Photos by Jennifer Juniper Stratford
If you own a store that looks great and people feel comfortable shopping there, nice work. If you’re operating that store under constant threat of raids and total shutdown, years of stressy politics, infighting, and a host of thug-life problems associated with selling a product that was until recently only available on the black market, then by all means take my seat on the bus. It takes a specific type of courage to run a good-vibes medical-marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, and it’s time this was acknowledged.
Ever since Proposition 215 legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago, Los Angeles City Council and the State of California have been shuffling regulation responsibilities back and forth, resulting in a constantly shifting patchwork of laws that make it pretty much impossible for marijuana dispensaries to draw up a solid business plan, much less think about feng shui. So it’s no wonder the typical LA dispensary has all the charm of a check-cashing place: located in a minimall; sad, off-brand ATM in a linoleum corner; marker-stained dry erase board; bulletproof glass; a pleather couch, etc. Most dispensary owners just do not feel up to the task of interior design.
But luckily, there are some out there who do make the effort, and they give us a glimpse of what the future could look like if all the hasslers would just give it a rest and let dispensary culture evolve beyond the perpetually adolescent state of fighting for the right to exist. We took a tour of some of LA's more stylish dispensaries to see how they're staying fabulous in the face of adversity.
“Everything you see is from Craigslist and is reupholstered with Duct tape every six months,” said Mandy at LA Confidential, a charming, nook-heavy hash bar on Melrose. They have a piano, jazz on Sundays, and a tiny stage where patients have been known to do some postdab performing.
Dr. Sona Patel's (a.k.a. Dr. 420) clinic in East Hollywood is the Versailles of Los Angeles marijuana clinics, complete with chandeliers and about a zillion gilded mirrors.
Which is fitting, as Sona Patel is the Marie Antoinette of the LA weed scene. If you don't know who she is, you should google her right now. She's incredible—she even made a calender (available on her website) with pictures of her posing on a motorcycle and dressed as Lara Croft.
Club Meds, over in Santa Ana, went with a tiki theme for their dispensary, presumably so they could use the "Club Meds" pun in their name. Which is fine. It's a strong pun.
After LA’s dispensaries-can’t-be-within-1,000-feet-of-a-school law was passed, the La Brea Collective Lounge was forced to move. They ended up in a bright and airy former bank, located on the stretch of Pico known as “the Green Mile” because landlords are 420 friendly. Megan, the manager, said the hash bar employs approximately 50 people and has dreams of offering acupuncture and massage services.
Venice Beach House is a block from the ocean and has a kind of "if Venice skaters only shopped at Pier 1 Imports" vibe going on. Lots of light, exposed brick, some weird Joel-Peter Witkin-y art, and teak for days.
Unfortunately, some of these clinics might not be around for long. In 2007, the LA City Council adopted an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO), establishing a one-year moratorium on new storefront dispensaries. In the upcoming elections, there are two measures that will decide the future of LA weed dispensaries: Measure F would allow the hundreds of dispensaries founded after 2007 to remain operational, whereas Measure D would only let the 135 or so founded pre-ICO stay open.
So if you're in LA and into this kinda thing, vote yes on F on May 21!