Cool Things to Do in Southern California During the Corona Crisis 4: Cannabis Dispensaries

by Scott S. Smith and Sandra Wells

As we write this in December during a tighter temporary lockdown, many “cool things to do” we previously reported are either still ongoing or should reopen soon. The more we look, even under the most restricted circumstances, the more opportunities we find. It’s easy to search categories in your own area, but always call before you head out, since websites for a store or activity may not be updated about current hours.


While hemp-derived CBD (cannabidiol) is very low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which produces the high, its products are often confused with CBD from the marijuana plant, commonly known just as cannabis, which has a high level of THC. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the cannabis sativa plant and both types of CBD has healing properties, such as helping with pain, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, nausea, and addiction. Others report benefits for a whole range of maladies. Hemp products are found widely in topicals, while if cannabis is bought for consumption for medical purposes, the choice is best guided by experts at dispensaries, who know the differences in effects of each product.

Dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses and many have remained open during the pandemic. But some only offer pickup and delivery, so be sure to call ahead or read websites carefully (we discovered many sites without an obvious notice that they were no longer offering entry to the store). The offerings, quality and prices can vary enormously, so check out reviews (while weighing the complaints and praise with more than a grain of salt–like innovative doctors, the best weed retailers often get either five stars or one). Since many of these establishments are so used to catering to veteran users, if you are new to cannabis, do call in advance to discuss whether staff are knowledgeable about your needs. Too much of the industry’s communication gets into esoterica that is about as understandable to the average person as a press release from a high-tech company.

The Artist Tree has its main location on Santa Monica Blvd. near La Cienega in West Hollywood. Its Green Easy by The Artist Tree is on Beverly Blvd. near Crescent Heights (it is being renovated to look more like the original). Others will be opened in Koreatown and underserved Riverside early in 2021 (later in the year in Corona, also in Riverside County).

There is no mistaking the original location for another dispensary because it is like walking into a high-end gallery showcasing local artists. Its slogan: Cannabis Reimagined. “Our goal is to deliver immersive experiences and one-of-a-kind destinations for cannabis learning, shopping, art, and dare we say–getting high,” says its website. “Cannabis makes concerts, museums, and pretty much everything, more fun. We want to enhance your perception of the arts.” Take the virtual tour to really appreciate how different this place is. Note that it is one of the very few places that sells clones for customers to take home.

“We put an emphasis on educating the customers,” manager Kenny told us. “It starts at the entrance with some interactive kiosks while they are waiting, where they can pick topics and punch in why they use cannabis, how often, and what type of product to get recommendations.”

“We’re remodeling the second floor for a lounge for edibles and smoking, and the third floor as a non-smoking space for edibles and tinctures, as well as for community classes,” said Lauren, one of the owners.

Green Earth Collective is located in Eagle Rock southwest of Pasadena, but plans to open another soon in Granada Hills. It is open early morning to late night seven days and is rated by customers with 4.5 stars. “Green Earth is by far my favorite spot,” wrote one. “From their shake to their Cannabis Cup Winning Private Reserve everything is quality. I’ve had severe anxiety for years and the Jambo CBD Spray is the only thing that has been able to give me true relief and it is non-psychoactive–no high, but you get the medical benefits!”

With a combined 50 years of experience in the industry, management says it aims to provide “friendly service from knowledgeable representative who truly care about our clients and our community and to empower our customers with the comprehensive knowledge needed to make the best medical and recreational decisions for their lifestyle.” GEC is very active in the Highland Park community, donating help to the homeless, churches, children’s advocacy groups, and COVID first responders.

Orange County Cannabis Club aka OC3 was one of the first licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Santa Ana when it opened in 2015 and touts a “cordial, experienced staff eager to serve members, with the utmost professionalism.” It is notable for informative blogs on topics such as the health benefits of hemp seeds, research on cannabis and breast cancer, why seniors may want to partake, and how to replace alcohol with marijuana.

It offers “high-quality lab tested flowers, award-winning concentrates and extracts, the widest selection of vape pens and cartridges, deliciously infused edibles, and powerful medicinal tinctures as well as topicals.”

CALMA on La Brea Ave. in West Hollywood is hard to miss, with its pink building covered by painted green leaves, a far cry from the secretive doors with an armed guard, and a claustrophobic entryway that remain common at other cannabis outlets. Passersby can look into the store through large windows or enter a large open room with marble floors, soothing videos of the ocean on a high-definition, cinematic LCD screen covering an entire wall, and stylish lighting. The name of the company is Italian for calm (a feminine noun which fits the vibe from having a mostly female staff). It received L.A. Weekly’s 2020 award for most inviting shopping experience. “We wanted to provide a welcoming design that made everyone feel comfortable, so your grandparents or teachers could come with you and feel like they were walking into something like a Nordstrom,” said general manager Mara.

The place is a must-visit stop for tour buses not only because it’s appearance and being open mornings and late nights seven days a week, but because of tourists who are curious about a plant that might be illegal in their states. The staff is not only very knowledgeable for connoisseurs, but knows how to explain the basics of how to choose strains to novices. “CALMA embraces a welcoming atmosphere regardless of gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status ethnicity, or age,” a recent press release state. “Each customer is paired with a budtender upon arrival and receives comprehensive cannabis education, from product tutorials to selection and consumption, to leave with a clear understanding of potency, effects, and benefits.”