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.
The Melting Pot
The Green Cross
Doormen clad in slacks, jackets and ties usher me inside a storefront with tinted glass windows. I stand in front of a black desk in the reception area, painted floor to ceiling also in black. A low table features tea and coffee from a high-end Keurig machine. Young men in crisp button-downs with precisely trimmed beards and fresh haircuts man the bud counter. First impressions of a Fisherman's Wharf nightclub fade with a look at the wall décor at The Green Cross(4218 Mission St.): heads of Dr. Seuss characters mounted on the wall, trophy buck-style.
Whimsy gives way to order as I take a number from a second security man and enter the long, narrow goods area. For the first time in eight years of frequenting marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, I meet an Asian patient, a woman—most customers are white dudes, you see; and the city's Asian corners have a reputation for being anti weed.
"An indica and a sativa? You want OG Kush and Sour Diesel," she tells a 50-ish white fellow wearing wraparound sunglasses and a ballcap from a minor-league baseball team. "Those are the strongest."
By far, this is the busiest dispensary on the strip. Everyone's buying something different, too: A vape pen and two cartridges for the millennial Asian man who has an Eagle Scout patch on his backpack; a handful of pre-rolls for the older black gentleman wearing a vintage satin Warriors jacket.