Marijuana goes mainstream - Page 9

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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SANCTUARY

The people who run Sanctuary (669 O'Farrell St.), the first club to fully comply with the new city regulations and get its permanent license, have been active in the political push for normalizing medical marijuana, as a wall full of awards and letters from politicians attests. Owner Michael Welch was commended for his work by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, where Sanctuary employee Tim Durning has been an active longtime member and former elected officer.

Sanctuary has a generous compassionate giving program and caters to lots of poor residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood. While the club is prohibited from allowing smoking, they fudge the restriction with a Volcano vaporizer. "A lot of patients are on fixed income and live in the SROs, where they can't smoke, so we let them vaporize here whether they buy from us or not," Durning told us.

Those who do buy from them find a huge selection — including 20 different kinds of hash and 17 varieties of buds — at a wide price range. Staffers know their products well and take their business seriously, giving a regular spiel to new members about responsible use, which includes maintaining neighborhood relations by not smoking near the business.

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: five years

Price: Low to moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Campaign headquarters for the marijuana movement

Smoke On Site: No, but vaporizing OK

Thug factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

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GREEN DOOR

If low prices or a huge selection of edibles are what you seek, Green Door (843 Howard St., www.greendoorsf.com) could be the club for you.

Eighths of good green buds start at a ridiculously low $25 and go up to just $50 (the cheapest price for eighths at many clubs and also the standard black market price). If that's not low enough, super-broke users can buy a quarter-ounce bag of high-grade shake for $40.

If you didn't already have the munchies going in, you'll get them perusing the huge menu of edibles: from weed-laced knockoffs of Snickers bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for just $5 to cupcakes, ice cream, or Chex party mix. They have lots of hash and other concentrates as well.

Somehow, the club also manages to have a strong compassionate giving program and contibutes to local civic organizations that include the Black Rock Arts Foundation, Maitri AIDS Hospice, and Friends of the Urban Forest.

The club itself is a little sterile and transactional, with an institutional feel and employees stuck behind teller windows. But even though that and the steady flow of tough-looking young male customers raise its thug factor a bit, the employees all seemed friendly and helpful, giving free edibles to first-time customers.

Prepackage buds

Open for: 8 years (4 here, 4 in Oakland)

Price: Cheap

Selection: High for edibles, moderate for weed

Ambiance: Like a community bank of cheap weed

Smoke On Site: No

Thug factor: Moderate

Access/Security: Easy access, high security

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RE-LEAF HERBAL CENTER

While I had heard good things about Re-Leaf (1284 Mission St.), my first impression was that it's a little sketchy. As the door guy was checking my recommendation card and ID, I asked whether they allow smoking on site. He looked as if this was a difficult question, paused, and finally told me to ask the people behind the counter.