From the outside, Karuna Health Foundation + Metta Lounge at 3636 West 4th Avenue looks more like a medical office than a cannabis dispensary. With its frosted window featuring subtle Buddhist messages, its metaphysical vibe fits right into the Jericho Beach–area neighbourhood that’s home to local landmarks like Banyen Books & Sound, Aphrodite’s Café & Pie Shop, La Quercia, Durga Interiors, and Kestrel Books.
Karuna Health Foundation is not your traditional pot shop. You won’t see any neon cannabis leaves. Instead, you’ll find professionally displayed, high-end products in a long glass display counter.
It’s showcased with colour-corrective lighting, enabling members to closely examine the multitude of cannabis offerings. They can ask questions of friendly, knowledgeable staff about whatever might interest them.
Karuna Health Foundation has a straightforward vision for its two dispensaries (the other is at the corner of Kingsway and Victoria Drive): to supply B.C. residents with an extremely wide variety of consistently high-grade medicinal cannabis. And it strives to provide this at lower prices than other clubs that focus on premium product.
Moreover, Karuna maintains vigorous quality control with regular testing.
“We have close relations with our own production and extracts labs that allow us to offer different strains than other clubs,” one of the directors says. “This enables us to offer lower-cost and higher-quality products because of our ability to produce and extract.”
Situated conveniently along the Number 4, 7, 44, and 84 bus routes—at the stop on West 4th near Alma Street—Karuna Health Foundation + Metta Lounge is fully wheelchair-accessible. The directors designed it so that the product is at eye level for anyone in a wheelchair and there’s even an accessible washroom.
In fact, this was the first dispensary in Vancouver to qualify for a building permit, another point of pride for the directors.
Members enter a secure and comfy waiting room before they’re buzzed into the dispensary. This was created to ensure children couldn’t walk right inside.
If you were to imagine an ideal Vancouver model for a modern cannabis dispensary, this is what it would look like.
Buddhist imagery and Buddhism-related books add to the calming presence. The soft blue wavy colours and overall mood reinforce that members are truly near Jericho Beach.
Safe, cozy, and private, the Metta Lounge is the perfect place to sit down, sip a cup of hot java or tea, infuse it with a tincture, and hook up to Wi-Fi or watch a little TV. It’s a grown-up facility that caters to adults of all ages.
“We spent a lot of time designing it and working with architects and interior designers,” the director emphasizes. “We didn’t want to have a dark and dingy place.”
There’s still plenty of free street parking in this neighbourhood, unlike many other areas of the city, and it’s one of the closest dispensaries to UBC’s Point Grey campus.
Karuna Health Foundation’s other dispensary at 4510 Victoria Drive operates on similar principles. Situated along the Number 19 and 20 bus routes, it also has a secure waiting room from which people are buzzed in. This East Side neighbourhood also has plenty of free parking.
It’s been operating for seven years, which means it has some of the city’s most experienced dispensary staff.
Another innovation is an on-site tablet. This enables members to use a keypad to punch in their ailments. It will then come up with a solution or strain that fits their needs.
Both dispensaries carry up to 60 different flowers or buds, offering a stunning selection. They include sativas, indicas, hybrid varieties, and some with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive agent that’s shown promise in relieving pain and controlling seizures.
There’s increasing interest in whether CBD can offer an alternative for those hooked on opioids.
That’s not all. In total, there are more than 300 products available through the Karuna Health Foundation dispensaries, including tincture-infused drinks, topicals, CBD pain patches, and cannacaps with either CBD or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the agent that gives people the high associated with cannabis.
There are even CBD and THC extracts in pen tips, which deliver a very high form of nearly clear oil that isn’t altered in any way.
At Karuna, quality and consistency come first. And staff take the members’ medical history seriously.
“We still recommend that people talk to a doctor if they have never used cannabis before, just in case you have medical conditions or anything like that,” the director emphasizes.
For those who’ve used cannabis in the past, it’s very easy to become a member. Forms can be downloaded at the Karuna Health Foundation website and then brought into the office.
“If you are planning a visit to your own accredited Medical Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor or Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine to speak with them about treating your ailment with medical cannabis, please feel free to print off the Statement of Diagnosis for them to complete on your behalf,” the website states.
Karuna Health Foundation has two locations: 4510 Victoria Drive and 3636 West 4th Avenue, which includes the Metta Lounge. The East Vancouver location can be reached by the Number 19 and 20 buses; the West Side dispensary is accessible via the Number 4, 7, 44, and 84 buses.