cannabis club in town, MediThrive (1933 Mission, has a bright, fresh, artsy feel to it, with elegantly frosted windows and a welcoming reception area as you enter. This nonprofit coop takes your photo and requires free membership, and already had almost 3,000 members when I signed up a couple weeks ago. Tiana, the good-looking young receptionist, said the club recently won a reader's choice Cannabis Cup award and noted that all the art on the walls was a rotating collection by local patients: "We're all about supporting local art."

The decorators seemed to have fun with the cannabis concept, with a frosted window with a pot leaf photo separating the reception area from the main room, while the walls alternated wood planks with bright green fake moss that looked like the whole place was bursting with marijuana. There's a flat-screen TV on the wall, at low volume.

The large staff is very friendly and seemed fairly knowledgeable, and the huge selection of pot strains were arranged on a spectrum with the heaviest indica varieties on the left to the pure sativas on the right. Lots of edibles and drinkables, too. The cheapest bud was a cool steel tin with a gram of Mission Kush for $14 (new members get a free sample), while the high rollers could buy some super-concentrated OG Kush Gold Dust ($50) or Ear Wax ($45) to sprinkle over their bowls.

Prepackaged buds

Open for: three months

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Professional, like an artsy doctor's office

Smoke On Site: No

Thug factor: Very low

Access/Security: Easy, but membership required



At 14 Valencia St., Ketama is a testament to how silly it is that clubs within 1,000 feet of schools aren't permitted to allow smoking on site. This former café has a large, comfortable seating area and full kitchen, both of which have had little use since a school opened way down the street last year, causing city officials to ban smoking at Ketama.

Pity, because it seems like a great place to just hang out. Yet now it just seemed underutilized and slow. The staff is small (one door guy and a woman hired last summer doing sales), and we were the only customers during the 20 minutes I was there (except for the weird old guy drinking beer from a can in a bag who kept popping in and out).

But it still had jars of good green bud, several flavors of weed-laced drinks and edibles, and a pretty good selection of hash and kief at different prices, and the woman spoke knowledgeably about the different processes by which they were created. To counteract the slow business, Ketama has a neon sign out front that explicitly announces its business — another indication the industry has gone legit.

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: five years

Price: Low

Selection: Limited

Ambiance: Dirty hippie hangout, but with nobody there

Smoke On Site: No

Thug factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy, but free membership required



Belying its name, Mr. Nice Guy (174 Valencia St.) thrilled and scared me, but not necessarily in a bad way. Located across the street from Zeitgeist, the thug factor here was high and so was the security, allowing no human interaction that wasn't mediated by thick Plexiglass, presumably bulletproof.