Cannabis Club Guide

CANNABIS CLUB GUIDE 2012 When we first created our detailed local Cannabis Club Guide two years ago — which you can find at www.sfbg.com/cannabisguide — it seemed as if the marijuana business had entered a golden age of openness and professionalism in San Francisco. But with a federal crackdown shuttering at least a half-dozen dispensaries in the Bay Area (Market Street Collective, Sanctuary, Mr. Nice Guy, Medithrive, Divinity Tree, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana) things have changed. Luckily for needy patients and stoners alike, San Francisco has always been a resourceful city, so those meddling feds have actually done very little to disrupt the free flow of the world’s best marijuana.

Even before the cannabis industry moved above ground and into brick-and-mortar storefronts, there were always pot delivery services here. Now they’re really proliferating, so we thought it was high time to add them to our guide. And once we delved into this realm, we found that it was every bit as civilized and professional as a visit to our friendly neighborhood dispensary — and perhaps even more convenient and cost-effective.

The process seems just as secure and legally compliant as it is at the clubs, with most reputable delivery services requiring that you become a member before accessing their products. That means sending them copies of your doctor’s recommendation and California ID, which can be even done from a photo on your smart phone. After the services verify you, you’re good to go.

We’re starting the guide with just a trio of the most high-profile delivery services, as well as a couple more dispensaries, but we’ll be adding to the online guide throughout the year, so check back frequently for more updates.

DELIVERIES

THE GREEN CROSS

This is one of San Francisco’s premier cannabis clubs, setting the standard for everyone else in terms of quality, professionalism, and advocacy for the industry. My sources had long been telling me that the Green Cross carries the best weed in the city — information validated by the long string of awards it accumulates at cannabis competitions. And founder Kevin Reed has been a passionate, high-profile leader in the community for years.

But I became even more impressed once I actually used the service. Its great website features the best descriptions of its nearly two dozen strains of lab-tested marijuana, including where and how it was grown, as well as products ranging from inexpensive pipes to eye drops. I settled on a $40 eighth of Blue Deliah, a sativa-dominant hybrid that looked both cheap and good.

Within about 30 minutes, the friendly delivery guy showed up at my apartment, handed me a white paper bag full of goodies, and charged me $35 with my new customer discount. Inside the bag, there was a grinder, a cool jar, rolling papers, a lighter and other Green Cross swag, a pot cookie, non-medicated munchies, an information packet, a receipt stuck to the inside of the bag — and a baggie of beautifully trimmed buds.

www.thegreencross.org

(415) 648-4420

Opened in 2004

Price: Low to average

Selection: Huge and high-quality

Delivery time: Super fast

Sketch factor: Very low

Access: Secure but easy to use

 

MEDITHRIVE

When Medithrive opened as a dispensary in my Mission District neighborhood, it became one of my favorite clubs, so I was disappointed to see it shut down by threats from the federal government late last year. But it immediately reinvented itself as a delivery-only club, and it still retains the friendly service and large selection that first endeared me to it.

“It’s definitely been a change for us, but if patients can handle the delivery thing, it ends up being better for everyone,” said the employee who took my order: the Apocalypse Medi-Mix, a mix of high-quality small buds (better for vaporizers) for $40 for four grams. And because I was a newbie to its delivery service, they threw in a free joint.

I called at 3 p.m. and was told to expect delivery between 4:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m. — and it actually showed up at 4 p.m. It wasn’t a problem because I was working at home all afternoon, but I can imagine such a long arrival window wouldn’t be ideal for some. And frankly, the buds were pretty dry, perhaps the result of not moving as much inventory as Medithrive is used to.

But on the whole, it’s still a solid dispensary and a very friendly staff that’s still worth using.

www.medithrive.com

(415) 562-MEDI

Opened in 2010

Price: Average with good deals

Selection: Large

Delivery time: Fast but uncertain

Sketch factor: Low

Access: Secure but easy to use

 

FOGGY DAZE DELIVERY

This place pops up prominently when people Google marijuana delivery services in San Francisco, but other parts of its operation don’t seem quite as tight as its search engine savvy. Even its readily available website, I learned while trying to order, has an outdated menu of available items. For what it actually offers, customers need to visit www.weedmaps.com, where the guy said the menu would quickly appear when I typed in “foggydaze,” but it didn’t.

