Mon, Dec 19, 2011 - Page 7 News List

FEATURE: Pot clubs getting into mainstream holiday spirit

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

At The Apothecarium, a quaintly upscale medical marijuana club in San Francisco’s Castro District, the vibe is even jollier than usual this month. To boost holiday spirits, the dispensary is giving a storewide 15 percent discount to patrons who donate to its canned food drive, making year-end contributions to local charities and raffling off a seriously spiked “ganja-bread” house made with a whopping 80 “doses” of pot-infused butter.

“We have a whole bunch of decorations up, holiday music playing. It’s pretty festive here right now,” Apothecarium executive director Ryan Hudson said. “Why not? We are just like any other business, in that regard.”

Maybe it was just a matter of time. Now that using marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia, some of the plant’s purveyors and advocates are putting a leafy slant on the winter season, a reliable sign of a maturing industry with its own customs, community outreach and commercial pull.

Nowhere is the “high-ho-ho-ing” of Christmas more evident than in Michigan and the five western states where storefront medical marijuana dispensaries have flourished. Despite the near-constant threat of law enforcement raids, some pot shops are stocking up on pumpkin and peppermint-flavored edibles, serving as toy and winter coat collection points, and extending a dazzlingly creative assortment of holiday specials and gift-giving options to regular members.

The Yerba Buena Collective, a club with six locations in San Jose, California, launched its seasonal promotions after Thanksgiving, when it offered hourly promotions that included up to half off the expensive, smokeless vaporizers pot connoisseurs covet like some consumers prize big screen TVs and up to 30 percent off concentrated cannabis waxes.

The dispensary, which is hosting a toy drive this season, has also put together a prepackaged US$100 gift box that comes with two marijuana strains, hash, four pot-laced treats, a hemp energy drink imported from Amsterdam and the buyers’ choice of an herb grinder, a pipe or a lighter-rolling papers combination.

On its Web site, it advises customers the boxes are designed for “gift ideas, sampling packs, and most importantly SAVINGS!”

In gratitude for living in a state where marijuana is easy to come by, a northern California legalization activist with a devoted YouTube following who goes by the stage name Coral Reefer organized a “Smoky Santa” giveaway for her loyal viewers. In exchange for a donation — the amounts she received averaged US$13 — 110 people will receive a marijuana-themed holiday gift bag.

Reefer, 23, said she does not use her real last name because she does not want her online social network followers to know who she really is. And she did not want to disclose the bags’ contents to avoid ruining the Christmas surprise.

“I feel, in California, we can get really spoiled with what we have, especially when I get feedback from the rest of the country how they aren’t able to partake in cannabis at all,” she said. “So many viewers are young people and they feel like there is no friend they can smoke with, no adult they know who smokes and has a regular job, no community they can even talk to.”

Adding a charitable dimension to their operations in the face of continued federal raids is another way pot outlets build loyalty and legitimacy.

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