We’ve all walked past it. But for most people, what’s behind the doors of the members-only Vapor Room Cooperative is shrouded in a cloud of, well, mystery.
Is it an exclusive art nouveau lounge? An unconventional medical clinic? A den of iniquity? We made a visit to the cannabis dispensary to, err, clear the air.
Before getting started, let’s get one thing straight: what goes down at the Vapor Room is legal in the State of California. Cannabis dispensaries have been up and running since a 2002 California Senate bill established the state’s medical marijuana program. (Everyone who uses the dispensary’s services, though, must have a valid doctor’s recommendation and CA identification.) Inside, the dispensary’s aesthetic is inspired by old-timey apothecaries, where up until a century ago cannabis was a common ingredient in over-the-counter tinctures and tonics. The street signage shows a hint of that era’s art nouveau stylings, which are echoed indoors with wall art and a large mural by SF artist Jeremy Fish (of Pink Bunny Statue fame). Many dispensaries don’t allow smoking onsite, but the Vapor Room’s custom HVAC system means members can medicate in the lounge, which resembles a low-key café: board games and books are stacked in shelving nooks, minnows circle inside a brightly lit aquarium, and a big-screen TV plays sports in the background.
“The Vapor Room Cooperative is a compassionate, community oriented dispensary,” says Martin Olive, the Vapor Room’s executive director, who notes that the Vapor Room is a member-owned cooperative with its own board of directors, member voting system, and nonprofit operations. “Our funds go back into providing better service for our members. It’s a closed-loop system that gives members and staff a sense of ownership.”
- Nutritional counseling
- Computer skills workshops
- Peer counseling
- Activist training
- Chair massage 3 times a week
- Fresh organic fruit
- Compassionate cannabis as needed
- Yoga 3 times a week at the Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Center (“This class is also open to the Lower Haight Community,” says Olive. “No medical cannabis experience required!”
For members, too, it’s not all about the cannabis. “Part of the medical process is socializing, just getting out of your apartment,” said one member. “I feel privileged to have a place like this to come to. It’s healing.” A woman sharing his vapor bag said that for some people, this may be the only social interaction they have. “When you come and sit down, there’s always a conversation or a game of chess. You have something in common. It’s part of the medicine.” One member has been living with AIDS for 24 years. “To vaporize takes time,” he said. “You have to sit down and relax. It offers a social opportunity. You don’t always have to do it alone, at home, feeling like a drug addict. It’s a blessing.” www.vaporroom.com, or follow the Vapor Room on Twitter @vaporroom.
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