Upon entering the medical cannabis collective Canna-Rx, you notice how different this dispensary seems from so many others. First, there's the location—in the heart of Fremont, in the type of retail space typically given over to yoga studios and clothing boutiques. (Bonus: free underground parking.) Then there's the interior design—which, amazingly, exists—with handmade wood-and-glass display cases topped with marble slabs under tasteful lighting.

Look around and you'll find evidence of medical marijuana's grittier side—patients enter through a pair of intricately locked-and-key-coded doors (designed to foil holdups)—but once inside, you could be in a retail space devoted to artisanal, handcrafted jewelry.

Behind the counters buzz the marijuana sommeliers, lorded over by Shawn Coleri, the man who hatched the dream of Canna-Rx. At the center of this dream: medical marijuana "medibles," made not with cannabis-infused butter (which can taste to some like rancid ass) but with hash oil, which is extracted not with the typical heavy solvents but with pure alcohol, a more time-consuming process resulting in a thick, dark, molasses-smelling syrup that packs a punch. Coleri and his friends soon began injecting their oil into a variety of products: cookies, lollipops, tinctures, and, the reason for my visit, topical salves.

To understand the chasm between medical marijuana and getting stoned, there's no better tool than cannabis-infused salves. As I learned once again after smearing Canna-Rx's mint-scented hash-oil salve on my aching lower back, topical MMJ is an absolutely lousy way to get high—simply put, it doesn't work—but it's a perfectly brilliant way to relieve muscle pain. This fact was confirmed by all those I shared my Canna-Rx samples with, from a colleague with chronic foot pain to a friend with "some weird back thing," who praised the balm's speedy effectiveness at imparting physical relief while noting the absolute lack of anything close to a feeling of stoned-ness. (According to Coleri, his salves have worked wonders for folks with rheumatoid arthritis.)

In addition to benignly extracted hash oil and a "closed-loop system" of growing plants without pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides, Canna-Rx is devoted to one more thing: good strong dosages, aimed at the specific needs of regular MMJ users rather than high-seeking dabblers. "Eat no more than half and put the rest in the freezer," said Scoleri as he handed me a hash-oil-infused brownie the size of an eight-track tape. "Come back soon." recommended