What's the adage? One step forward, two steps back? In the case of medical marijuana in San Francisco, it's "five pot clubs shut down by the federal government, three new ones opened up by city government."
City planning officials approved three new medical marijuana dispensaries for the city's Excelsior District on Thursday evening, including two on the same block. Our friends at the Examiner stuck it out for the entire hearing, long enough to see The Green Cross's location on the 4200 block of Mission Street and the applications of Mission Organics and Tree-Med approved for the 5200 block of Mission Street (believe it or not, hipsters, Mission Street does not end at El Rio).
The clubs were approved after their applications were put on indefinite hold, not once, but twice, as a state court case made its way to the Supreme Court and as the Department of Public Health halted all new pot club permits as it decided how to proceed. For Green Cross particularly, it was a long road: Its application was filed over a year ago.
This will mean a new dawn for the Excelsior as a dispensary-having district, and one that appears to sharply divide the neighborhood.
The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to approved the Green Cross's application, and 5-2 to approve Tree-Med and Mission Organics. The former two crews are San Francisco locals; Mission Organics are entrepreneurs from Southern California who operated a dispensary there.
City law requires dispensaries to be more than 1,000 feet away from schools and various other "youth-serving facilities." All these new ones fit zoning rules -- and are in fact in the very few areas in San Francisco open to new dispensaries due to these and other zoning requirements.
More than 800 neighborhood residents signed petitions opposing the dispensaries, including both of The Green Cross's new neighbors on either side, according to the Planning Department. But overall, neighbors on the 4200 block of Mission Street are widely in favor of The Green Cross -- 84 businesses and residents, including nine Green Cross employees, said they support the dispensary, compared to six opposed (on page 7 of this PDF).
The neighborhood group Excelsior District Improvement Association is strongly opposed to the prospect of jobs and tax revenue in its district from the sales of medical marijuana. Its defacto leader, when contacted by SF Weekly, once told us that our "ass [would be] grass" if we quoted him. So there's that.
There's still plenty of uncertainty left -- the federal Justice Department has shut down five dispensaries in San Francisco to date, with 12 more on the Drug Enforcement Administration's radar. And once a dispensary permit is approved, it can be appealed to the Board of Appeals and delayed or derailed indefinitely.
But in the meantime, Thursday's vote is a definite show of support for medical marijuana in San Francisco as it currently stands.
"Our staff is excited to begin the process of opening this facility," said Caren Woodson, Operations Director for The Green Cross in an e-mailed statement. "Provided construction and building goes as planned, we hope to provide our members with the products and services they've come to know and love with the face-to-face contact sometime this summer ... Perhaps this will be a whole new Independence day!!"
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