Today’s show celebrates the history of legal cannabis in San Francisco, and our host Ellen shares why she loves living here! If you’re thinking of visiting or ready for a shopping staycation, we hear from four women about their first time buying legal weed in this iconic city. Their stories cover everything from the history of cannabis advocacy in San Francisco, to the evolving design of dispensaries, to the sometimes unpredictable effects of edibles. Through these stories, we hope to help you feel more confident and less intimidated about exploring the world of legal cannabis. Thank you to our guests Kelly Keiser, Natalie Shaul, Cyo Nystrom and Sara Payan.
Ellen Scanlon (00:01):
This podcast discusses cannabis, and is intended for audiences 21 and over. If you’re in the Bay Area on April 1st, Mary Modern, a dispensary for women and those who love them is having their grand opening party from 12:00 to 6:00. Mention How to Do the Pot and get 20% off. So check out Mary Modern in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.
Kelly Keiser (00:33):
For the women that I know, my friends, there is no way any of them would’ve done this in 2012. And I’m not saying that I’m some hardcore woman. I’m just saying that it wasn’t a very comfortable environment for women. And dispensary design has come a long way. When you look at the photos, they’re gorgeous, they’re welcoming, they’re clean, they’re medical feeling, they’re sanctuaries, and they’re places where I feel women now would feel and do feel safe going.
Ellen Scanlon (01:07):
Welcome to How To Do The Pot, a podcast helping you feel confident about cannabis for health, wellbeing, and for fun. I’m Ellen Scanlon.
You just heard from Kelly Keiser, a California California-based interior designer turned luxury cannabis accessories designer and the founder of Kelly Green.
Today’s show is all about buying weed in San Francisco, my home for over a decade. Since California was the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use, some of these stories go back over 20 years. That’s a big milestone for legal cannabis and one I want to celebrate today.
I don’t think I’m alone in having a too high on hate street story about my first trip to San Francisco. After living here, I can tell you it’s not all hippies and flower children, but San Francisco is a city that loves weed and respects the plant. The history goes back a long way. In 1964, the famous beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg, founded the first cannabis advocacy group called LeMar, which stands for legalize marijuana.
The roots of cannabis as medicine are in San Francisco, beginning in the 1980s with the AIDS crisis that hit young men in the city so hard. Advocates for dying patients, like Dennis Perone and Brownie Mary, became advocates for cannabis as well. And in 1996, their leadership helped pass Prop 215, which legalized cannabis for medical use in California, the first law like it in the US. It has taken a while, but the idea of legal weed sparked in San Francisco marks the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition in the US.
It’s not just historic, it’s also a very fun place to enjoy the effects of cannabis. It’s a gorgeous city. You can take a walk by the water at Chrissy Field or see the Golden Gate Bridge from the eucalyptus groves in the Presidio. Golden Gate Park is an amazing place. The AIDS Grove there is a very powerful spot for reflection and remembrance. And in the summer, outside Lands is a great music festival. At Outside Lands, there is a section called Grasslands, a dedicated weed consumption area with lots of brands, fun installations. You really have to check it out.
The natural beauty alone is reason to visit, and it’s extra special to enjoy with weed. Or if you love music, check out a show at the Fillmore or the Independent. We have a lot of great museums. The most famous are the De Young and the SFMOMA. But don’t miss the Asian Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. And the food, the Fairy Building Farmer’s market. And really, wherever you eat, the restaurants care so much about local and seasonal eating, and the food always seems a little more delicious because of it. Don’t miss the City Lights Bookstore in North Beach to give a little nod of thanks to where Allen Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and the Beat Poets famously love to hang out. It’s an amazing city, and I hope you’ll come check it out.
Today, San Francisco is a very welcoming place for women to enjoy cannabis. But Kelly Keiser, who you just heard from, shares how a decade ago it was a bit of a different story.
Kelly Keiser (05:21):
I decided I was going to get my medical card. I made an appointment and went to see a doctor on Lower Fillmore and had my appointment. He granted me my card and then he promptly took my photo, which kind of freaked me out. And I was getting ready to leave and I said, “Oh gosh, thank you for everything. Would you mind making a recommendation? How do I purchase this cannabis? Where do I go?” And he says, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I can’t give you any information or recommendations. You should just use weed maps.” So I pulled up weed maps. I drove around for a while. I struck out, actually, on finding a brick and mortar that I was feeling cozy going into, and I left and I decided just to head back up to Tahoe.
