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Bay Area Cannasseur: San Francisco cannabis dispensaries adapt

by Sari Staver

The Apothecarium in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is open, but with reduced hours. Photo: Courtesy the Apothecarium
The Apothecarium in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is open, but with reduced hours. Photo: Courtesy the Apothecarium  

Business is getting back to usual at Bay Area cannabis stores.

After initially declaring dispensaries were non-essential when the San Francisco shelter-in-place order went into effect March 17, city health officials and political leaders quickly reversed themselves and determined cannabis is an essential medicine during the coronavirus outbreak, paving the way for shops to reopen.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted, many did just that, although some have reduced hours so it's best to check their website or, even better, call before you leave the house.

At the Castro Apothecarium, 2029 Market Street, changes make shopping safer for customers and staff, said store manager Cali Manzello.

In a telephone interview with the B.A.R., Manzello said the company has taken precautions to be sure there is minimal contact between customers and staff, including a six foot distance from the counter where customers can use an iPad to scroll the menu, replacing the paper product. The tablet is wiped down between uses, she said.

The Apothecarium is operating with a smaller staff and shorter hours since the stay-at-home order went into effect, although there were no layoffs, officials said. The store is planning to resume delivery service soon but until then it is doing in-store consultations. It recommends people order online for pick up if possible.

The LGBT-owned SPARC has seen a dip in business since the stay-at-home order went into effect. Of its five Bay Area stores, only one, Love Shack, located at 502 14th Street in the Mission, is temporarily closed.

In an email to the B.A.R., SPARC CEO Erich Pearson wrote, "We were lucky to have launched our new delivery and in-store pickup platform online a few months ago. So, we are very busy delivering and doing curbside pickup. Sales are down quite a bit. However, we have managed to not lay off any employees."

In the meantime, during the shelter-in-place order, the San Francisco Office of Cannabis will continue to process permits and respond to permitting inquiries.

According to the office's newsletter, it is operating "under reduced capacity" and will only be able to respond to inquiries with a status report. Some office staff are working remotely while others have been summoned as emergency service workers.


Out & About offers CBD products. Photo: Courtesy Out & About  

New product launch
In late March, entrepreneurs in Southern California launched a new cannabis wellness company, after successfully raising $1.5 million from a dozen angel investors. Based in San Juan Capistrano, the new company, Out & About, was founded by two men with strong ties to the LGBT community: a gay man, Wayne Carkeek, and Ralph Fascitelli, a member of PFLAG.

According to the company's promotional material, Carkeek grew up in a small town in Montana and came out shortly after a four-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. The company plans to give a minimum of 5% of all proceeds back to the LGBT community.

Products from Out & About are THC-free and contain CBD, a non-hallucinogenic chemical compound that is made from marijuana. Products, available on the website include gummies, capsules, oil tincture, sugar-free mints, and dog treats.

SF's 4/20 event canceled
Although Golden Gate Park remains open, the organizers of San Francisco's annual 4/20 cannabis celebration on Hippie Hill said that the event has been canceled.

According to a statement from the organizers, "We take the health and safety of the public, our staff, vendors, and all of our sponsors very seriously. We feel it's our responsibility to do our part to minimize social gathering and potential spread of this virus in the community."

Organizers said that they are working with local city departments, as well as community partners and will announce further details when they know more.

"Thank you for understanding and support. See you next year," the statement concluded.

Bay Area Cannasseur runs the first Thursday of the month. To send column ideas or tips, email Sari Staver at sfsari@gmail.com


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