The Apothecarium SoMa: Style isn't everything


Grass Score: 3

Design is on point
Selection is stellar
Location is convenient

Service is unpredictable
Lacks community representation


1 - Just say no! • 2 - In a pinch • 3 - We’d hit it
4 - It’s lit • 5 - Oh, hell yes!

Day Trip Itinerary

Breakfast Boulettes Larder

Trees Apothecarium SOMA

Culture Pier 24 Photography 

Sights Embarcadero 

Lunch Coqueta

Trolly to Pier 39

Visuals Magowan’s Mirror Maze

Drinks Hidive Bar

Dinner Trou Normand

SF’s best (and worst) dispensaries 2019
View the list

We won’t bore you with details of Apothecarium’s Canadian acquisition, its attention to interior design, dedication to philanthropy, commitment to education, extensive selection, or occasionally tone deaf promotional offers. You can read all of that in our review of the dispensary’s Castro location. With few exceptions, the Apothecarium on Howard is in keeping with the chain’s mothership on Market. Thing is, those few exceptions make a big difference. 

The first, and most obvious difference is the shop’s location. The Apothecarium on Market is just on the edge of The Castro, a neighborhood known more for entertainment than industry. The Howard location, by contrast, is set just off the Embarcadero in SoMa, where tech and finance bros clash with wide-eyed tourists and the city’s homeless population. Parking here is a bitch but it’s walkable from BART, Muni, and the Ferry building. If you’re planning on stopping here, we wouldn’t advise driving. 

As you might imagine, the difference in location also means a different clientele. Apothecarium is smart enough to know that marketing marijuana to the city’s LGBTQ community isn’t the same as slinging weed to suits. Targeting the startup set has led to at least one embarrassing misstep, but it’s also led to a far less community oriented space. Where the Castro has a gallery for local artists and nods to the neighborhood’s history as a queer enclave, the Howard Street location feels like a comfortable, but no less generic boutique hotel, devoid of potential controversy and, thus, lacking in soul. We give big props for the finish and fixtures, as well as the layout, but we hoped to see something here that spoke to the chain’s commitment to community. 

Being about the community isn’t just about creating communal spaces. It’s also about service. Unfortunately for Apothecarium, this is where the biggest difference lies. The service we received at the Castro location was right up there with the best we’ve experienced anywhere in the United States. In addition to recommendations, we got detailed product descriptions, and an entire lesson in sun grown vs. outdoor cultivation. At the Howard street location we didn’t get much. Let’s put it this way: Yes, you can get too stoned before work. Even in the weed business.

Our budtender was either uninterested or incapable (whether through a lack of knowledge or an abundance of THC) of answering our simplest inquiries. When we asked about a CBD-dominant joint from Flow Kana, their answer was “I don’t know. I just like to get high,” which, to their credit, was fairly obvious. Trouble is, that’s not everybody’s bag. People use weed for endless reasons, only one of which is getting high. When we asked for a recommendation for a citrus-forward eighth high in THC, they walked away mid-conversation to check in with a colleague. To be fair, the couple standing next to us was treated to a detailed consultation, guided by a knowledgeable, personable budtender, but our reviews are based on our experience alone. It’s clear that some of the staff here has service on lock. It’s equally clear that standards of service here are wildly unpredictable.