Dispensary Review: Oakland Organics — Strawberry Fields in the Concrete Jungle



Oakland plans to increase dispensary permits from four to eight in 2012, drawing attention to the process and the existing permit-holders in the Town. Of those, Harborside Health Center has its own Discovery Channel show, and Oaksterdam spinoff Coffeeshop Blue Sky operates under the imprimatur of Prop 19 raconteur Rich Lee.

But like Purple Heart Patient Center, the year-old Oakland Organics is a deliberately lower-profile affair. Hiding in plain sight on Broadway at 7th Street, this understated club offers a chill, professional, bargain-hunting environment, complete with friendly staff, easy BART access, and the security of being located directly across the street from a police station. The dispensary doesn't court press or advertise heavily, preferring trade publications like West Coast Leaf. It takes some work to piece together their story:

Oakland Organics stems from Santa Rosa dispensary Organicann, whose owner, Dona Frank made headlines in 2010 with a dispute over the Oakland permit for what is now called Oakland Organics. As it happened, Frank bought the permit from the dispensary's former owners, Steven and Stacy Petras, in 2009, but the transfer of what was once called Oakland Patient Center didn't go smoothly, as various disputes erupted among the parties and they went to court. Oakland also blocked the sale, arguing that dispensary permits cannot be sold or transferred. So the city revoked the permit in January 2010, but the dispensary continued to operate. In April 2010, Oakland threatened the facility's landlord with $1,000-a-day fines. Frank then sued the city to stop the proceedings, and, long story short, she won, according to Organicann attorney Lisa Gygax. (Oakland Assistant to the City Administrator Arturo Sanchez confirmed that the issue was settled.) Since then, Organicann hasn't made much noise in Oakland, and that's how they like it.

We had to drive by 705 Broadway twice to make sure we got it right, as there's almost no exterior signage on the corner building. The prominent Oakland Police Department station offers the best landmark; across 7th Street, Oakland Organics operates out of a bone-gray cinderblock building camouflaged by a red, soot-covered awning.

It's a profoundly urban area with traffic flowing west out of Chinatown and south onto Interstate 880 just blocks away. Past the panhandlers, a parking lot, and a tattoo parlor, underneath the "705" address, we noted a small cannabis leaf in the deeply tinted window and some vaguely threatening signs about abstaining from cell phone use indoors. The pitch-black tinted glass door starts buzzing, so we pull it, and inside sits an affable female receptionist behind a desk. Classic rock plays in the small reception area. A "Culture" magazine poster and some jazzy, urban art covers the walls.

New patients need a valid doctor's recommendation and state ID. Returning collective members need just the ID. Oakland Organics' new member intake lasts about ten minutes as they verify qualified patients, and process a one-page form. Staff also takes a patient photo with a digital camera for their records.

Ten-percent-off coupon in hand, we get buzzed into the main room, a stylish contrast to the distressed neighborhood. Huge, black-tinted plate-glass windows look out onto the bustling intersection, but pedestrians cannot see in. A long, wide, L-shaped bar dominates the space, and three large wall-mounted boards across from the bar lay out Organics' selection, grouped by price and type. Bigger than Purple Heart, but smaller than Harborside, Oakland Organics' menu still overwhelms. Good thing the place has really low foot traffic. Bud tenders proved affable and knowledgeable, pointing out their prized new Platinum Kush and Sour Diesel.

For those exhausted by the OG Kush-Diesel regime, Oakland Organics really shines. Organicann's site offers photos of all their cuts — like sativa-dominant hybrid Jack Herer. The stuff sparkles and smells like sweet candy; typical effects include a "focused, creative head, with a comfortable body. Strong, but not sleepy," according to the menu. Oakland Organics does their research, noting Jack's heritage: Northern Lights #5, Shiva Skunk and Haze. Pure Analytics potency testing indicates a strong 16.15% THC content.

The menu has some real rarities: the award-winning Alpha Blue, a cross of Blue Dream and Sour Diesel; an extensive selection of Cheese kin like Cheeziel and Cheese Balls; CBD-strong Harlequin; extensive Purples, and offshoots like Blue Hawaiian.

The famed Strawberry Cough captured us, though. A mix of Haze and Vermont-bred Strawberry Fields, the strawberry-smelling, sativa-dominant hybrid's effects are "heady and active," Organics and others state. It also "alleviates depression" and makes one "giggly," according to the menu. Sounds like the perfect counter to seasonal family angst. Sold.

Oakland Organics sweet Strawberry Cough

Oakland Organics also offers discount $25 1/8ths, veterans discounts every day, edibles sale Wednesdays, and ten percent discounts for students on Fridays.

Professional yet subtle, Oakland Organics might not care for the limelight, but it's a well-stocked shop discerning patients best not overlook.