Finally, I just asked him to recommend a good sativa strain, and he mentioned just two that they had in stock: Headband and Cheezle. Shooting in the dark, I went with an eighth of Cheezle for $45, and he offered me a new member gift of a joint or sample of equal or lesser priced weed. I opted for the joint because it just seemed easier at that point, particularly since my initial call went to voicemail and then I had to wait 45 minutes to get my information verified. An hour later (he said it would be 45 minutes), I had my weed.

Compared to the bad old days of ordering whatever my underground drug dealer had and jumping through whatever hoops he required, Foggy Daze is much better. But in the modern marijuana scene in this highly evolved city, Foggy Daze doesn’t quite measure up as is.

www.foggydazedelivery.com

(415) 200-7451

Price: Average

Selection: Small

Delivery time: OK, but slow on verification

Sketch factor: Medium

Access: Pretty good

 

DISPENSARIES

APOTHECARIUM

It was only a matter of time before someone had the idea to really emphasize excellent personal service with high-end products in an elegant environment — but the folks at Apothecarium have done it in a way that really sets them apart from the rest of the pack. This place is an experience more than just a place to score weed, much the same way adventurous bars like Alembic aren’t just about getting tipsy but appreciating just what a cocktail can become in the right hands.

Visitors to the Apothecarium are warmly greeted and seated in front of an extensive (and well-designed) menu, which an knowledgeable staffer patiently and enticingly walks you through, focusing exclusively on you and your needs. Once you finally find what you want, a large jar of your chosen buds emerge, and the employee uses long silver tweezers to place the prettiest ones on a display tray in front of you to inspect while he weighs out your choice of small or large buds with an air of showmanship.

2095 Market, SF

(415) 500-2620

www.apothecariumsf.com

Buds weighed on purchase

Opened in 2011

Price: High to low (“compassionately priced” strains available)

Selection: Large, extremely informative menu available

Ambiance: Looks like a fancy hair salon, hardwood floors and patterned wallpaper

Smoke on site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/security: Secure but easy access

 

1944 OCEAN COLLECTIVE

Despite a somewhat forbidding waiting room, this neighborhood dispensary on a mellow stretch of Ingleside’s Ocean Avenue has a real family feel once you step onto the salesfloor.

I was in the market for edibles when I went to 1944, and chatted with the jocular sales staff about which available edible wouldn’t give me couch lock or paranoia — a fully-functioning treat, as it were. My budtender pointed me towards a sativa-based peanut butter cookie with high potency, and then made me feel OK about our difficulty making a decision. “We’re all stoners here,” he laughed.

Once you make your selection among the edibles, flowers, and tinctures on offer, head to the back of the low-glitz, comfortably appointed room to give your money at the cash register. Head back to the bud counter to pick up your selection — if you’re lucky you can grab a brownie bite, cup of tea, or apple from the buffet to assuage your munchies. There’s even a sign that announces the dispensary’s job counseling and resume writing classes. A somewhat cold exterior sure, but it belies a warm heart. (Reviewed by Caitlin Donohue)

1944 Ocean, SF.

(415) 239-4766

Buds weighed on purchase

Opened in 2004

Price: From cheap to high

Selection: Large

Ambiance: Comfortable seating, jovial staff, family feel

Smoke on site: No

Sketch factor: Forbidding waiting room, friendly inside

Access/security: Tight 



2011 REVIEWS

SPARC

The San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, or SPARC (1256 Mission, SF) immediately set a new standard for dispensaries when it opened last August, combining a stunningly beautiful facility with deep connections to the medical marijuana community and a strong commitment to taking care of patients and moving the movement forward.

Even the casual observer can see what a unique place this is. A selection of almost three dozen bud varietals is presented in the style of a Chinese apothecary, each strain laboratory-tested for strength and purity and labeled with THC and CBD levels. The facility was lovingly designed from scratch with state-of-the-art humidors and security systems, creating an environment that is warm, friendly, and secure, with more employees per customer than other clubs.

Below the surface, SPARC is also setting a standard. Founder Erich Pearson and others involved with the club have been movement leaders for many years and they have deep connections with growers, patient groups, and the progressive political community. So they offer everything from free acupuncture and other services to generous compassionate giving programs to strong support for all aspects of the vertically-integrated collective.