At the time, I remember thinking it was really strange that I had this card and I had no product. So I stopped off for gas and I decided to try one more time with the weed maps. And I found what appeared to be a brick and mortar and decided I would pop over. It wasn’t far from where I was and take a swing at it.
So I got to this dispensary, I’ll describe it because I’m an interior designer, so this is the best part. It was neon signs on the outside. And when I walked in I had to walk through a metal detector and there was a huge, very scary bouncer looking dude that was security. He was not very friendly. And I walked up and said, “Hi, I would like to have an appointment, please. I would like to buy some weed.” Reggae music blasting level 10. The girl at the reception desk was high as hell, and it was all guys in the waiting room, all guys.
So it was a bit much. I remember that it was a building and then you had to walk into up through your four stairs and into this trailer inside this building. It’s just like the whole setup for me as an interior designer was just like chaos and hysterical. It was hysterical. So I get up, they call my name Kelly K, it’s time to go, get your weed. And I go into this trailer and thank God I got a female budtender. And she said, “Are you Kelly K?” And I said, yes. And she said, “Okay, let’s, what can I do for you?” She was so nice. She was so smart. She explained to me. She showed me. She let me touch and feel things, different products. She showed me what a tincture was. She gave me a handful of topicals because I had a back problem. That was originally why I had gone. I think I got a free joint as my gift with purchase. It was great, but it was scary.
And for the women that I know, my friends, there is no way any of them would’ve done this in 2012. And I’m not saying that I’m some hardcore woman, I’m just saying that it wasn’t a very comfortable environment for women. And dispensary design has come a long way. Architectural Digest just did an article about I think the top 10 dispensaries in the US, and they’re beautiful. When you look at the photos, they’re gorgeous, they’re welcoming, they’re clean, they’re medical feeling, they’re sanctuaries, and they’re places where I feel women now would feel and do feel safe going. And this young woman, she’s probably 22 years old, was really gracious. And I think that that’s what it’s all about. I wish we saw more female budtenders because the women that I talk to everyday I think would be more comfortable with that in many ways.
Ellen Scanlon (09:13):
Architectural Digest, a magazine I’ve loved for years, writing pieces about dispensary design truly highlights how far the shopping experience has come.
To Sara Payan, the California-based host of the podcast Planted with Sarah, dispensaries feel like an adult candy store and the candy choices keep getting better.
Sara Payan (09:39):
My first time purchasing legal cannabis was during the 215 days. I was in my late 30s. I had just been diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. Even though I was going through a medical emergency, I was also a little excited to have access to weed, that I didn’t have to go through my guy to get. But I was also nervous because I wasn’t sure what to do. I went through all the hoops of the state program.
And when I went to the dispensary, I wasn’t sure how many questions I could ask or how to behave because I don’t know if you ever went to a head shop before legalization, but back in those days when you went in there and you were looking at bongs, you couldn’t talk about cannabis or they’d kick you out. And I wasn’t sure if the same thing would happen in the dispensary, but I ended up buying some flowers, a couple of chocolates, some honey, some tea, and I was fascinated by everything that was in there. And I had so many questions. It was like an adult candy store in some ways. It felt like when you’re 21 and you’re old enough to go into the bar. It was a very strange, strange thing.
One of the setbacks, a minor one, but it did throw me off because I didn’t know a lot about cannabis other than smoking it, was that I didn’t get a chance to really ask a lot of the questions that I needed to to get the help that I needed. And it wasn’t that the people behind the bar weren’t friendly, it was that because of the legal situation with cannabis, even though we could have medicinal cannabis, we were still getting rated by the feds back then. And there was a lot of stigma around giving information because people were afraid that they’d be giving medical advice or just not sure what would be medical advice and what would be more product information. As exciting as it was, I did have some pretty gross experiences with some of the edibles. And we have much more interesting and advanced products now, which makes me super happy.
Ellen Scanlon (12:02):
I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than a decade, and for a long time, I was a very happy online shopper. But since COVID, I just want to physically go to a store to buy something. And one of my favorite things to go and buy in San Francisco is weed.
