Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup
Sadly, due to misguided Federal policies, today is the last day for one of the Bay Area’s best run medical marijuana dispensaries. In their honor, I’m posting an excerpt from Heart of Dankness part of the chapter “Organoleptic in Berkeley” which is a profile of BPG.
The Berkeley Patients Group is housed in a former pancake
restaurant. It’s a peculiar structure, with colossal floor- to- ceiling
windows that sweep out in a large semicircle on the street side
of the building. It’s a style I call “early IHOP,” and it gives the
architecture a vaguely sci- fi vibe— the same aesthetic that gave
us Googie drive- ins and cars with giant tail fins. With the addition
of a chain- link fence topped with sharp looping coils of
razor wire, high- tech surveillance cameras, and armed guards
in the parking lot, the dispensary took on an ominous look, like
a heavily fortified former pancake restaurant.
Once past a guard in the parking lot and another checkpoint
at the front desk, I was met by David Stogner, a friendly and
gregarious young man sporting cool glasses and a seemingly
non- ironic blazer— sort of a hipster version of Mr. Rogers.
True to BPG’s mission statement— “to provide the purest,
most effective, and affordable medical cannabis along with integrated
holistic health services”— Wednesday is free acupuncture day at BPG, and David introduced me to a couple of the acupuncturists
who provided the treatments. Other days are devoted
to cranial sacral therapy, massage, legal assistance, and a
hospice program. All are provided free of charge. They even
offer arts and crafts.
David smiled. “We try to offer fun activities for our patients.”
Just like Mr. Rogers, it’s all about being a good neighbor—
although, now that I think of it, if I had to weave a lanyard or
make a macramé planter, a cannabis dispensary might be the
best place to do it.
David and I were joined by Brad Senesac, the communications
director— one of the few men I’ve ever met who can wear
plaid pants and actually make them look cool— and Debby
Goldsberry, the director of the operation. Brad has a scathing,
sardonic sense of humor and is so energetic it wouldn’t surprise
me if he just started running in place; he’s the perfect foil for
Debby’s easygoing charm.
Unlike the stereotypes of stoners and potheads often portrayed
in the mainstream media, these three are all reassuringly
professional— there’s not a dreadlock or stitch of tie- dyed clothing
in sight— and look as if they could just as easily be pediatricians
or executives from a Silicon Valley startup.