Marijuana's future has an upscale look

When it comes to legalizing pot, there’s no stemming the inevitable. Whatever happens this November with California’s Proposition 19, which essentially would decriminalize the drug, marijuana will end up being legit.
Whether you like it or not.
Jerry Brown and Barack Obama are against it – improbably, given their histories. Financier George Soros and Men’s Wearhouse thread peddler George Zimmer are for it. Libertarians, a colleague reminded me, “are just Republicans who smoke pot.”
But politics often are irrelevant when cultural tectonic plates are shifting.
Walk into the chic, slickly modern shop at Eighth and Mission, past the doorwoman. Eugene, a personal shopper consultant, waves at you from behind the counter. The white oak cabinetry looks as comfy and rich as caramel.
Merchandise is stored in apothecary jars with scripted labels. Data about the day’s best offerings scroll across high-tech LED displays.
Inside the stylishly lit custom display cases, you’d expect Prada, Cartier or Hermes. But it’s just clumps of pot – medical marijuana, in this case, cosseted up like exotic eggs.
This is SPARC (San Francisco Patient and Resource Center), a nonprofit, community-minded medical marijuana dispensary. But in the reflection of the slightly smoked windows, with a design that mimics the cannabis gene, you can also see weed’s upscale commercial future.
“Venture capitalists are certainly reaching out, trying to figure out what the world will look like in six months,” SPARC lawyer and consultant David Owen told me. “I have no doubt if and when recreational cannabis becomes legal that business will attract people with money.”
Pot derivatives could be the new plastics. Everyone ends up loaded.
“I had to take a cash (cultivation) business and make it legitimate after George Bush left office,” says SPARC co-owner and longtime grower Erich Pearson, who also runs an Oakland group that pairs local pot dispensaries with “socially conscious” investors.
The earth is moving in rural areas as well. “Serious people trying to start a niche market as brokers” approached Kathleen Archer, a TV producer who spent a year outside Healdsburg growing product for medical outlets. One was a woman who had worked 20 years for Brooks Bros. clothiers.
Nothing says unavoidable like a trend that has become truly trendy.
Down in Soquel, outside Santa Cruz, a dispensary is offering pot-infused ice cream. Crème de Canna. Really. There are now ganja yoga classes with joints to help limber up your joints before class.
And any modern trend needs a social media component. Seshroulette is a new, anonymous, live video-chatting service that allows you to talk with a stream of other stoned people. is a website that crowdsources the going prices of pot in cities everywhere and charts them on a Google map.
This is a fun trip. But if California is first to have a crime-free sativa tea party all its own, “We’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” says SPARC’s Peterson. That recalculation includes billions in potential tax revenues to a strangling state budget.
Ironically, the people who will get most hosed by legal pot are the poor who really need it for serious pain and suffering, not for recreational gelato. Those down-and-outers will still be taxed on what they pay for.
What’s the ’60s saying? Pot will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no pot.