Last week, I visited Mary Modern, a new dispensary for women and those who love them. Mary Modern has everything I love about a cannabis shopping trip. It is really fun to step into a beautiful store with knowledgeable, enthusiastic women working there who really want to help you find a product that you will love. Everything about Mary Modern feels like a comfortable experience, from the female security guard to the staff of all different ages. It’s beautiful, it’s well lit, and you can walk around and touch, feel, and even smell the products. If you live in the Bay Area or are visiting San Francisco, put this shop on your list.
They carry some of my favorite brands. Half the products on the shelves are women-owned, 20% queer-owned, and nearly 20% equity-owned. Bring your friends or your family. If they’ve never bought legal weed, this will be a terrific first time story.
Merry Modern is now open every day from 10:00 to 9:00, or you can order at marymodern.com and pick up in store. It’s located in San Francisco at 2845 Gary Boulevard. Stop by their grand opening party on April 1st to celebrate. Mary Modern is giving a special discount of 20% off if you mention How to Do the Pot. I’m so excited for you to check it out, and the link in the show notes has all the details.
Edibles can be tricky, especially if you don’t know about dosing or aren’t paying attention. Natalie Shaul is the Florida base co-founder of Spring Big, the leading provider of CRM and loyalty marketing solutions for cannabis dispensaries and brands. Natalie’s visit to San Francisco was quite a few years ago when she was in her early 20s, and she had a run in with a tiny cannabis chocolate that had a very strong effect.
Natalie Shaul (14:36):
My friend was making a purchase and I figured, you know what, let me get in on this. I never had edibles before, professionally made edibles. Only those brownies that high school college kids make at home. And I ordered these little chocolate balls and I didn’t think it would hit me that hard. It was one ball, probably the size of a milk dud, and it was the highest I had ever been at that point. I was convinced it was a lace with something because it was so strong. And I remember I had a meeting that next morning and I was still high, and everybody was… I guess it was pretty noticeable because they said, “You don’t look so good. Are you okay? You seem flustered.” And I was because I was high as balls off that one edible, and that changed the way I thought about edibles moving forward. To this day, I have PTSD from legal cannabis edibles.
Ellen Scanlon (15:37):
I have a story like that too, but mine was in college and I had to give a presentation in my Spanish class, still way too high from the night before. It was terrible. So it is my mission to keep things like that from happening to you. My advice when you’re first starting out, look for edibles that have two or two and a half milligrams of THC, no more than five milligrams. And having CBD in it will help to make the experience feel more balanced.
I’ll leave you with a story from Cyo Nystrom, the California based co-founder of Quim, a self-care line for humans with vaginas and humans without vaginas who love vaginas. Her story reminds me of how much fun it is to go to a movie in a theater.
Cyo Nystrom (16:24):
I am going to tell you guys about the first time I ever bought legal weed, and I actually remember the exact date. It was June 25th, 2015. And the reason I can remember that is because I went with a coworker. I’d gotten my medical card probably about a week or so earlier. And I know it was that date because we went after work to the Green Door in downtown San Francisco, and then we walked over to the opening night of Magic Mike XXL. I think we got a pre-roll and maybe some edibles, smoked downtown. Probably not the safest or smartest place to smoke cannabis. And then went into the movie theater, which to this day is the best movie theater experience I’ve ever had. I’ve never been in a theater so filled with joy and with such a responsive audience. So I hope everyone got to experience Magic Mike XXL with the help of some cannabis because it weighed it even better.
Ellen Scanlon (17:30):
I hope these stories help you realize that visiting a dispensary is actually a lot like any other shopping experience. Well, it’ll be easier if you bring cash and you have to bring your government issued ID. More and more, you can expect beautiful displays and knowledgeable employees to help guide you through the process. I hope that having the support system of women helps your first visit go smoothly whenever you’re ready.
If you have bought weed in Arizona, New Mexico, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or New York, I’m dying to hear all about it. Please send us your story in a voice note to email@example.com.
My goal with sharing these stories is to take some of the scariness out of doing something that was illegal for a long time, and help you feel supported, less alone, and a little lighthearted when you decide to make your first cannabis shopping trip.
Thank you for listening to How to Do The Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. Thanks to our producers, Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and we’ll be back soon with more of How to Do the Pot.
If you’re in the Bay Area on April 1st, Mary Modern, a dispensary for women and those who love them is having their grand opening party from 12:00 to 6:00. Mention How to Do The Pot and get 20% off. So check out Mary Modern in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.