Sweetleaf Compassion Center: We're not in Kansas anymore!
In "Mile Highs and Lows," Westword offers a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind the locked doors of marijuana dispensaries, whether they resemble swanky bars, sterile dentist's offices or a dope dealer's college dorm room. See our current dispensary list here, and keep reading for the Wildflower Seed's review of Sweetleaf Compassion Center.
Sweetleaf Compassion Center
5301 Leetsdale Drive
Hours of operation: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Owners: Gabriel Gaston, Eric Kaufman and Rich Caniglia
Owners' statement: "Sweetleaf Compassion Center was founded to create a compassionate, safe, relaxing space for medical marijuana patients to achieve wellness through various methods."
Opened: December 28, 2009
Raw marijuana price range: Members and new customers pay $50/eighth, $95/quarter; non-members pay $55/eighth, $105/quarter.
Other types of medicine: Hash, tinctures and oils, along with a full menu of edibles that includes chili, potato soup, sugar-free zucchini bread and Keef Cola.
Patient services and amenities: Acupuncture, sports and Swedish massage, reflexology, reiki, trigger point. Yoga (including private or couples classes) and guided meditation with Tibetan sound bowls for donations only.
Our take: When I entered the waiting area of Sweetleaf Compassion Center, a contemporary space with grayish-taupe walls, plank flooring and minimalist decor in black-on-neutral tones, I turned in my MMJ card and ID and got started on five pages of paperwork. It was very quiet, with no music and very little talking. I was one of the only patients on a late Sunday afternoon, and within a few minutes, I was invited back to check out the product.
Entering the dispensary zone, I suddenly felt like Dorothy opening the farmhouse door to find the Land of Oz in sparkling Technicolor on the other side. I was greeted by a cacophony of invigorating and relaxing colors, well-balanced textures and Zen-inspired art; the experience was like moving from a normal health practitioner's waiting room into the Cheshire Cat's day spa. It was one of the most visceral moments I've had at a dispensary. I loved it!
"We're really trying to set the bar on what a center should look like and how it should operate," says co-founder Gabriel Gaston. "Be more like a spa, and open ourselves up to clients who don't even have an MMJ card. Be more well-rounded."
Gaston and co-owners Eric Kaufman and Rich Caniglia have a combined set of experiences that make them uniquely qualified to run a dispensary. The trio of young, successful entrepreneurs had already made their mark in the business world, and each was a dedicated athlete with a focus on spirituality and the connection between inner and outer health. "I'd been working in health care," explains Gaston. "This was more hands-on. This was a way to work more directly with patients in need."
The dispensary grows most of its own marijuana at two farms: Funky Mountain Farm, where the entire crop is grown organically in soil, and Barney's Farm, where the dispensary produces herb hydroponically in rockwool medium, using all-natural nutrients and sweeteners.
There are currently sixteen strains on the menu, including LA Confidential, an indica [OG LA Affie x Afghani] grown from seeds from DNA Genetics. Another popular strain, Super Lemon Haze [Lemon Skunk x Silver Haze], won the High Times Cannabis Cup in 2008 and 2009. Sweetleaf's version is seed-grown, from Greenhouse Seed Company. My budtender, Nathan, is an acupuncturist with an MS in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and patiently answered all my questions. He was happy to take down jar after jar for me to explore, but after a while, I started to feel like a spoiled little kid at the ice cream parlor, sampling too many flavors. This was my own paranoia and sense of couth creeping in, but I imagine I'm not the only patient who, after asking to see a pile of jars, figured I was being annoying. I'd like to see a sample of each strain in a small jar at the counter that you could inspect.
My first choice was the Juicy Fruit, an indica strain with a deep, sweet scent. I thought back to my conversation with Gaston about all-natural sweeteners, and another conversation I recently had with an experienced caregiver who told me he considered sweeteners to be, technically, cheating. In this case, I won't sweat the technique -- because the result was sticky, fluffy, dark-green buds that changed my head with a single toke.
My second choice, the Lavender (grown at Funky Mountain Farms), had a light herbal scent, like a lavender bush in spring -- not quite in bloom, but on its way. The sage-green nuggets were smaller and tighter than the Juicy Fruit, but no less sticky. I felt the high physically, as a tingling warm sensation slowly making its way through my nervous system, into my fingertips and down the back of my neck. It was a truly romantic and erotic experience, and I'd suggest sharing this with someone special: Throw on some Al Green and try a bouquet of Lavender buds instead of flowers. I am personally dedicating it to all those awesome California couples hoping to see the Supreme Court -- and society at large -- smash down Proposition 8.
I also brought home an 80mg orange-flavored Keef Cola. I kind of enjoyed drinking my ganja, and thought about how my neighbors all gather in the front of their homes in the evening to watch the kids play, beers in hand. Now I don't have to sneak off like a wayward mom...
The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.