Its smoking lounge cements San Francisco’s place as America’s leading recreational-cannabis destination.
There are more legal cannabis smoking lounges in San Francisco than in the rest of the U.S. combined. We now have nine such lounges at dispensaries citywide, whereas Denver just licensed only its second, Oakland has one, and the rest of America does not have any.
Hell, a single block in SoMa has as many marijuana lounges as the entire country outside San Francisco does. The corner of Ninth and Mission streets is home to smoking lounges at the Vapor Room, SPARC, and ReLeaf.
Some of these lounges consist solely of patio furniture thrown in a corner, while others are elaborate, baroque parlors with chandeliers, flocked velvet wallpaper, and widescreen TVs. The newest cannabis smoking lounge is the city’s most opulent yet, the luxe lounge of the just-opened Market Street dispensary Moe Greens.
“It’s Lounge 2.0,” Moe Greens founder and CEO Nate Haas tells SF Evergreen. “We wanted Moe Greens to be a throwback to the San Francisco our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in, the San Francisco where you’d get dressed up on a Saturday night and go to a place like Joe’s or Alfred’s Steakhouse for a drink.”
Despite the Las Vegas-inspired logo, the name “Moe Greens” is not a reference to the casino mogul from The Godfather.
“One day, I was holding some cannabis and my partner, who sometimes calls me Moe, said, ‘That’s a lot of green, Moe,’ ” Haas remembers. “That was the light bulb moment. Now we provide ‘mo green at Moe Greens.’ ”
It has by far the largest legal consumption lounge in the city, with separate, dedicated rooms for vaping, smoking, and dabbing. Its swanky aesthetic is similar to that of the Barbary Coast dispensary, which is run by the same management team.
“Lounges are very important for us,” Haas says. “When recreational cannabis passed, it increased competition. Building lounges that are unique, and that embody the San Francisco we and our families grew up in helps to differentiate our dispensary from all others.”
Shockingly affordable prices also differentiate Moe Greens from the pack. House grams are available for just $8, a price not seen in the city in years.
Smoking lounges might look like they’re only for big spenders, but they’re not. The steampunk-inspired lounge at Urban Pharm, one of the few that allow vaping and smoking indoors, sells individual dabs for as low as $5 — and Dollar Dabs for just a buck during Friday happy hour.
Whether a lounge allows you to just vape, or to dab, or to smoke raw flower is up to the dispensary itself. Most only allow vaping, but provide Volcano vaporizers and clear plastic huff bags free of charge. Others provide loaner bongs and dab rigs, but none of them allow alcohol or tobacco.
The license to smoke pot legally indoors is not granted by the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, which generally handles marijuana permit approvals. The license to smoke — technically, a “Cannabis Consumption Permit” — is actually awarded by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH).
Yep, the Department of Health gives permission to smoke weed.
“The health department has taken a harm reduction approach to cannabis consumption,” DPH spokesperson Veronica Vien tells SF Evergreen. “Rules and regulations allow consumption to occur, but limit youth exposure and underage access,” and “mitigate overexposure to indoor smoke through enhanced engineering controls.”
The department’s cannabis consumption laws describe these engineering controls as “a ventilation system capable of removing all detectable odors, smoke, and byproducts of combustion.”
Lounge owners say these ventilation requirements are actually among the easier regulations to comply with.
“These hurdles are minimal for existing dispensaries,” according to SPARC CEO and chairman Erich Pearson. “The process with DPH has been smooth.”
SPARC’s lounge is one of those Volcano vape-only facilities, but customers are allowed to light up and smoke flower on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning at 4:20 p.m.
Right around the block from SPARC, the Vapor Room has the most noticeable pot smoking lounge in town. That’s because it’s right smack dab in their giant front window, for every passerby to see.
“Our lounge is integrated into our retail experience and is prominently displayed by our front window,” says Vapor Room owner Martin Olive. “We believe this helps remove the unnecessary stigma of feeling like one ought to hide their cannabis use in dark corners.”
Most San Francisco cannabis lounges are concentrated on a four-block strip in SoMa. But two of them are outliers — literally.
Way out in the Richmond and deep in the Mission, the Harvest dispensaries provide conference room-style lounges with giant TVs. Both act as co-working spaces, cannabis farmers markets and event venues, or host infuse dinner meetups like Dim Sum and Dabs or Fried Chicken and Dabs.
“Our lounges provide a cannabis-friendly workplace, a utopian gathering place, a remarkable educational facility or the most beautiful space to consume,” says Harvest guest services manager Tom Powers.
Sure, it’s all fun and dabs at these stylish and hip cannabis lounges that cater to convention-hoppers and the new SoMa tech set. But for many San Franciscans, the lounges really do provide a crucial public resource.
“Elderly, disabled, and ill folks can and do experience isolation from medicating with cannabis alone in their homes,” the Vapor Room’s Olive points out. “Everyone else may be forced to use cannabis in parks, on the street, or in their car when medicating, all of which can expose them to unnecessary and illegal risks.”
SPARC’s Pearson adds, “The lounges are critical for the many medical cannabis patients that live in government-subsidized housing that does not allow cannabis consumption.”
San Francisco will not remain home to the nation’s largest number of cannabis lounges for much longer. West Hollywood just awarded 16 consumption lounge permits for onsite smoking or edibles. These permits are contingent on the businesses getting fully licensed, but WeHo is well-positioned to surpass our cannabis lounge count.
Las Vegas will be getting them soon too, possibly this year. But San Francisco’s lounges served as the basis for Las Vegas’ framework. Expect other cities to continue following our lead as legal cannabis spreads across the U.S.
Our cannabis lounges really are a wonderful airport bar-type social space where you find yourself mingling with tourists, veterans, SSI recipients, or CEOs. And San Francisco has set the trailblazing standard that dispensaries across the world will look to when they want to fire up.
Moe Greens, 1276 Market St., 415-762-4255 or moegreens.com