San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Dispensary, with its onsite consumption lounge and dab bar, is unique among cannabis retailers and the ideal spot for parents who need a break.
I said I want quiet, and this place is fucking loud. I need a break from loud. This place is loaded with weed, though, and I definitely want some weed. They’ve also got a place to consume whatever I decide to buy. Most importantly, they have two big dudes guarding the door. Which means it’s impossible for my daughter to get in here. She might try. She’s 10 and hates it when I’m alone.
You Call This Vacation?
It’s been nonstop dad time for about three weeks now. The programs that “supplement” (i.e. make tolerable) our homeschool existence have ended. She wants screen time all the time because it’s summer and that is what summer is for. Unless one of her friends wants to play outside in which case that is what summer is for – as long as I can take them to the playground. No not the one across the street. The good playground.
The checklist we copied from a more popular instagram feed than ours has turned out to be heavier lifting than a school day. Yes, she understands she needs to make something, read something, do something for someone else, perform routines of general hygiene, and go outside for 30 minutes before she turns on the screens and I get a little time to work. But she’d really like it if I did some of those things with her and watched her do the rest of them.
Barbary Coast for the Parenting Win
My wife gets it. She spent a decade surrounded by shouting, crying, creating little people as a teacher. She’s encouraged me, during our family vacation to San Francisco, to check out Barbary Coast, one of the only cannabis dispensaries in the country with a consumption lounge attached.
“Really, I’m fine,” I tell her. “This time is a blessing. Soon she won’t want us around at all. She’ll never be 10 again. I find the person she is becoming so fascinating. I’m the lucky one for always having her around. Every day is a new experience. Really I’m fine.”
“Yes, but you just gave her the bank card and told her she can purchase whatever she wants from the store on the corner that smells like urine. I’m worried she’s worn you down to the point that you’re not able to parent effectively. I think we could all benefit from you consuming cannabis in public for 15 minutes to one hour.”
Is Social Consumption Legal?
There are just a few places where this is even possible. Most states with legal retail sales leave consumers in a bind once they’ve purchased some cannabis. Onsite consumption is strictly and clearly prohibited. Lighting up a joint in the parking lot is super uncool and illegal. You can’t smoke it in a hotel and maybe not even in your Airbnb. But Barbary Coast has one of the three social use permits in California (the other two are in Oakland and Lake Tahoe), with more planned once regulations are finalized.
It’s logical to allow people a place to consume the thing they just purchased in peace and quiet. (Though I do like the idea of going to a restaurant, spending $150, receiving a childproof bag of food labeled with all sorts of warnings, and being told make sure no one sees you eating this, even in your hotel room. That seems like a cool concept eating experience.) Unless you own property in a state that has legalized possession and consumption, though, there are very few places to do so comfortably.
The Sacrifices We Parents Make
So, as a cannabis appreciating parent, even the idea of this place sounds amazing. Whatever the rules are, I’m in. I’ll obey whatever time limit they set. I’m ready to hand over my ID, phone, computer, and shoes to whomever is standing near the front door if it means I’ll get to not only buy some weed but also enjoy it without being paranoid about getting a fine – or, if I were black, arrested.
But no one asks to keep any of those things. The person who checks me in hands my ID back, points me toward the right side of a velvet roped line, and lets me know that there is a lounge attached if I’d like to stay a while.
It’s a short wait, and the budtender, after hearing that I like concentrates, tells me they have a bar set up just for dabbing. I think that’s what he said, because it’s so loud we’re having a hard time hearing each other. After I tell him my price range, he goes to retrieve a box of samples for me to choose from. I pick something called Wookies – it’s some kind of cookies, he tells me. And, since we’re going to Lucasfilm tomorrow, it is the obvious choice. The budtender reminds me they have a concentrate bar that I should check out. It’s like they want me to stay a while.
The Dab Bar: Information & Exploration
Adjacent to the sales floor is a small counter with various tools for consuming cannabis waxes and oils. Soon after I sit down, a man who appears to be in his 30s, wearing a polo shirt and vest, one of which must have had a startup logo on the upper left breast, appears next to me. But he’s not alone. One of the budtenders has come with him, has created with a mix of strains designed to help this customer relax and focus, and adjusts the temperature of the heating unit to the 620 degrees he knows works best for him from a previous trip.
“Thanks.” The vested guy is grateful and sheepish. “It’s a lot to remember.”
“That’s why we’re here.” It’s an intimidating process for beginners, and the Barbary Coast offers the right balance of information, guidance, and free exploration.
I don’t need any help with any of this. Years of being a cannaparent have taught me how to consume responsibly, discreetly, and efficiently. I have to remind myself to take my time at Barbary Coast, to stop and listen to A Tribe Called Quest coming emanating from the speakers. Out of habit, I get all I need to feel happy and healthy and ready to parent in my first five minutes, but no one’s hurrying me out. It’s totally fine for me to move into the lounge.
The Lounge: Relaxation & Reverie
Here the space expands. Booths on the left, tables on the right. Several more people occupy this room, where patrons can borrow and use any number of smoking apparatuses. Bright red wells and deep red leather make me feel like if the town of Twin Peaks had a weed spot, this would be it.
Occasionally, when we want to talk shit about our kid without her hearing, we’ll turn up the radio like they do in spy movies for cover. In the Barbary Coast Lounge, the music has the same effect. It’s not so loud that you can’t hear the person right in front of you, but it’s loud enough that you can talk freely about whatever your life is like outside the weed lounge without worrying that someone will overhear something personal.
All the booths are full and so are most of the tables. The crowd is a mix of local professionals and people like me, visiting San Francisco from out of town, who can’t believe they get to experience guilt-free public cannabis consumption. Everyone exudes an air of relaxation, perched comfortably in front of bongs or puffing on joints. I join them, in the room and the reverie. A Snoop Dogg song comes on, and person in the first booth wearing a blazer and dress shirt curls their lips into a smile, puts their hands in the air, does a little wiggle, and really seems to be having a good time.
Insight, Revelation, Regeneration
Besides the obvious benefits of purchasing and consuming marijuana, my experience at Barbary Coast is revelatory in ways I didn’t expect. Spending time in a weed lounge gives me access to something greater than a social consumption space. I accept this invitation to slow down and examine my habitual ways of thinking and being, this offering of insight about who I am when I don’t have to be in charge of another life.
It’s a regenerative encounter, smoking weed in a public space, and one every cannabis-appreciating parent deserves access to. Because unlike every room in my house, there’s no way the kid is getting in here.