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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is David Chiu Medical Marijuana's New Best Friend?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Pedaling for pot - PHOTO BY GREG DEWAR
  • Photo by Greg Dewar
  • Pedaling for pot

A funny thing happened to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu last night, while making his evening round of speeches.

Somebody asked him for pot.

"You got the compassion? Who's got weed?" asked an attendee of yesterday's monthly dinner/medical cannabis giveaway held by Axis of Love, a low-income medical cannabis patients' advocacy group, where Chiu delivered the keynote address.

That could be a first in his political career, but what's not is his support for medical marijuana, Chiu told SF Weekly. That's good for pot advocates, who believe Chiu -- a frontrunner in the mayoral race -- is their new best friend. "We really need him," says Shona Gochenaur, Axis's executive director.



But whether or not Chiu is able or even willing to deliver on Axis' main missions -- including getting Attorney General Kamala Harris to review her state guidelines on medical pot or

stopping police raids on legal grows -- is another

matter.

Chiu has admittedly not done much for medical cannabis while in office. There are only a handful of medical cannabis dispensaries in his district, which covers North Beach, parts of downtown, Russian Hill and Nob Hill -- and the issue has not been in front of this Board of Supervisors often enough.

Nevertheless, his support for the alternative healing therapy is rooted in support for alternative Chinese herbs. Not cannabis, rather herbs his grandfather and uncle sell in Taiwan and use as medicine despite some controversy, he told SF Weekly. "At the end of the day, it's an alternative medicine that works," Chiu said. "That's why I'm supporting what Axis of Love is trying to do."

While not promising anything specifc to the dinner's 100-plus attendees, Chiu managed to win plenty of fans on Wednesday. "Thank you for coming," one told him on his way out of the Women's Building on 18th Street. "We love you."

The medical cannabis issue is a tough one for politicians to touch, a knowledgeable source told us on Wednesday. "David Campos (formerly Axis's main political friend) got out as quickly as he could," our source told us. "It's just hard to get anything done -- and cannabis advocates are hard to deal with."

That's partly because folks like Gochenaur are so demanding. But her requests to force the city into the cannabis-dispensing business and fight police on busting pot growers are not open to compromise, she says.

"Every California city that has a medical cannabis commission should have a seat at the table with law enforcement," Gochenaur says. "We need state training for law enforcement officers, where officers are held accountable, we need the raids to stop, and we need safe, affordable access to medicine for low-income patients."

Chiu did not respond to a text message sent Wednesday asking if he would indeed help Axis get access to Attorney General Harris and have the Department of Public Health distribute medicine free of charge via Healthy San Francisco. He only told us earlier that he wants "to get informed by this community" before he takes a position.

Pot, meet politics. Politics, meet pot.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
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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