Dueling pot protests precede rejection of a permit appeal

The dueling medical marijuana demonstrations included supervisorial candidate Leon Chow (inset).
Steven T. Jones

Dueling demonstrations in front of City Hall yesterday afternoon – with one side supporting medical marijuana dispensaries and the other protesting the city's February approval of three new clubs in the Outer Mission/Excelsior area – preceded the Board of Permit Appeals decision to reject an appeal challenging Mission Organics.

That was the first of the three clubs to pull their building permits to open up shop in a part of the city that currently has no cannabis dispensaries. Yet a group of residents from the region – which includes District 11 supervisorial candidate Leon Chow – has been angrily agitating against the clubs and claiming they expose children to an illegal drug.

Bearing signs that included “Stay away from pot clubs” and “Keep the weeds away from kids” – most in both English and Chinese characters, with a smattering of Spanish translations – the predominantly Asian protesters squared off against a slightly larger crowd of medical marijuana supporters bearing signs that included “Respect Local Law” and “Marijuana is Medicine.” Together, it was a crowd of a couple hundred lining the sidewalk, drawing reactions from passing motorists.

Asked whether he would try to undermine the city's system of regulating medical marijuana facilities if elected to the Board of Supervisors, Chow told us, “We're opposing this, but I don't think it would be my priority.”

Chow said he was “opposing high density,” noting that the Planning Commission approved three dispensaries in the area on Feb. 21, but he also raised concerns that the clubs make it easier for children to get marijuana, that they cater to healthy people just looking to get high, and that city regulations conflict with federal law.

“We don't want healthy young people to be exposed to people coming out of medical marijuana clubs,” Chow told us. Asked whether he had similar concerns about bars and liquor stores, he said that he did but “there's nothing I can do” to shut down existing businesses that sell alcohol.

“I don't want there to be more liquor stores,” he said, although he assured us that, “I'm not a conservative, crazy, church-going Republican.”

Yet supporters of Mission Organics – whose workers will be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union – did call Chow a hypocrite given that he works for SEIU-UHW. “So it's a union representative opposing a union business,” said Matt Witemyre, an organizer with UFCW who was demonstrating in support of Mission Organics, which he said has agreed to a strict code of conduct that will make them good, responsible members of that community.

“The vast majority of the neighborhood is in support of the project,” Ariel Clark, an attorney representing Mission Organics, told us, characterizing protesters as a small yet vocal part of the neighborhood. The appeal was filed by Steve Currier, president of the Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association.

Long after most of the protesters on both sides had gone home, the Board of Permit Appeals voted 3-1 to reject the appeal, clearing the way for Mission Organics to open on the 5200 block of Mission Street. But opponents have vowed to continue their fight and appeal the permits for the other two approved clubs – Tree-Med and The Green Cross, a venerable cannabis delivery service – when they apply for building permits.


It seems like an attempt to marginalize these people.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

That's a good question, and one that I thought a lot about and discussed with other editors here before deciding it was relevant. Every anti-pot protester I encountered there was Chinese-American, most of them not native English speakers, so it seemed noteworthy that the crowd was so homogenous and representing just one segment of that neighborhood. It shouldn't marginalize them to make note of that fact, except perhaps among readers with racist views of Asians, it just signals to readers that cultural factors may be playing a role in their position. Frankly, I don't know quite what to make of it, I'll leave that to readers.

Posted by steven on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

Are you suggesting that reporting the "what" of the race of the protesters who apparently chose to immigrate to another country and marginalize themselves linguistically and chose to take political positions that are marginal in the place they chose to immigrate to marginalizes those who are already marginal by their own choices?

Lack of fluency and opposition to medicinal cannabis are marginal positions in San Francisco, thankfully. Most folks who immigrated overland under difficult and dangerous conditions from Latin America are functionally fluent in English. One would hope that those who flew over on airplanes with reclining seats and meal service would become so as well.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

You almost sound like a... conservative.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

Conservatives insist that everyone only speak English. I like multilingualism with English as the lingua franca, as that is the one thing that has bound the US together over decades of immigration and has kept the entire project from becoming unglued. The notion that people would move to a new country but not make any effort to integrate, especially linguistically, borders on offensive to me. It is okay to be learning English as a non-native speaker, but it should not be okay to move here and refuse to learn. Second language education needs to be mandatory in the public schools as well.

The idea that Rose Pak, who is not a citizen, has no skin in the game, yet has more political power than any of us disgusts me, yet anti-immigration conservatives have no problem with that so long as she is moving their agenda.

This idea that immigration is always good all the time is misplaced to my mind. At this point, if you want to move to a house that is being consumed by flames, the game is so so over in the US, then you need to bring your own asbestos suit and not expect those of us scrambling to avoid being immolated ourselves to help you that much.

Conservatives are pro-drug war, libertarians are not, so in that sense I'm more social libertarian than conservative.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 5:37 am

You cannot run for public office in California and not be a citizen. Pak has publicly mulled running for the Board. What's up with that?

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

Go down to the Department of Elections and find me Rose Pak's voter registration records, I dare you.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 6:59 am

I just find it strange that she's threatening to run for the Board of Supervisors when, as a non-citizen, she can't run for ANY public office. Makes her look like a toothless tiger.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 10:38 am

Taxpayers spend $40 Billion-a-year on a prohibition that *doesn't* stop people using marijuana. Are we all so rich that this colossal waste of money is no big deal?

Protect our Children - Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do!

Posted by jway on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

It is important to allow the Medical Marijuana dispensaries that operate under the law and pay taxes. Cannabis is a medicine just like any other medicine. Would they want to outlaw drugstores like Walgreens, who dispense narcotics and other harmful substances... BTW Walgreens sells alcohol.
As a cancer patient I beleive that Cannabis is a beneficial therapy for many reasons, and I do not think it is up to any one group of citizens who are ignorant of the benefits of cannabis therapy to make medical decisions for other citizens based on their cultural beliefs. With respect to the Chinese culture...I am sure they would object if the Board outlawed accupunture/Chinese herbal herbal clinics. Those clinics are completely unregulated. I have personally received benefit from Accupuncture as well as cannabis therapy.
In my opinion there is absolutely no difference between a Medical Cannabis Dispensary and a Chinese Herbal/ Accupuncture clinic.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 5:14 am

I think Mr. Jones is right to mention the fact that it was a specific cultural and ethnic group taking up the position against mmj--he even toned it down for the article, considering the statement in the comments are that EVERY anti-pot protestor was Asian, and most were foreign immigrants. This speaks volumes to my own experience in Asian cultures, where cannabis is considered to be equivalent to heroin. It's a decades-old misinformation and propaganda campaign which led to those beliefs. They need to be corrected, to be sure--but I wouldn't suggest there's something wrong with Asian people simply because they learned some bad cultural values--we've got plenty here in USA too!

My question is why someone who's trying to play SF politics would feed into those stereotyped beliefs, which are clearly false? Leon Chow should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 8:14 am

We will not be safe till the Fed. Goverment reschedlues Cannibis. Untill then its a crap shoot. If the Fed and local goverment decide its your time to get busted then no matter what kind of permit you have you are goind down no matter what state laws are in effect. Ask Richard Lee..... FREE THE WEED... NO ONE SHOULD GO TO JAIL FOR A PLANT.

Posted by City Boy on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 12:46 pm