Marijuana goes mainstream - Page 3

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


The busy clinic charges around $130 for an initial visit and patients walk away with a legal recommendation, which is all state law requires to legally use marijuana (the clinic recommended also buying a $100 state ID card or a $40 card from the Patient ID Center in Oakland, but I didn't need them to enter any of the clubs I visited).

The long forms patients fill out even suggest anxiety as an affliction that pot can help, but the clinic also asks patients to sign a waiver to obtain detailed medical records supporting the recommendation. When Barth learned that I have a shoulder separation for which I underwent an MRI a few years ago, she requested those records and added "shoulder pain" to my "anxiety" affliction.

"My goal is not just to give people a recommendation. I look at how I can help or support the person beyond just giving them a recommendation," Barth told me, illustrating her point by showing me two packs of cigarettes from patients whom she said she convinced to quit smoking.

Her vibe combines the healer and the old hippie, someone who sees a plethora of uses for marijuana and generally thinks society would be better off if everyone would just have a puff and chill out. The clubs also don't draw distinctions based on their customers' reasons for smoking.

"There is a distinct difference between medical use and recreational use," Olive said, telling stories about amazing turnarounds he's seen in patients with AIDS, cancer, and other debilitating diseases, contrasting that with people who just like to get high before watching a funny movie, which he said is also fine.

But Olive said there's an important and often under-appreciated third category of marijuana use: therapeutic. "They use cannabis to cope, to unwind, to relax, to sleep better, or to think through problems in a different way," Olive said.

This third category of user, which I officially fall into, seems to be the majority people I encountered in the local clubs. And while it may be easy for cannabis' critics to dismiss such patients as taking advantage of laws and a system meant to help sick people, Olive says they play an important role.

"They make it easier for the cannabis clubs to give it away to the people who really need it," Olive said, referring the practice by most clubs of giving away free weed to low-income or very sick patients, which is supported by the profits made on sales.

The Vapor Room is widely regarded as having one of the best compassionate giving programs, and Olive estimated that the operation gives away about a pound per week through local hospice programs and by giving away edibles and bags of cannabis vapor at the club.

Some of the profits are also used to offer free massage, yoga, chiropractic, and other classes to their members, a system being taken to new heights by Harborside Health Center in Oakland, which has fairly high prices but uses that revenue to offer an extensive list of free services and laboratory analysis of the pot it sells, identifying both contaminants (such as molds or pesticides) and the level of THC, the compound that gets you high.

Olive said there's also a positive psychological impact of legitimizing the use of marijuana: "It no longer feels like you're doing a bad thing that you have to be sneaky about."

As I created my list of the clubs I planned to review, I found abundant online resources such as and But an even better indicator of how mainstream this industry has become were the extensive listings and reviews on


Great roundup, Steve, and enjoyable to read as well.

Posted by alapoet on Feb. 02, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

Excellent article. The time has come to end this ridiculous prohibition!

Posted by geofos on Feb. 02, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

Hayward is one of the largest cities in the Bay Area, and on Tuesday 2/16/10 they're going to meet to enact a ban on medical marijuana clinics. They say it's because they're for safety -- how can forcing that trade into the streets and increasing criminal activity and violence be safer? It's almost as if some of the city's elected leaders are being influenced to vote against compassion. URL in header for link to story.

Posted by DanB on Feb. 15, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

So many taboos are being struck down in this society. Not only are the dispensaries still legal and in business, but there's a movement in November (just in California... for now) to vote and legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Incredible. I love this.

Posted by Katie on Apr. 22, 2010 @ 12:25 am

Here's my issue:

I don't have a whole lot and, those perscriptions are, not only, expensive but, I feel, are a
violation of the cannons of my religion (contributing to the pharmaceutical industry is not
[exceedingly] humane).

I tried to get a "compassion" bag from a pot club once (I don't have a whole lot of much) but,
was turned away for not having a medical pot card.

I realize that, those bags, are distributed as a courtesy and, that those clubs are in the busi-
ness of being in business;However, I have to wonder about clubs who advertise those com-
passion bags but, won't give a little to local "folks" who, because of the "economic dispar-
agement" , need a little to help with our stress (it isn't easy being "economically disparaged"
in San Francisco [ask Mayor Newsom]).

This is just "food" for thought.

Posted by DanielW on Jun. 06, 2010 @ 10:58 am

DanielW: You have to be joking? Nothing is free and if you want the same perks as patients then you have to be one, it is a "club" not a soup kitchen!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 07, 2010 @ 2:08 pm