The commuter town of Hayward sounds like the last place to look for America's best medical cannabis flowers. And yet there's a veritable promised land of good bud just off of Interstate 580, at an 11-year-old dispensary with the promising name Garden of Eden.
Because Alameda County law bans the sale of medical-marijuana edibles or most extracts, Garden of Eden's owners were forced to attract patients by specializing in only flower buds. So, they've zeroed in on the top 1 percent of the flower market — the unicorns — and have reaped dividends.
The result is an elite top-shelf selection, the likes of which is unseen throughout the greater Bay Area. Not that you'd know this from the dispensary's exterior.
Garden of Eden sits beneath a huge billboard in a run-down, one-story, cinder-block retail shop, with little to attract shoppers beyond copious street parking. While other clubs around the country are spending millions of dollars as part of an interior-decor arms race, Garden of Eden looks like a throwback to the days of unlicensed shops that would blink in and out of existence as fast as the police could execute a raid.
The retail area is small, with two cash registers. There are no clones, edibles, extracts, or any trappings of a standard club. The only splurges are the high-definition, flat-screen menus, displaying a truly miraculous marijuana lineup.
"We don't carry anything low-quality," explained Shareef El-Sissi, Garden of Eden's chief financial officer.
For instance, Garden of Eden's 5-Star OG strain rivals Wiz Khalifa's KK or B-Real's Jet Fuel OG as a super-premium cut of OG Kush that's as potent as it is pungent and beautiful.
The club's Forbidden Fruit could potentially knock off the trending Zkittlez strain with its jaw-dropping smell, flavor and effects. It's deeply purple and smells like clementine oranges and passion fruit, which lingers on your palm all day.
The Garden also owns the Cookies craze with new cuts, such as the exquisite Neapolitan and dreamy Blue Sherbet. And ranking regional cultivator Mr. Sherbinski is a Garden of Eden vendor, too, and has stocked the shop with his award-winning Bacio Gelato and Gello strains, as well as never before seen cuts of Mochi, Acai, and Guava.
Garden of Eden's growers have also tapped deep into the DNA Genetics pool, with mouth-watering cuts of Lemon Draiz and Strawberry Banana.
Technically, the club sits on a strip of unincorporated Alameda County, next to the Hayward city limits. Garden of Eden has managed to stay open for thirteen years, it owners says, by being a model shop, and also by knowing that they're under a microscope. With more than 45,000 patients on its rolls, the little club experienced steady foot traffic on a recent Saturday.
The dispensary also has massive renovation plans, and hopes to grow as Alameda County law catches up with the industry norms. Supervisor Nate Miley, for example, will lead an effort this fall to update county rules, which could allow for edibles and extracts at clubs.
Even though there's more business-friendly environments elsewhere, El-Sissi says he's staying in Hayward. "I was born here, I was raised here," he explained. "I have every intention of seeing Alameda County's cannabis industry come to fruition."