What is lost in the current debate? as to whether San Francisco has too many marijuana dispensaries is the fact that some neighborhoods have no marijuana dispensaries at all. When you think of the city in terms of the traditional seven-by-seven miles formula, realize that there are no dispensaries at all in the “upper seventh”, or the northernmost part of the city.
Last week the boutique pharmacy Apothecarium, known for its exquisite Baroque location on Market Street and Dolores streets, just opened a new pharmacy among the cupcake shops, Pilates studios and craft cocktail lounges of the Marina District.
Three years in the making, the Pharmacy Marina now sits as San Francisco’s only medical marijuana dispensary north of Lower Nob Hill. The next one is all the way in Fairfax in Marin County, about 20 miles away.
“We are like a needle in a haystack,” says store manager of Apothecarium Marina, Michael Caruso SF Weekly.
But it is not only the location that makes the Apothecarium unique. It’s the neo-Victorian interior design that feels more like a Four Seasons hotel lobby than a pottery shop. Pharmacy co-founder Ryan Hudson calls it “the pharmacy where you feel comfortable taking your mom.”
The interior of the store is very similar to that of the Market Street Pharmacy that Architectural summary named the best-designed marijuana store in America. (When I was a boy, Architectural summary did not award Best-Designed Marijuana Shop awards. Things have changed.)
In addition to their signature crystal chandeliers, custom upholstered furniture and paneled walls, you’ll also notice a lush, “living moss wall” when you walk into the Apothecarium.
But there’s one thing you won’t see when you walk into this marijuana dispensary: marijuana. Apothecarium’s staff does not keep any product out or otherwise visible. And they don’t call their staff ‘budtenders’. They call them “patient consultants.”
“We appreciate the ability of the patient counselors to get the product out there, to really make that connection,” Caruso tells us. “Patients are overwhelmed when they come in at the sight of all these brands, and they ask questions about everything.”
“We want to be able to zoom in and find out what specific condition or condition each patient is facing, and we will then help navigate that vast array of solutions cannabis can provide,” he says, adding that “all of our drug has been tested in the lab.”
All this terminology of ‘patient’ and ‘medicine’ is still a necessary requirement. Despite the passage of Prop. 64 in November 2016 legalizing recreational cannabis use, California dispensaries remain in an uneasy purgatory where they are only allowed to sell to licensed patients with a California Medical Marijuana ID card.
Neither owners nor lawmakers know yet whether medical dispensaries will become grandfathers to sell marijuana to uncarded buyers after recreational sales become legal on Jan. 1, 2018. So pharmacies like the new Pharmacy Marina still need to be extremely careful when describing marijuana. their high-end flowers, edibles, tinctures, topicals, infused coffees and vaporizing accessories in purely medical terms.
The Pharmacy’s strict adherence to the medical model was not enough to allay community concerns about bringing the very first marijuana dispensary to the marina. This particular Pharmacy didn’t meet nearly as much community opposition as the recently approved new Outer Sunset location, but City Hall’s red tape held up its opening for nearly three years.
Despite more than 1,100 letters of support from local residents and businesses, the Apothecarium Marina was still held to a years-long discretionary review process with the Planning Department. Officials were uneasy about the proximity of a children’s martial arts school and a nearby youth shelter.
Those bureaucratic entanglements have now been overcome and the Apothecarium hopes to build community relationships with all parties involved.
“We are proud to be the best neighbor you can imagine,” says Caruso. “We are really looking forward to showing the neighborhood how we work.”
The new Marina Apothecarium operates with a high-quality, luxurious aesthetic and strict adherence to current regulations for medicinal cannabis. That’s probably why they were the only cannabis company to maneuver through obstacles to bring the neighborhood its first dispensary, why they’re the best option for those looking to get high near Pacific Heights.
The Apothecarium Marina is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 2414 Lombard St. (off Scott Street). Online orders and delivery service is also available at apothecarium.com.