But it is the experience of visiting that is most striking. Get expert advice on choosing from a huge range on indoor and outdoor strains and then settle into one of the tables, load a bowl into the high-end Volcano vaporizer, and taste the fruits of SPARC’s expertise.

There are always lots of great deals to choose from, from one-pound bags for baking for $300 to eighths of the finest outdoor weed for as low as $28.

SPARC is truly an industry leader, setting a high bar for what dispensaries can be.

Prepackaged buds

Opened in 2010

Price: Wide range

Selection: Huge!

Ambiance: Warm, comfortable, hip

Smoke on site: Vaporizing only

Sketch factor: Low

Access/security: Tight but welcoming

———–

IGZACTLY HEALTH CENTER

Opening in late 2010, Igzactly (527 Howard, SF) is the new kid of the block — but it’s already establishing itself as one of the best cannabis clubs around. With a rotating supply of almost 40 varieties of buds to choose from at a full range of prices, it has the biggest selection in town. I asked the bud tender how the club is able to offer such a wide array of high-quality buds, and he said it’s because they’re using a different model than most clubs. Rather than buying the buds from growers, Igzactly uses a consignment system, splitting the proceeds with the growers.

Complementing the huge stock of dried buds, Igzactly also has a large selection of cannabis-infused edibles, concentrates, tinctures, ointments, and just about anything you can get weed into. On top of that, Igzactly has a comfortable lounge and is one of just a handful of clubs that allows vaporizing on site, giving clients a choice of using the top-end Volcano or the Zephyr (my personal favorite) vaporizer models. They even offer complimentary teas and coffee.

The staff there is friendly and customer-oriented. For example, when the club opened, it offered prepackaged buds like most clubs, but it heeded customer input and quickly switched to displaying all their buds in huge jars and weighing them out on purchase, which many patients prefer. And he said the club plans to expand the lounge soon and to add on-site laboratory services by year’s end.

If Igzactly is a sign of where the industry’s headed, the future looks bright and verdant.

Buds weighed on purchase

Opened in 2010

Price: From cheap to average

Selection: Huge!

Ambiance: Green, friendly, inviting

Smoke on site: Vaporizing only

Sketch factor: Low

Access/security: Secure but easy access

———–

SHAMBHALA

I visited Shambhala (2441 Mission, SF) on its second day open, when the smell of paint was stronger than that of weed, so it’s hard to judge it fairly. Check-in for new patients was maddening slow to an almost comical degree, they weren’t yet taking credit cards and had no ATM on site, and they offered a bigger selection of rolling papers than bud varieties.

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.

Prepackaged buds

Open since 2011

Price: Moderate

Selection: Limited buds, lots of paraphernalia

Ambiance: Clean, open, friendly

Smoke on site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/security: Tight

———-

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. 

Prepackaged buds

Opened in 1999

Price: Moderate with lots of good deals

Selection: High

Ambiance: Low-key and business-like

Smoke on site: No

Sketch factor: Very low

Access/security: Tight 

 

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.

But the employees there are very nice and helpful, and the atmosphere in the club has become more inviting. There carry a large stock of edibles not available in other clubs, including smoothies and other refrigerated snacks that require a special permit from the city to sell. And the customer appreciation barbecue events they offer are a nice touch.

For a small storefront operation, Releaf does a fine job and it’s worth a visit. But with the way in which the bar has been raised for dispensaries in this city, I wouldn’t put Releaf in the top tier. Sorry guys, maybe next year.

 

Buds weighed on purchase

Open since 2007 ( with three years at previous SF location)

Price: Moderate

Selection: Limited

Ambiance: A loud head shop that also has some weed

Smoke On Site: Yes

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Moderate

—————

2010 REVIEWS

DIVINITY TREE

While the reviews on Yelp rave about Divinity Tree (958 Geary St.), giving it five stars, I found it a little intimidating and transactional (although it was the first club I visited, so that might be a factor). But if you’re looking to just do your business in a no-frills environment and get out, this could be your place.

