COMPASSION, CLEANLINESS, COMPLIANCE: A DISPENSARY STORY

Compassion Union ext
Compassion Union Dispensary, NoHo. Sleek, modern, earth-toned exterior & interior.

Compassion Union is an upscale, modern, professional cannabis dispensary in North Hollywood, California, selling recreational and medicinal marijuana and related products. While its exterior bears the ever-so-slight familiarity of a just built Starbucks cafe, it’s patient-centered inner sanctum is totally unique in that there are no display counters surrounding and separating customers from budtenders. All the products – vape pods and cartridges, edibles, tinctures, oils, concentrates, etc. – are displayed in cases along the walls of the room, while the flower strains sit in closed containers on a long table in the middle. Customers self-access the containers’ air hole covers to sample the different terpened aromas and gaze through the small, magnified portal to behold the dazzling crystalline trichomes. When customers have questions, there are budtenders standing by to assist and when closer inspection is required, they will happily pull display items from the shelves . As customers make their selections, budtenders gather the corresponding items from the back room and keep together near the register until the customer is ready to purchase.

Compassion Union shelves
Compassion Union’s self-guided inner sanctum is clean, well-lit and customer-centered.

Aesthetically, Compassion Union is a dispensary to behold, a stand-out, futuristic, streamlined medical and recreational depot. The entire facility is designed in a modern, sleek, earth-toned style, in many ways mirroring the latest packaging and design of cannabis products. Think of the Apple Store and the way in which it evokes the essence of Apple products. Similarly, Compassion Union is a dispensary seemingly designed to reiterate the style, craftsmanship and presentation of the products it sells.

Functionally – at least when I was the only customer – the self-service browsing at Compassion Union is a revelation in patient-centered cannabis commerce. None of the other six dispensaries I’ve patronized are set up this way. Here, customers enjoy the freedom to roam and peruse different items without feeling rushed or pressured. In many ways it is a boutique store featuring boutique items, catering to the discerning, deliberative cannabis consumer.  Of course, as a fully compliant dispensary, Compassion Union stocks only tested, pre-packaged and labeled cannabis products, most presented in stylish jars and handsome boxes, and believes in promoting a safe and legal California cannabis industry.

Compassionate Union waiting area
Waiting area is clean and well lit, with ample seating, water and a large screen tv.

There is no question about the quality and integrity of lab tested, pre-packaged and labeled cannabis and cannabis products. Customers armed with the confidence that they are ingesting safe, non-toxic meds experience better highs.  By ameliorating any worrying thoughts about residual solvents, molds, pests or other contaminants, which cast a shadow over what should be a euphoric and stress-free activity, the use of safe cannabis products facilitates the curative and rehabilitative potential of a cannabis high. As a medical patient-customer wrestling with the expense versus health aspects of cannabis commerce, I did feel much better about purchasing my concentrates at Compassionate Union even though I paid a hefty tax not charged at non-compliant dispensaries. It is important to think long term about the benefit to one’s health, to the health of the general public and to the future of the California Cannabis Industry, when making choices as a patient or customer, because the integrity and longevity of all three are interdependent and require responsible practices to survive.

Long Flower Table
Long Flower Table full of terrarium-like, air- and peep-holed flower display bell jars.

For a cozy, medium-sized dispensary, Compassion Union is pretty well stocked. They’ve got an accurate and current inventory displayed on weedmaps, so it is good to know that you’ll also find in store what you see on-line. The budtendress who helped me was personable, knowledgeable and confident in making recommendations and answering my questions. We didn’t get into much conversation, but she was informative and accommodating. As a first time patient, I received $5 off of one of my items, the option for BOGO 25% off vape cartridges, a free raffle entry (not sure what the prize is – maybe I’ll win!) and a free child-proof bag for taking home my meds. The dispensary requires customers to bring that bag back for their next purchase or will charge a dollar for a new one. My first raffle entry was free, but subsequent raffle tickets will similarly cost a dollar. I’ve never had any luck with cannabis raffles and giveaways, so I’m not holding in my gravity bong hit in over the drawing.  Raffle winners are contacted by phone on Saturdays and must pick up their prize by a certain time that day or lose their shot, in which case a new winner is picked the following day. They offer a delivery service, free for those in geographical range and with a minimum purchase, and a weedmaps review discount if you choose to spread the love on line.

Armed with confidence and a budget for the day’s purchases, I sought out some of the concentrates I’d seen on the weedmaps menu. Compassionate Union maintains a very ordered, organized display of all its wares, and the concentrates shelves were no exception.  The organizational detail made it much easier to evaluate my options, and as I narrowed my choices to a couple of brands and varieties, the budtendress kindly displayed them for me and gave me strain recommendations. I decided on purchasing one gram of Spliffin’ Sap distillate (Donna OG strain) & one gram of Emerald Dragon live resin (Rosetta Stone strain). I was also pleased to find a vape pod (Hash Plant strain) compatible with my Pax Era vape pen, as those recent non-compliant dispensaries did not stock them. And I can say with great enthusiasm that my purchase of an eighth of 17% THC sativa (XJ-13 strain) grown by Source Farms here in Los Angeles, which my budtendress recommended, was superlative in every way. Source’s XJ-13 is energizing and stimulating without inducing paranoia, facilitates creativity, induces happiness and does not debilitate. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it along with my morning and afternoon coffee – a perfect pairing.

CU Budtender Pen
Budtender Pen / Sales Counter housing knowledgable, friendly staff. “C U” there.

So much of what fascinates about medical and recreational legalization is the incredible diversity from one strain to the next, from one grower to the next, from one product to the next, or from one dispensary to the next. I’ve patronized seven dispensaries over the past few years, and the clearest takeaway for me is that every dispensary is different. Style, personality, implementation, presentation, stock, lighting, building, neighborhood, employees…it goes on and on. But it is these differences together that make cannabis legalization so dynamic and interesting. Compassionate Union runs a clean, well-ordered, compliant, professional business, worthy of patronage. They make sure you know exactly what you are getting, they stock quality products, and they are friendly and knowledgeable. In short, they represent the best of what was envisioned by those responsible for legalization here in California and stand out amongst all the species inhabiting the California marijuana dispensary menagerie.

Note: All photos from Compassion Union’s Yelp page.