But I still liked this place, the only one in that stretch of Mission Street. The staff is very friendly and they seem to really know their products. Unlike many clubs that offer a few good deals, the only cheap weed here was Afgoo for $25 per eighth, less than half the price of most of the 13 varieties they offered. When I asked why it was so much cheaper, the bud tender explained that the buds weren't as tight or well-trimmed as the dispensary expects, although it still proved to be plenty strong and tasty.
Beyond the buds, Shambhala is also part head shop, selling lots of nice glass bongs, a display case filled with pipes, and rolling papers of all shapes and flavors. And while its selection of edibles is small, they do feature all of Auntie Dolores' yummy cookies and savory snacks, even displaying the pretzels, chili-lime peanuts, and caramel corn in large glass jars on the counter.
Once Shambhala finds its groove, it will be a solid addition to the city's dispensary network.
Open since 2011
Selection: Limited buds, lots of paraphernalia
Ambiance: Clean, open, friendly
Smoke on site: No
Sketch factor: Low
MARKET STREET COOPERATIVE
It's easy to overlook this place (1884 Market, SF), as I did last year when I first began to compile this guide. Nestled into the back of a wide sidewalk courtyard where Market meets Laguna just up the street from the LGBT Center, Market Street Cooperative has low-key signage and doesn't seem to do much advertising or outreach, particularly compared to marketing-savvy clubs such as the Vapor Room, Medithrive, and SPARC.
But the operators clearly know what they're doing, offering a wide product selection in a quiet, clean, no-nonsense environment. They offer a choice of buds for every taste and use, from the best high-end buds at a good price down to eighths for a dirt-cheap $18 and three different grades of shake, which many vaporizer users prefer over the tight buds that they need to grind themselves.
Access is limited to members, and the club insists on being able to verify the recommendation of users in a phone call to their doctors, a stricter standard that most clubs use and one that can get users turned away if their visit is after normal business hours (as they unapologetically did to my friend, the first time a club had denied him entry).
But once you're in, you're in, and this long-running club will take good care of you.
Opened in 1999
Price: Moderate with lots of good deals
Ambiance: Low-key and business-like
Smoke on site: No
Sketch factor: Very low
RE-LEAF HERBAL CENTER
I wasn’t terribly impressed by ReLeaf (1284 Mission, SF) when I first reviewed the club in 2010, so at their owner’s request I returned recently to give them another look. They have definitely improved in both the feel of the club and its customer service, but it still suffers from some of the same shortcomings I noticed last year.
While they allow smoking on site, which is great, they don’t have any vaporizers or bongs on hand for patients to use, making it seem a little sketchy. The selection of buds is also fairly limited, with about a dozen varieties divided into two pricing tiers (although only a couple selections on each tier really looked and smelled great), and the clones they had on sale during my visit looked scraggly and sickly.