HERBWISE: "People who are ignorant assume we're all a bunch of hoodlums or stoners looking to get high"
HERBWISE Most medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco are clustered around the central part of the city, with the heaviest concentration in SoMa, leaving patients in many outlying parts of the city — such as the Outer Mission and Excelsior districts — with long journeys to visit a cannabis club.
That began to change in February when the Planning Commission approved permits for three new dispensaries to open in the Excelsior: venerable delivery service The Green Cross will open its first brick-and-mortar operation on the 4200 block of Mission, while Tree-Med and Mission Organics each won approval to locate on the 5200 block. All three clubs had been in development for years, delayed by a state case challenging new dispensaries that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
But Steve Currier, president of the Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association, has appealed the building permit for the first of that trio of clubs to apply for one, Mission Organics, and he allegedly whipped up anti-pot hysteria in the neighborhood that included an April 21 protest march spanning the three dispensary sites.
David Goldman, a member of the city's Medical Cannabis Task Force, said the Feb. 16 appeal hearing and April 21 demonstration — which he said also included supervisorial candidate Leon Chow — were marked by inaccurate statements that dispensaries attract crime and are harmful to children, even though all three dispensaries are more than 1,000 feet from schools.
"People who are ignorant assume we're all a bunch of hoodlums or stoners looking to get high," Goldman said. "We want them to realize that dispensaries don't bring crime to neighborhood. If anything, it's the opposite," he said, citing the value of people, video cameras, and security guards on the street as a crime deterrent, particularly on blocks with vacant storefronts, as is the case with these blocks.
Neither Currier nor Chow returned Guardian calls or emails. Attorney Dorji Roberts, who represents Mission Organics owners Eugene Popok and Mike Mekk, said that he's also had a hard time reaching project opponents to address their concerns before a Board of Permit Appeals hearing set for June 20.
"We've asked them for a meeting recently, but he won't respond and he can't articulate any real reasons why he has a problem with it," Roberts said of Currier and his group.
Roberts said that Popok had attended meetings of the OMMRA to try to integrate into the group and address any concerns it might have, but they were surprised when the project got appealed after being approved 5-2 at the Planning Commission (Tree-Med's vote was also 5-2, while The Green Cross won unanimous approval), where they saw their first hints of opposition.
"They're saying it will be a density issue, even though no clubs are out there now," Roberts said. "They say it will increase crime, which also isn't true...It's the same kind of fears and phobias that are offered by people who just don't like [medical marijuana or its legality]."
Goldman, who had people monitoring the April 21 protest march, said the group would praise businesses along the way while condemning the dispensaries, as one point chanting, "Liquor stores, yes, pot stores, no," a dichotomy he considers telling of the kind of moralism driving the appeal.
"Fundamentally," he said, "it's an attack on patients."