Grass Roots: A familiar space in a forgotten enclave
On March 30th 2019, Divas, the oldest and possibly only self-professed trans bar in San Francisco, closed for business, permanently. The three-story nightclub was one of the last signs of life for the city’s first LGBTQ enclave. In the 1960s and 70s, gay and trans men and women flocked to Polk Gulch, the small sliver of neighborhood bordering the Tenderloin, Nob Hill, and Japan Town.
Polk Gulch was popping long before the Castro was painted with a rainbow brush. It was here that the first pride parades were held, where LGBTQ business thrived, and queer people danced with abandon at bars like Divas. Sometime in the 70s and 80s, though, Polk Gulch lost its shine, giving way to the Castro as the epicenter of queer life.
The neighborhood may not party like it used to, but you can still get your weed here. Just to the left of Divas towering doors, large industrial lamps light the side of a wood-panelled facade. Floor to ceiling mirrored windows reflect white brick buildings and busy city streets. This is one of the longest running dispensaries in San Francisco.
Here, in an unrecognizable neighborhood, Grass Roots stands as a monument to stability in a volatile industry. The shop opened at 1077 Post St. in 2005, nearly a decade after the passage of Prop 215, which made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but long before licensed dispensaries could operate without threat of retaliation.
Grass Roots survived a wave of raids and evictions on the city’s dispensaries in the early 2010s. It managed to secure a license when the state transitioned last January from medical use under Prop 215 to recreational under Prop 64. It stayed afloat despite shifting regulations and mounting tax burdens. Throughout all of this, Grass Roots has served as a bellwether for younger dispensaries.
If things feel familiar here, it’s for good reason. Grass Roots was basically the blueprint for Moe Green’s and Barbary Coast, two of the city’s most stunning dispensaries. Little coincidence, considering all three shops share an owner. You’ll find the same flocked wallpaper and grand hardwood fixtures that define those other spaces. The same sign-in system and iPad menus, too. What you won’t find is a place to consumer your weed. Unlike its sister shops, Grass Roots is lacking an on-site consumption lounge.
If you need a place to light up, you’ll have to head south of Market. If, on the other hand, you happen to be in the neighborhood, there’s no better place to re-up – well, there’s actually no other place. Due to city zoning, the majority of San Francisco’s pot shops are concentrated south of Market, leaving wide swaths of the city untouched by brick and mortar dispensaries. For Grass Roots that means the closest dispensary is a full 0.7 miles away. That might not seem like much until you consider the city’s notorious traffic and hilly terrain.
If things feel familiar here, it’s for good reason. Grass Roots was basically the blueprint for Moe Green’s and Barbary Coast, two of the city’s most stunning dispensaries.
So there’s no place for you to sit and smoke, but Grass Roots does have solid selection. Like most dispensaries, the flower here is in constant rotation, but other products, like topicals edibles, and tinctures should remain pretty consistent. You’ll find some NorCal favorites here, including OM Edibles, Mary’s Medicinals, and Papa and Barkley. Grass Roots also offers a ridiculous selection of vapes and a handful of extracts.
You won’t find easily accessible products on the shelves here – everything is behind the bar. In fact, the merchandising is pretty run-of-the-mill, but the staff is genuinely having a good time and that rubs off.
Some dispensaries feel like glorified waiting rooms or pharmacies, Grass Roots, on the other hand, feels far from clinical. Yes, the flocked wallpaper and stately hardwood bar help, but it’s the people here that make this place feel different.
Our budtender walked us through their pre-roll selection, recommending a Humboldt Farms pre-roll sample pack to satisfy our obvious indecision; she fielded questions about the shop’s history and its affiliations without hesitation; and invited us to “take pictures of whatever you want.” It was a simple interaction, but really that’s all it takes. Service is what makes or breaks the buying experience, but all too often, it seems an afterthought.
Grass Roots may not be the oldest game in town, but it’s managed to stick around. That might have something to do with its location, or maybe its selection. Maybe people just love those speakeasy vibes too much to give it up. If we had to guess, though, we’d say it has a whole lot to do with the people.