The staff and most of the clientele were young men, some a bit thuggish. One worker wore a “Stop Snitching” T-shirt and another had “Free the SF8.” But they behaved professionally and were knowledgeable and easy to talk to. When I asked for a strain that would ease my anxiety but still allow me enough focus to write, my guy (patients wait along a bench until called to the counter) seemed to thoughtfully ponder the question for a moment, then said I wanted a “sativa-dominant hybrid” and recommended Neville’s Haze.

I bought 1/16 for $25 and when I asked for a receipt, it seemed as though they don’t get that question very often. But without missing a beat he said, “Sure, I’ll give you a receipt,” and gave me a hand-written one for “Meds.”

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: four years

Price: Fairly low

Selection: Moderate

Ambiance: A transactional hole in the wall

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Moderate

Access/Security: Easy. Membership available but not required

————-

GRASS ROOTS

Located at 1077 Post St. right next to Fire Station #3, Grass Roots has the feel of a busy saloon. Indeed, as a worker named Justin told me, many of the employees are former bartenders who know and value customer service. With music, great lighting, and nice décor, this place feels comfortable and totally legit. Whereas most clubs are cash-only, Grass Roots allows credit card transactions and has an ATM on site.

The steady stream of customers are asked to wait along the back wall, perusing the menus (one for buds and another with pictures for a huge selection of edibles) until called to the bar. When asked, my guy gave me a knowledgeable breakdown of the difference between sativa and indica, but then Justin came over to relieve him for a lunch break with the BBQ they had ordered in and ate in the back.

Justin answered my writing-while-high inquiry by recommending Blue Dream ($17 for a 1.2-gram), and when I asked about edibles, he said he really likes the indica instant hot chocolate ($6), advising me to use milk rather than water because it bonds better with the cannabinoids to improve the high. Then he gave me a free pot brownie because I was a new customer. I was tempted to tip him, but we just said a warm goodbye instead.

Buds weighed on purchase

Open for: six years

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: A warm and welcoming weed bar

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

————–

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: eight years

Price: Low

Selection: Moderate

Ambiance: Like a converted home with retail up front

Smoke On Site: Yes!

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

————

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: seven years

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Warm, communal hangout

Smoke On Site: Yes!

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy, but membership required

————-

MEDITHRIVE

The newest cannabis club in town, MediThrive (1933 Mission, www.medithrive.com) 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: one year

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Professional, like an artsy doctor’s office

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Very low

Access/Security: Easy, but membership required

————

KETAMA COLLECTIVE

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: six years

Price: Low

Selection: Limited

Ambiance: Hippie hangout, but with nobody there

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy, but free membership required

————

MR. NICE GUY

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.

After initially being told by a disembodied voice to come back in five minutes, I submitted my doctor’s recommendation and ID into the slot of a teller’s window, darkened to hide whoever I was dealing with. Quickly approved, I was buzzed into a small, strange room with three doors.

I paused, confused, until the disembodied voice again told me, “Keep going,” and I was buzzed through another door into a hallway that led to a large room, its walls completely covered in brilliant murals, expertly painted in hip-hop style. Along the front walls, a lighted menu broke down the prices of about 20 cannabis varieties.

Then finally, I saw people: two impossibly hot, young female employees, lounging nonchalantly in their weed box, like strippers waiting to start their routines. The only other customer, a young B-boy, chatted them up though the glass, seemingly more interested in these striking women than their products.

I finally decided to go with the special, an ounce of Fever, normally $17, for just $10. I opened a small door in the glass, set down my cash, and watched the tall, milk chocolate-skinned beauty trade my money for Fever, leaving me feeling flushed. It was the best dime-bag I ever bought.

Prepackaged buds

Price: Moderate, with cheap specials

Selection: High

Ambiance: Hip hop strip club

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: High

Access/Security: High security but low scrutiny

————-

BERNAL HEIGHTS COLLECTIVE

Bernal Collective (33 29th St. at Mission) seemed both more casual and more strict than any of the other clubs in town — and it also turned out to be one of my favorites.

After refusing to buy pot for a guy out front who had just been turned away, I entered the club and faced more scrutiny than I had at any other club. It was the only club to ask for my doctor’s license number and my referral number, and when I tried to check an incoming text message, I was told cell phone use wasn’t allowed for “security reasons.” On the wall, they had a blown-up copy of their 2007 legal notice announcing their opening.

