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Bay Area Cannasseur: SF dispensary lounges reopen

by Sari Staver

The lounge at Moe Green's dispensary in San Francisco has reopened, but proof of COVID vaccination is required. Photo: Courtesy Moe Green's
The lounge at Moe Green's dispensary in San Francisco has reopened, but proof of COVID vaccination is required. Photo: Courtesy Moe Green's  

When longtime cannabis pioneer Wayne Justmann recently invited me to join him at Moe Green's cannabis lounge, it was the first I'd heard that San Francisco's onsite lounges were reopening after a 14-month COVID-related closure.

Justmann, a gay man who has been an activist as well as a consultant to the cannabis industry, is often first with local marijuana news. Last year, Justmann was the first to let me know that he'd spotted clones, or starter plants, for sale at the California Street Cannabis Company, which turned out to be the only spot to buy plants in the city.

When Justmann called, I was already headed down to Moe Green's, which started selling clones this year, to pick some up for my garden after I'd read online that they were getting in a fresh shipment of plants from Dark Heart Nursery, a prominent cultivator that sells to home gardeners. (If you want to locate a specific strain, check Dark Heart for constantly updated news about clone drops.)

Moe Green's, anchored in a historic building at 1276 Market Street, is a spot where you can spend a lot of time with friends ... or by yourself, thanks to the very speedy Wi-Fi. There are several lounges, including one with giant restaurant-style dining booths, where you can smoke, vape, or dab to your heart's content. A retail section carries one of the largest selections of cannabis products in the city. If you go, don't forget to bring proof of COVID vaccination, required to enter the lounge. (California Street Cannabis Co. continues to sell clones although at an average price of $50 per plant, compared to $20 at Moe Green's for comparably sized clones.)

The COVID pandemic brought increased sales of cannabis. While it's impossible to gauge the amount of cannabis-related products actually consumed — because of the huge underground, illegal market — sales of retail products clearly increased, with the state taking in over $1 billion in tax revenues in 2020, up from $638 million the year before, according to reports.

At the same time, sales of clones used by home gardeners was also up, according to Dan Grace, founder and CEO of Dark Heart Nursery, an Oakland-based wholesaler that specializes in cultivating clones for the commercial and home gardener in California.

In a telephone interview with Grace last month, he said that over the past year, "one big story for us is the burgeoning interest in home gardening."

"All of a sudden last spring, right after people stopped thinking that the sky was falling, we saw a huge trend line up for cannabis clones," typically grown in spring for a fall harvest, he said. "People were locked at home, wanting that tactile experience that comes with gardening."

Grace predicts this year's sales of clones will increase. "This is just a guess but it's been my experience that once people begin to grow cannabis, they'll probably continue [for the] satisfaction you get from that tactile, sensory experience. I love that about it myself," he said.

While people falsely believed cannabis is a "gateway" to more dangerous illegal drugs, a myth debunked by sites like healthline.com, Grace sees cannabis as a "gateway to gardening."

This year, Dark Heart is selling a new product for home gardeners, a "seedling" starter plant that has heartier growth than the traditional clones that make up the majority of business for the company.

Among the new seedlings are some that are "autoflowering," said Grace, which enable gardeners to plant a second crop in early spring, because they will mature by June, in time for a standard crop. Grace said that seedlings will typically grow faster, larger, and yield more than most propagated plants.

For Grace, growing pot is more than just a business. Just as "a plumber has the leakiest faucets," said Grace, "you'd think that the last thing a commercial cultivator would want to do is garden at home, but for me, it's a fun experience and in the past few years, I've really been able to enjoy it as a hobby. It's not about growing a huge crop, it's about having fun."

New Castro dispensary proposed on 18th Street
In other local cannabis news, a new dispensary may be in the works for the Castro, if approved by the city. To be located at 4001 18th Street, near Noe Street, a proposal submitted by Element 7 to the planning department calls the new business "a holistic wellness cannabis dispensary with a focus on medicine, plant-based therapies, and education." The proposal is backed with enough funding to build, scale, and operate the business, with $1.2 million of committed start-up and operations funding, according to the planning document. The new business would create at least 10 new local jobs as well as additional incremental business income to other local shops. The new owners have promised to contribute $50,000 to local nonprofits.

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

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