The Apothecarium

Healing the Community One Patient at a Time

Apothecarium is renowned for their elevated design, which features velvet upholstery, marble counters and prominent crystal chandeliers. In fact, the company’s original location in the Castro was recently named one of the best designed dispensaries in the country by “Architectural Digest.”


The Apothecarium, which opened its third location in the beautiful Marina district in San Francisco, is about more than beautiful design. This is a dispensary that has healing its patients at the core of its mission, and even the luxury interiors support this goal.


“We asked ourselves if someone’s mother would be comfortable coming here” says manager Michael Caruso.  He tells me that every day someone comes into the Apothecarium on one of the worst days of their lives. People who are suffering from stage four cancer, people who have exhausted their pharmaceutical options, people who don’t know where else to go for relief — they all come here.  “We do everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible,” Caruso says. While the design of the space certainly plays a role in this, so do the well-trained patient consultants.


The dispensary has partnered with former Oakland mayor Jean Quan and her husband Doctor Floyd Huen.  Dr. Huen is an internal medicine doctor who began prescribing medical cannabis to his patients with chronic pain in 1996 after voters approved Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. Dr. Huen acts an advisor to the patient consultants at the Apothecarium and has played a large role in developing the rigorous training program that every patient consultant must complete before standing behind the counter.


One of the features of the training program is preparing the consultants to have difficult conversations with patients suffering from terminal illnesses. However, while Caruso tells me they see at least one seriously ill patient a day, the top three patient complaints are anxiety, insomnia and pain.


Eliot Dobris, the Apothecarium’s marketing manager, tells me that over 40 percent of their patients are over the age of 50. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, people over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group of cannabis users. In the past ten years, cannabis use amongst 50-to-64 year-olds increased 57.8 percent, and 250 percent amongst people 64-years-old or older.


“More elderly patients tend to get longer consults,” says Caruso, but every patient gets the same concierge treatment at the Apothecarium.  He goes on to point out that “there are no products on display here, we let the patient tell us what is going on… we learn as much as we can about that patient so we can offer the best options.”


When asked what the most rewarding part of working for the Apothecarium is, Caruso smiles and tells me that it’s seeing a patient come back for their second visit to exclaim over the pain relief they received, or the best night’s sleep they’ve gotten in years. For Dobris, it’s seeing arthritic patients come in to show staff how they can now open and close their hands more easily.


“This is why I do what I do” says Caruso.


The Apothecarium’s new location is 2414 Lombard St., San Francisco; open 11 a.m. -8 p.m. seven days a week. They can be reached at (415) 408-6986 or online at

Written by Laura Matise


Emerald contributor since March 2012


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