A medicine shop for
the new millennium
by Matthew S. Bajko
In olden times one seeking out medicines would contact their local apothecary, a druggist who filled prescriptions akin to modern-day pharmacists.
Similar transactions occur daily at the Apothecarium, the only medical marijuana dispensary in the Castro district. The medicine being prescribed, however, carries a different legal status depending on one's point of view.
To many in California the items for sale at the understated Market Street shop – bearing labels such as pink lemonade, cherry pie and berry white – are no different than the array of drugs found at CVS or Walgreens. The shop, to them, should be regulated on the same basis as a corner liquor store.
But to federal prosecutors, the Apothecarium and its brethren are violating federal laws that classify marijuana, even for medicinal use, as an illicit substance. They have gone after dispensaries around the state, despite comments from President Barack Obama that his administration would not crack down on cannabis in states that have legalized its use.
"We all are saddened by the outcomes of the current crackdown in our community. We understand the frustration that comes about from these types of experiences, but we remind everyone to stay focused and positive," states the Apothecarium on its blog.
Since 1996 it has been legal in the Golden State to treat symptoms for cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and other illnesses with marijuana. There is talk that voters will again be asked to legalize recreational use of the drug, similar to what residents in Colorado and Washington state did last fall.
And a gay Democratic congressman, Jared Polis of Boulder, Colorado, is sponsoring federal legislation to reclassify marijuana as a legal substance and allow states the power to regulate it.
Until the laws are changed, though, owners of medical marijuana dispensaries face the risk of being raided and arrested by the feds. Several already have been shuttered in San Francisco, though new ones continue to open their doors.
For B.A.R. readers, the best medical marijuana dispensary in town is the Apothecarium. Owned by two straight men, the store maintains a low profile and is outfitted to resemble an apothecary's shop of yore.
In addition to the herbal remedies for sale to its members – as required by law medical marijuana users must have a valid doctor's recommendation to purchase cannabis products at the dispensary – the Apothecarium offers free weekly support groups, such as a yoga class or meditation group.
It also funnels a portion of its profits back to the Castro neighborhood, having donated to various nonprofits serving the LGBT community. And in honor of comedian Sarah Silverman being a celebrity grand marshal at Pride last year, the shop sold a specialty item it dubbed Super Sarah Silverman Haze.
The Apothecarium, 2095 Market Street, San Francisco, (415) 500-2620. http://www.apothecariumsf.com.