Mar. 31, 00
San Franscisco Chronicle
By Maria Alicia Gaura
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Some bed and breakfast inns offer local wine and cheese, some specialize in ceramic bunnies. But the Compassion Flower Inn, soon to open in Santa Cruz, may be the first to offer a private garden patio, complete with clothing-optional hot tub, to visiting pot smokers. Cigarette smokers, however, are banished to the front porch. Owners Andrea Tischler and Maria Mallek-Tischler have customized the five-bedroom Gothic Revival Victorian with marijuana-inspired flourishes. The soap and lotion are hemp-based, and the proprietors are scrambling to find hemp-fiber sheets and towels before opening day. But guests hoping to find a complimentary joint on the pillow, along with an evening mint, are out of luck.
Pot-smoking privileges at the Compassion Flower Inn are reserved for those with a doctor's note, and even certified medical marijuana patients are required to bring their own stash. ``We are going to be the first `bed, bud and breakfast' in the country,'' said Mallek-Tischler, ``but we do not provide the bud.'' Instead, the Tischlers hope to create a friendly environment for those who use marijuana to alleviate conditions ranging from glaucoma to chemotherapy reactions and seizures. Not that there are restrictions on prospective guests. ``We welcome anyone who wants to stay, queer or straight, medical marijuana user or not,'' Tischler said. ``We'll take all kinds who have open minds. And as we like to say, you might even remember your stay!''
Plans for the Compassion Flower Inn have created barely a ripple in tolerant Santa Cruz, where the scent of marijuana in public places is not uncommon and local police decline to arrest medical marijuana users.
On Tuesday, the City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that will allow residents being treated by a doctor for any one of a variety of ailments to grow and use marijuana -- as long as it is organic. No prescriptions or physician's recommendations will be needed. Not surprisingly, the Tischlers have a 15-year history of activism in the cause of medical marijuana, dating from their days in San Francisco. ``We began by baking marijuana brownies and cookies for AIDS patients in the ward at San Francisco General Hospital,'' Tischler said. ``We had so many friends who died of AIDS in the mid-1980s.'' After moving to the Santa Cruz area in 1988, Tischler took on the persona of Nurse Mary Jane and began appearing in local parades, at political events and public hearings. Resplendent in short white uniform, marijuana-leaf necklace and little white cap, Nurse Mary Jane became a lobbyist for the medical marijuana cause.
In a less flamboyant manner, the pair also helped found the now-defunct Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers Club in the early '90s, and worked to put Proposition 215 -- the statewide medical marijuana initiative -- on the ballot in 1996. The couple's idea for the Compassion Flower Inn developed after they bought a dilapidated Victorian house on Laurel Street in Santa Cruz, one of numerous old houses the couple have acquired and renovated over the years. Built in the 1860s, the house was the former residence of Edgar Spalsbury, a constable, judge and Civil War veteran whose remarkable diary outlines his frequent use of chloral, laudanum, morphine and tincture of opium to treat a seemingly endless variety of aches and pains. In an introduction to a published version of Spalsbury's diary, historian Viola Washburn said: ``If he were taking this medicine today, we would call him an addict. But such are the ways of homeopathic medicines.'' Washburn also wrote that Spalsbury lived a long and productive life despite his drug use. ``We thought it would be interesting to continue in the same shoes, in a sense, this theme of medicinal drug use and home healing,'' Mallek-Tischler said.
A marijuana-friendly coffee shop was first envisioned, but the cost of permits and renovations killed that idea. The Tischlers' architect then suggested a bed and breakfast inn, which would present fewer bureaucratic hurdles. The idea took root. During the past three years, the Tischlers have peeled away more than a century's worth of caked-on paint and dirt to reveal a wealth of Victorian detail. Mallek-Tischler, a German-born artist, has turned her hand from creating darkly mysterious paintings to faux marbling and the intricacies of Victoriana. The walls glow with gold leaf and arabesque, pinstriping and frill, enhanced by marijuana-leaf stencils. The furniture is tufted velvet and brocade, with needlepoint cushions and frail-legged tables. But the Tischlers offer a heaping dose of New Age brightness to leaven the Victorian weight. In an airy vaulted room overlooking the smoking patio and hot tub, resident guru Jay Barush presides over drum circles, massage, an altar decorated with crystals, and the Church of the Obvious. ``He doesn't want us to call him the resident guru, but he is,'' Tischler insisted as Barush rolled his eyes good-naturedly. ``The idea is that we shouldn't follow man-made laws, but the laws of nature, which are obvious.'' Barush hopes the Church of the Obvious will become a gathering place for the spiritual and civic-minded of the community. ``It's like my living room, a meeting room where people will gather,'' Barush said. ``We don't have a preconceived vision for it. It will be whatever it is at the moment.'' Because this is California, no smoking of any kind will be allowed inside the inn, and pot smokers will be segregated from the tobacco smokers. ``Nobody should breathe any kind of smoke that they don't want to,'' Mallek-Tischler said. ``We are very conscious of the concern over secondhand smoke.''
Opening day for the Compassion Flower Inn is set for April 20, or 4-20, a number that over the years has acquired peculiar significance for the stoner set, although no one can quite explain why. Die-hard pot smokers like to light up at 4:20 p.m., and April 20 is a popular date for pot-themed parties. And after the grand opening? ``Well, then I guess we have to see how good we are at running a hotel,'' Mallek-Tischler said. ``It's going to be something.''

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