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Friday, July 23, 2010

Illegal Pot Delivery Services Can't Be Stopped

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:35 PM

click to enlarge Here comes the pot man! Who's gonna stop him? - LIBERTY BELL TEMPLE
Lower Haight resident Aaron Chandler is a pot dealer. Or, the erstwhile employee of Project Homeless Connect is the operator of a legitimate medical marijuana delivery service. Which one is it? Neither? Both?

It all depends on your interpretation of San Francisco's medical cannabis dispensary laws, which are chock full of gray areas.

Chandler, 33, made headlines in late May (or, okay, a story in the Bay Citizen) when he was robbed at gunpoint when attempting to make a delivery. Granted, he brought a pound of reefer to Richmond in the middle of the night, behavior more akin to people's notions of drug-dealing than dispensing legal medicine. But that's not important.

What is important is how many people his organization, Alternative Rx Solutions, provides medicine to, according to Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

You see, even though Chandler doesn't run a brick-and-mortar dispensary, he needs an official medical cannabis dispensary permit from the Department of Public Health in order to legally provide medicine to 10 or more patients, Bhatia said. To get that, he needs to pay a nonrefundable $8,469 fee and jump through the lovely set of hoops that is the San Francisco public hearing process.

Little wonder, then, that Chandler has not done that. Nor has any other of the God-knows-how many surreptitious San Francisco delivery services -- that's money, yo. Thus far, The Green Cross is San Francisco's only licensed delivery-only medical cannabis service.

click to enlarge If they can get it on the back of their bicycle, they can deliver it to you! - HUMBOLDT COUNTY NEWS
This same rule applies to "one-off" or "mobile" events, such as the nipped-in-the-bud (get it?!) "medical cannabis Farmer's Market," which was to grace the hallowed halls of since-shuttered Mission Bay dance club Jelly's. A local activist, Angelique Cisneros, booked Jelly's for the day for her birthday party. Festivities were slated to include an appearance from Prop. 215 author Dennis Peron and an on-site smoking area, as well as a purported medicine swap. But once the media and the Department of Public Health got wind of the event, the club's owner got cold feet and applied the kibosh.

But had authorities not gotten wise, what would have stopped it from happening? DPH has very little in the way of enforcement abilities. After Chandler was in the news, he did receive a call from DPH, informing him he was out of compliance and telling him he'd soon receive a cease and desist letter -- unless he moved his delivery service outside of San Francisco.

And that's exactly what the now East Bay-based Alternative Rx Solutions did. Chandler can continue to make deliveries to San Francisco patients to his heart's delight; DPH can't touch him. Enforcement is now up to the local authorities in Alternative Rx Solution's new neighborhood. Where ever that is.

Chandler knows he has evaded the spirit of the law, if not the letter. But that doesn't bother him. He believes he's providing a legitimate service -- one for which he cannot secure business loans from banks, and one for which he cannot secure a contract with Visa or MasterCard. All deny him because he's associated with providing cannabis to patients. It may be a little absurd that a government agency told him how to get around the law instead of enforcing it -- something that's hard to do anyway -- but, then again, so is the entire arrangement.

"The whole situation doesn't make sense to me," he told SF Weekly. "It's difficult to be a legitimate business when no one is willing to recognize us."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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