Weed for Everyone: Four marijuana dispensaries on Mission Street embody all of San Francisco
(Courtesy of Cookies SF)

Weed for Everyone: Four marijuana dispensaries on Mission Street embody all of San Francisco


Many an artist and writer has long struggled to capture the essence of San Francisco in an image, an outcry, or a few well-formulated words. They should have been shopping for weed instead.

Some people swear by Geary Boulevard or Market Street for the title of our most emblematic thoroughfare, but I think it's Mission Street. It's all there: High and low, rich and poor, old and new—with all the frisson and friction that competing for space in uncertain times and on unequal terms creates.

As it happens, almost a third of the city's 30 (and counting) marijuana outlets are located along the path of the 14-Mission bus. Starting on the city's southern rim and working my way north, I found a weed club for all walks of life in 2017 San Francisco, from the blue-collar worker, forearms tattooed with "415" in gothic script, to the patron of the $12 toast.

Working-Class Cannabis

Mission Organic Center

(via Facebook)

Twenty-first-century working-class values surround you in the Excelsior District. Men in paint-splattered clothes wait next to women in medical scrubs for the bus at Mission and Geneva. (Gender, at least, obeys rules from San Francisco's blue-collar past that the late Dan White, infamous neighborhood native and Harvey Milk assassin, would have recognized.) Here also, up the street from a workwear store selling Ben Davis overalls, is the city's only union marijuana dispensary.

Mission Organic Center(5258 Mission St.) has the fluorescent lighting of a dental clinic waiting room—antiseptic trappings made up for by the tattooed twentysomethings working behind the counter, each and every one of them a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5.

There are topicals and tinctures for pain and seizures here as well as uber-strength edibles—each the sort of medicine that could relieve the country's opiate crisis—suggesting this place will stay "medical" even when a doctor's note is no longer required. Uncommon questions about potency, sourcing, and lab testing are answered—"Not everything is tested, honestly," my budtender says, candidly—and there's none of the usual impatience when I smell-test my sixth and seventh strain before picking out a few grams.

Two other patients come and go before my fussiness has been addressed, but I make the most impact while making my exit. "Bye! Thanks for coming!" all four people behind the counter say. As a card-carrying union man myself—a member of the Pacific Media Guild's freelancer union—I want to leap upon a chair, raise a fist, and shout something about solidarity. Instead, I mumble some thanks and buoyantly reenter the afternoon sunshine.

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