But beyond this by-the-book façade, this club proved warm and welcoming, like a comfortable clubhouse. People can smoke on site, and there’s even a daily happy hour from 4:20–5:20 p.m., with $1 off joints and edibles, both in abundant supply. Normal-sized prerolled joints are $5, but they also offer a massive bomber joint with a full eighth of weed for $50.

The staff of a half-dozen young men were knowledgeable about the 20 varieties they had on hand and offered excellent customer service, even washing down the bong with an alcohol-wipe before letting a customer take a rip from the XXX, a strong, sticky bud that was just $15 for a gram.

Buds weighed at purchase

Open for: six years

Price: Fairly low

Selection: High

Ambiance: A clubhouse for young stoners

Smoke On Site: Yes

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Fairly tight

————-

LOVE SHACK

This longtime club (502 14th St.) has had its ups and downs, the downs coming mostly because of its location on a fairly residential block. After taking complaints from neighbors, the city required Love Shack to cap its membership, although that seems to be changing because the club let me in, albeit with a warning that next time I would need to have a state ID card. It was the only club I visited to have such a requirement.

Once inside this tiny club, I could see why people might have been backed up onto the street at times. But the staff was friendly and seemed to have a great rapport with the regulars, who seemed be everyone except me. The knowledgeable manager walked me through their 20-plus varieties, most costing the standard street price of $50 per eighth, or more for stronger stuff like Romulan.

On the more affordable end of the spectrum was the $10 special for Jack Herrer Hash, named for the longtime legalization advocate who wrote The Emperor Wears No Clothes, a classic book on the history of the movement.

Buds weighed at purchase

Open for: nine years

Price: Moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Small, like a converted apartment

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Moderate

Access/Security: Tight

————-

COFFEE SHOP BLUE SKY

Blue Sky (377 17th St., Oakland)is based on the Amsterdam model of combining marijuana dispensaries with coffee shops, although it suffers a bit from Oakland’s ban on smoking. Still, it’s a cool concept and one that Richard Lee sees as the future of marijuana-related businesses because of the synergy between smoking and grabbing a bite or some coffee.

Most of Blue Sky is a small coffee shop and smoothie bar, but there’s a little room in back for buying weed. “We’ve got the best prices around,” said the guy who checked my ID, and indeed, $44 eighths and $10 “puppy bags” were pretty cheap. Customers can also sign up to do volunteer political advocacy work for free weed.

The only downside is the limited selection, only four varieties when I was there, although the woman at the counter said the varieties rotate over the course of the day based on the club’s purchases from growers.

Prepackaged buds

Open for: 15 years

Price: Low

Selection: Very limited

Ambiance: A fragrant little room behind a coffee shop

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

————–

HARBORSIDE HEALTH CENTER

I have seen the future of legitimized medical marijuana businesses, and it’s Harborside (1840 Embarcadero, Oakland). With its motto of “Out of the shadows, into the light,” this place is like the Costco of pot — a huge, airy facility with a dizzying number of selections and even a “rewards card” program.

All new members are given a tour, starting with sign-up sheets for daily free services that include yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, reiki, consultations with herbalists, and classes on growing. Then we moved to a section with the clones of dozens of pot plant varieties available for purchase (limit of 72 plants per visit), along with a potted marijuana plant the size of a tree.

Harborside is also blazing the trail on laboratory services, testing all of its pot for contaminants and THC content, labeling it on the packaging just like the alcohol industry does. Some of the smaller clubs don’t like how over-the-top Harborside is, and they complain that its prices are high. But those profits seem to be poured back into the services at this unique facility.

Prepackaged buds

Open for: four years

Price: High

Selection: Huge

Ambiance: A big, open shopping emporium

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Tight

————-

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: six years

Price: Low to moderate

Selection: High

Ambiance: Campaign headquarters for the marijuana movement

Smoke On Site: No, but vaporizing OK

Sketch factor: Low

Access/Security: Easy

————–

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: nine years (five here, four in Oakland)

Price: Cheap

Selection: High for edibles, moderate for weed

Ambiance: Like a community bank of cheap weed

Smoke On Site: No

Sketch factor: Moderate

Access/Security: Easy access, high security

————–