I am sitting in a hot, humid, tropical jungle teaming with the calls of birds and insects and howler monkeys. All around me, ferns and vines blot out the daylight. Venus flytraps tempt wayward flies. Coy fish swim at my feet. Then, some tourist on her cell phone wanders into my reverie: “There’s a flower garden! Oh, gosh! Insane! Awesome!”
Ten out of ten. Can confirm, the 139-year-old San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is worth the high at $9 per ticket—even more so this Tuesday when admission is free, courtesy of nearby cannabis club The Apothecarium.
“Thank you to Apothecarium for sponsoring Free Tuesday from August through October,” it states right there on the staid civic institution’s website.
THC, Meet High Society
It’s yet another data point on a trend. Long thought of as a down-market vice, THC is shattering the ceiling of high society. As stigma falls, more and more institutions are catering to middle- and high-income folks coming out of the cannabis closet. San Francisco’s Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences have packed them in with cannabis-themed nights. What’s left? Pavarotti at the San Francisco Opera, sponsored by Willie’s Reserve?
“It’s really exciting,” said Eliot Dobris at The Apothecarium, which has bespoke stores in the Castro, Marina, and SOMA neighborhoods. “I think we are going to see just a continuing embrace of cannabis-related businesses by cultural institutions that only a few years ago would have been cautious of doing stuff like that.”
The Apothecarium has given more than $350,000 in charitable donations since 2015, Dobris said. The Conservatory’s development director approached the club about sponsoring the three free admission days, which isn’t cheap. The Apothecarium is interested in fresh faces and atypical consumers, Dobris said. San Francisco has about two dozen licensed adult-use clubs, but the average non-consumer is loathe to wander into one.
“We’re looking for ways to underline who The Apothecarium is and what we’re all about, which is providing cannabis in a really comfortable environment where people can feel good about bringing their mom in. What better way to signal that than with a partnership with a 139 year-old institution?”
“People have a lot of fears about going into a dispensary for the first time. On mutual ground is a great way for us to get our message out,” Dobris said.
On Thursday, Aug. 2, The Apothecarium kicks off its free admission series with a VIP reception led by Kikoko Teas. Consumers are ravenous for the low-dose, high-quality teas aimed at improving sleep, sex, and anxiety—especially at The Apothecarium’s posh, Marina District store.
Clubs Close to the Conservatory
Cannabis brands penetrating the mainstream face a game of inches. For example, Kikoko can’t serve medicated tea at the Conservatory reception, though they can serve alcohol. That’s “a sad irony” said Kikoko co-founder Amanda Jones. Even without THC, the event is “the perfect setting to have a tea party and introduce our tea to the general public and to help normalize it,” she said.
Kikoko pitches a wellness product that gives consumers an alternative to pharmaceuticals and alcohol. “It’s healthier for you than many pharmaceuticals and certainly alcohol,” she said.
And while it’s technically illegal to vape or smoke in Golden Gate Park—and certainly in the Conservatory—there’s nothing stopping you from vaping at the nearby lounge Harvest on Geary and Lyfting over to the Conservatory. Ditto for edibles, Jones said.
“I would highly recommend doing that. It’s just a gorgeous place with amazing history and plants—beautiful orchids, unusual plants I haven’t seen before. I would highly recommend a couple Kikoko teas and a shared ride over,” she said.
“It’s not at all an old person’s place,” said Dobris. “It is one of the most peaceful places in the city. To go around there and be surrounded by beautiful plants and the sounds of nature they pipe in — it’s really special. I totally think it’s a great place to go after enjoying your favorite cannabis.”
Indeed, I hit an Eden ExtractsForbidden Fruit cart on a secluded park bench just east of the Conservatory. I wandered among the weekday gaggles of tourists from England, France, South Asia, and beyond. It was shocking transferring from the cold, damp, windy Golden Gate Park into the warm, humid greenhouses—which contain five climates, from Amazonian aquatic plants to upper highland rainforest. You nose teases apart a vast bouquet of fragrances from the orchids and other flowering plants.
Everyone speaks in hushed tones as the sounds of water and piped-in wildlife soothe savage city nerves. Bring your headphones, put on some ambient music, and contemplate the universe in front of a pool of giant Amazonian water lilies. You leave refreshed, re-centered, and ready for more city action.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is located at 100 John F. Kennedy Dr. in Golden Gate Park. It’s open for free to all, courtesy of The Apothecarium Tuesdays, Aug. 7, Sept. 4, and Oct. 2. More info at conservatoryofflowers.org.