It’s Venice Beach, so of course there’s some parking difficulty. We find a spot by an aging apartment complex with a sign that says SUN SHADOW SURF APARTMENTS and head toward a part of Venice where I loitered often during my teenage years. The area has been updated with a co-working space, a hipster barbershop and (another) tattoo shop.
A friend told me his barber mentioned this place to him after telling him brightly she was “totally high” cutting his hair. I’ve heard all kinds of rumors about the dispensaries on or near the Venice boardwalk—how easy it is to obtain a card and purchase marijuana in the same day, how employees stand around the boardwalk luring people into their shops—a present-day update to the Venice Beach I grew up with, where one was constantly accosted with flyers, postcards and conversation to get you off the boardwalk and into a storefront.
This dispensary offers free valet parking Thursday-Sunday, but we’re here on a Monday. It’s housed in a compact commercial building among other businesses. We walk, as instructed by the sign, down a hallway and enter the second door on the left. The waiting area is small with six black chairs and a side table with an oversized book, Goddesses of the Celestial Gallery, and a smattering of business cards for a website I’ve never heard of. When I visit the website, there are no less than three spinning and dancing marijuana leaves on the main page. So much is happening I don’t want to linger, but I do notice the ad (moving, writhing) offering “marijuana bail bonds.”
A young man sits behind a clean workstation with a large-screened Mac. A security guard slouches by the stairwell leading up to what is presumably the buying room. The young man hands us two wood clipboards laser-etched with the name of the dispensary in a fine calligraphy. I’m shocked that there is only one page to this form—definitely the shortest form we’ve ever come across. The phrase “denounce and void any prior agreements” stands out.
My companion asks for a copy of the form she’s signed and—another shock—the answer is yes. “I’ll have the copy for you when you leave,” the young man says. He, in fact, seems completely neutral about the request, which has not always been our experience.
We’re motioned upstairs and already I’m conscious that there’s no extra security door, just a loft space being used as an open buying area. There are two doors off the buying area, one with a keypad for security access, behind the counters. Another security guard sits on a stool upstairs, apparently charging his smart phone while deep in use of it. Two budtenders move about behind the counters, young women, both striking in their own way. Colorful images of a female Buddha adorn the walls, as well as a second copy of the book from downstairs. We are attended to by both women at different times, one of whom speaks in a sort of dreamy daze, unscrewing jars for us to smell strains with her expert gel manicure, the other who is more matter of fact with her simple black nail polish, gold rings and bangles up and down her arms.
This is the cleanest, most organized dispensary I’ve been to.
Bright green walls with accents of white, well-lit, with a relaxed vibe—it seems like this is the Venice Beach everyone tries to describe, the stereotypical California laid back-ness this area is generally known for. Casement windows and a skylight add light. There are no LCD screens, only the laser-etched clipboards with paper menus of the shop’s offerings. The security guards change out at some point and a new one slouches on a stool nearby. A love seat sits against the short wall of the loft, and there’s a water dispenser and, of course, a dog bowl. There is no loose shake on the counter, and everything in the cases is organized by what look like all manner of acrylic containers like one would find at The Container Store. I see products I’ve never encountered before, such as a chocolate peppermint spray, and one-ounce jars of cold-brewed coffee, apple juice, and other fruit juices containing medical marijuana. The vaporizer selection, as my companion notes, is “soup to nuts.” Many of the edible products are made by a company located in Venice.
The budtenders use bamboo tongs to fish out buds from the jars for the patients who come in and out. Unlike other dispensaries, there doesn’t appear to be a limit on how many people might be in the buying room. We’re given attention and with it, a sense of being able to ask anything, another uncommon feature of the buying room.
“Who is that?” my companion asks, pointing to one of the images of the green female Buddhas on the wall.
“I’m not totally sure, but it’s something I should probably learn more about,” one budtender replies. “Green Tara,” the other budtender offers. “There’s a white Tara, a green Tara…” she trails off.
I read later that there are a number of colors associated with the respective Buddhist goddess Taras. The Green Tara is most often associated with “enlightened activity,” “abundance” and is also described as a “Savioress. She is believed to help her followers overcome dangers, fears and anxieties, and she is especially worshipped for her ability to overcome the most difficult of situations.”
When we leave, every chair in the waiting area is taken. The receptionist offers us the coveted photocopies of the form we signed, one for each of us, though I hadn’t asked for mine.
The sheer number of people who must frequent this clean, bright dispensary convenient to Venice Beach reap the benefits of the energy of Green Tara, whether they suffer from dangers, fears and anxieties or just yearn for some enlightened activity. The dispensary, too, benefits from its prime location. It’s Venice Beach, after all, and what else could there be but a purposeful laid-back beach vibe?