The interior of Apothecarium is sleek and sophisticated. Textured, velvet wallpaper lines the walls and the wood floors are spotless. A long, clean marble bar beckons patients to come close and strike a conversation with a patient consultant. It’s a comfortable, easy conversation and patient consultants never tire of sharing their favorite buds under lit-up magnifying glasses, inviting patients to smell it and it examine it up closely. They turn the buds delicately under the magnification to show the quality and the density of the trichomes.
Each bud, tincture, topical, edible or hash is listed in a hard-covered silver menu with cannabinoid and terpinoid profiles listed where available and relevant. The Apothecarium is not your typical dispensary and although it may be one of the smaller dispensaries in town, it is one of the most beloved by patients.
The Apothecarium proudly occupies the historic corner of Church and Market streets in the heart of the Castro District, the birthplace of the push for both gay rights and safe access to medical cannabis.
“Prop 215 was literally authored across the street from our dispensary,” says co-founder Ryan Hudson. “What better place to locate our dispensary than in the heart of the Castro?”
Prop 215 co-author Dennis Peron lives nearby and back in 1996 the Castro was the center of the debate surrounding legalizing medical marijuana in California with Peron as the movement’s spokesperson. The Castro’s gay community had used cannabis through the AIDS epidemic, earning it reverence in the city.
Patients of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds have turned to the dispensary both for medicine as well as education and community support.
Hudson says that although medical cannabis was legal when they opened The Apothecarium, it still had a lot of stigma attached to it, even in the Castro. He sought to create a dispensary that could be “something our mothers and grandmothers could hold their head up high walking in, without feeling the stigma or shame of going into a dispensary.”
The Apothecarium has a strong emphasis on education and the concept of “bud tenders” didn’t quite fit the cleaner, medicine-centric model. Instead, patients who visit The Apothecarium work with a patient consultant to choose the best medicine for their individual needs.
“We are doing our best to be leaders in the field,” says patient consultant Alexandra Butler.
Patient consultants receive one-on-one training and travel to national conferences in order to stay at the forefront of available medical cannabis research. Some patient consultants teach classes free of charge to patients offsite at the local LGBT community center and a gay-friendly local church. Butler says the most popular class by far has been “Cannabis & Cancer,” hosted by patient-consultant and cancer survivor Sara Payan.
“We are trying to step up the game in the medical cannabis industry and bring more knowledge and more education and overall try to target therapy to our patients’ needs in a really interesting way,” says Butler. “You need to know a lot to be able to deal with any person that may walk through the door with any variety of ailments.”
Because of the focus on information and education, The Apothecarium includes the terpene profiles of individual strains on their menu alongside test results documenting cannabinoid levels and ratios. Butler says the addition of the terpene profile came from a push from patient consultants to share more of the information they believe is essential to making an informed decision about which medicine to use.
“The research really shows that there are important synergistic effects between cannabinoids and terpenes in the human body and we need to include that sort of information so patients can learn what is best for them,” says Butler.
Because of the patient consultant model, the location and the professionally run and clean store, the Apothecarium has become a beacon to first-time medical cannabis patients and the go-to dispensary for a lot of San Franciscans. It’s a store for parents, grandparents and all lovers of dabbable, solventless concentrates.
Although The Apothecarium does stock butane hash oil (BHO) there is a 50ppm limit on residual solvents, but who needs BHO when there is dabbable ice wax produced only with water?
“They tend to sell out almost immediately,” says Butler of the ice waxes. “It’s rare, our patients love it and it’s probably going to be an emerging trend in the market.”
2095 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Originally published in issue 12 of Cannabis Now Magazine. Subscribe now! Issue 13 is coming soon.