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Get ‘shaman-grown’ cannabis at the Mission’s newest dispensary

Isaiah Tapia (left) and Elijah Tapia (right) stand for a portrait in front Poncho Brotherz dispensary in San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 21st, 2022. Poncho Brotherz is a family-owned cannabis business in the Mission district which sells marijuana, edibles, and other cannabis products. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard

Poncho Brotherz, a family-owned dispensary on Cesar Chavez Street in the Mission, is looking to do things a little differently than its competitors in an increasingly consolidated cannabis industry. It’s a project by close-knit siblings Isaac, Isaiah and Elijah Tapia, who opened the turquoise-painted dispensary this month with the help of their father, also named Isaac, and their business partner, Edward Brown. 

“Quetzalcoatl the vision-granter is blowing the smoke, granting entrance to the building,” Isaiah told The Standard on a recent visit, pointing to the murals that he designed and which depict the Aztec god. “The experience that we want to give to you is that of an intimate relationship. You and me, we’re not separate—and cannabis is that binding factor.”

Rather than some slick, Genius Bar-like setting, Poncho Brotherz is the kind of place where you can open a bag to smell some Humboldt-grown flower in a package designed by Isaiah, then talk about it with Isaac, the grower, while taking a look at Elijah’s edibles. 

It’s all about the “homie-to-homie interaction,” they say. The brothers are selling eighths of cannabis for $44 after tax—a pretty good price, if you’re not aware—and might even sell you a pre-rolled joint for the price of one penny—weekends only, and limit one per person.

Isaiah Tapia shows a cannabis bud at Poncho Brotherz on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. At 25, Isaac is the oldest of the three. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard

All four Tapias are keenly aware of their lineage—Spanish, Mexican, Indigenous—and they connect that directly to the land itself, making their enterprise as much a family business as a spiritual quest. Consequently, they refer to their products, from the drowsiness-inducing Donnie Burger to the candy-like Jawbreaker, as “shaman-grown.” 

Take “Jack Hare,” their approach to the cloned strain known as Jack Herer. It’s a “thin-leaf” variety of cannabis (which is to say, a sativa) and highly psychoactive. What Poncho Brotherz sells, its proprietors claim, is clean bud, grown with wisdom that’s been lovingly handed down from older generations of growers.

“It’s an older poly-hybrid that isn’t as muddled and inbred as today’s cannabis,” Isaiah said. 

“We’re giving the customer access to knowledge they never had before,” Brown added. “You can’t Google this.”

A section of the mural-covered exterior of Poncho Brotherz on Cesar Chavez Street. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard
Middle brother Isaiah Tapia designs all of Poncho Brotherz's branding and packaging. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard

The name Poncho Brotherz derives from a nickname the Tapias were given in 2016, when, as Aztec dancers, they joined the water protectors at Standing Rock. Amid the fight against the encroaching Dakota Access Pipeline, people couldn’t always recall their Old Testament-sounding given names, but since the trio wore ponchos their great-grandmother had obtained, it was a convenient label.

The division of labor among them is almost too perfect. Isaac, 25, is the grower, living on land the family owns in Humboldt County much of the year. Isaiah, 23, is the muralist and the creator of all branding and packaging. Elijah, 21, is the chef. 

In a sense, though, Poncho Brotherz is Edward Brown’s baby. He was an activist who, after a few semesters of college to learn the intricacies of newly legalized cannabis, went to work for a cannabis law firm. This turned out to be the definition of “nice work, if you can get it.”

“I got paid to read regulations and smoke joints,” he laughed.

Isaiah Tapia (left), Elijah Tapia (center) and Ed Brown (right) work with a customer at Poncho Brotherz dispensary on Friday, Oct. 21st, 2022. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard
Isaiah Tapia greets a customer on Friday, Oct. 21st, 2022. The nickname "Poncho Brothers" comes from the siblings' time as Water Protectors at Standing Rock, in 2016. | Felix Uribe Jr for The Standard

Brown had already begun helping clients navigate California’s cannabis regulations when San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis launched an equity program designed to help racial minorities gain access to an industry that was getting whiter and whiter. On a podcast, Brown met the brothers’ father, also named Isaac, and he was taken with the elder Tapia’s enthusiasm for his three precocious sons. 

That was last October. A year later, Poncho Brotherz is, in Brown’s words, the city’s first and only “farm-to-retail dispensary,” producing everything in-house. 

“We’re almost like a record label,” he said. “We can release whatever we want.” 

Having opened during the run-up to Día De Los Muertos, Poncho Brotherz will celebrate this Saturday, Oct. 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with “La Vida Divina,” a family-friendly block party filled with folklorico dancing, art and an altar in the center to honor the beloved dead. Elijah’s menu is substantial: tamales, birria tacos, horchata “with a surprise,” funnel cakes, pan dulce and more. There’s no on-site cannabis consumption, but you can walk around the corner to the shop—if you can get away.

“All the recipes are from my grandmas and tías,” Elijah said. “I’m the chief alchemist here. All self-taught.”

Poncho Brotherz

2934 Cesar Chavez St.

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