- This Week
San Francisco did everything right. Now the feds are shutting down legal marijuana in town. And nobody can figure out what happened
08.14.12 - 5:13 pm | Steven T. Jones |
Medical marijuana supporters marched on the Federal Building on Aug. 1 to protest the recent crackdown.PHOTO BY TIM DAW
That simplistic explanation – which conveniently ignores how people are supposed to get this medicine – has infuriated local growers and patients. It's particularly galling for those who supported Obama and took him at his word in the last election, and who don't understand why he is suddenly escalating the federal war on drugs, ignoring local laws and values, and re-criminalizing their communities.
Hundreds of medical marijuana supporters gathered on Aug. 1 for a New Orleans-style funeral procession at the Lower Haight intersection near where Vapor Room had operated -– without incident and with praise as a model business from three successive district supervisors –- from 2004 until the previous day.
The mood was festive and defiant on that sunny afternoon, where advocates from both sides of the bay gathered to express solidarity with the closed clubs and resolve to battle through the recent setbacks.
"I'm feeling the fight," Steve DeAngelo, star of the reality television show Weed Wars and head of Oakland's Harborside Health Center, which received Haag's shut-down-or-else letter last month, told the Guardian. "I don't think we can allow taking a few hits to break our spirit....We started this struggle to win it and we're not going to stop until we do."
Local politicians and business leaders also came to offer their support.
"As president of the Lower Haight Merchants Association, I'm upset that Vapor Room had to shut down," Thea Selby, who is also running for the District 5 supervisorial seat, told us. "The Vapor Room did a lot of good for this neighborhood and was a great business."
Marchers, most clad in black, carried "Cannabis is Medicine: Let States Regulate" and other signs -– as well as a makeshift coffin and massive puppet depicting a scowling Haag -– and danced down the middle of the street as Brass Mafia horns belted out lively jazz tunes. By the time the procession reached Haag's office at the Federal Building, a chill fog had darkened the skies and the mood.
DeAngelo took the bullhorn first and called out Obama directly: "Either you were lying, sir, or your employees are out of step with your policies." Steph Sherer, executive director of the DC-based Americans for Safe Access, told the crowd, "We need to tell Obama to lose Haag or lose California."
Ammiano and the other mostly Democratic Party politicians who spoke tried to avoid putting Obama directly into the crosshairs of the angry activists, although he did say those executing this crackdown "are harming Obama's chances of winning." He also urged activists to put the pressure on politicians in Sacramento and Washington DC: "We need to be a voice in reshaping what's happened in these last few months."
Ammiano said the crackdown "empowers the cartels and the people who use violence," contrasting that with San Francisco's civilized approach to regulating marijuana.
"We in San Francisco have been a model for how to regulate this industry and we have been successful. We are not going to let the federal government interfere with our rights in this city," Sup. David Campos told the crowd.
Cathy Smith, the founder of HopeNet, who was still reeling from watching her club gutted and shuttered the day before, also sounded an angry and defiant tone, urging supporters to make their voices heard by Haag and others.
"Everybody that's here needs to go up to this evil woman's office tomorrow and tell them what we think," Smith said.
The general feeling was that if the feds can target model clubs like HopeNet and Vapor Room –- which had deep community roots and generous compassionate care programs for low-income patients -– then all clubs are in danger.