SPARC's name embodies what we love about it. It stands for San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, which is unimpeachably earnest — but if you choose to read it as "let's spark one up," that's your choice.
Still, earnestness is its defining characteristic, which is timely; President Obama's Justice Department would have a hard time justifying a raid on this place.
For one thing, it's a nonprofit, and has been providing free marijuana to people in hospices for more than 10 years. It also subsidizes mary jane (let's bring that term back, shall we?) for seriously ill low-income patients. No fair trying to qualify by claiming that your last breakup seriously messed with your head.
SPARC's commitment to the overall wellness of its members starts with testing all of its products for both THC and CBD. But it goes well beyond that.
Membership is free, as are chair massage and Chinese ear bud therapy. The latter is interesting: You tell the practitioners what your health problem is, they find a sensitive spot in your ear and tape an irritating little seed there, telling you to push on it occasionally. You can also get acupuncture for $5.
The raison d'être, though, is the marijuana, and SPARC's menu is as long as anyone's. The connoisseur can enjoy selecting top strains by aroma as well as by checking those THC percentages. Of course you can choose between sativa and indica strains and various hybrids, and the staff is helpful in describing the type of effect you can expect. If you're on a budget, there are value buys such as $50 for an entire ounce of "assorted trim" grown outdoors.
We've been lucky enough to show up when they put overstocked strains on half-price sale, just like a department store might in preparing for the next season. But even at regular prices, these are good values, with grams running $14-$18, eighths $35-$60, and quarters as low as $60 for some outdoor-grown strains. Edibles include classics like cookies, as well as gummies and lollipops, and some sexier items like chocolate ganache truffles. Many ingredient lists explain whether the infused medicine is sativa or indica, and the staff — in our experience — discourages quick or thoughtless purchases of these treats. They're eager to match the edible to the high you're looking for.
SPARC's community-center feel differs from the party-down atmosphere of some cannabis clubs. But you can medicate in comfort here with the club's high-end vaporizers — and even free hot tea to soothe the throat.
To be honest, we prefer shopping (and getting painful ear seeds) here, and then taking the product home, because — don't tell the president — we're not always quite this earnest. We're glad SPARC is, though. If the medical marijuana community needs an example of how much good it can do, SPARC is our nominee.