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Monday, September 20, 2010

Emergency Marijuana Legislation Proposed to Save 'Mom-and-Pop' Dispensaries

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 2:59 PM

click to enlarge 'Big-box' dispensaries?
  • 'Big-box' dispensaries?
That the city's planning and zoning laws are complex is well-known; that the city's laws permitting medical cannabis dispensaries are even more Byzantine is news even to dispensary owners, -- as SF Weekly reported last week.

Of particular concern to the city's pot clubs is the provision in planning law that attaches a medical cannabis dispensary permit - the city-provided license to legally sling reefer - to an address, not an individual. This means that a dispensary could find itself evicted by anyone with enough cash to convince a dispensary's landlord to sell. The buyer would then own the evicted pot club's dispensary permit.

Pot-friendly politicians have pledged to close this loophole, and attach an MCD permit to an individual, not an address, after a crowd of anxious patients and patient advocates brought this situation to the attention of the Medical Cannabis Task Force (you bet your balls there is such a thing) at its monthly City Hall meeting on Friday.

This loophole has lately led unsavory types to approach pot club owners and make demands like, "Give us $20,000 up front and pay us more in rent, or we'll evict you," said Stephanie Tucker, a task force member. "We want to put the word out and make sure the city knows about these hostile business tactics, and close the loophole as soon as possible."

It's mostly operators from Southern California - where strict, newly passed dispensary laws have forced hundreds of dispensaries to close - who are doing this, alleged Shona Gochenaur, a task force member who also runs Axis of Love, a nonprofit famous among the city's poor and disadvantaged for handing out pot brownies and other goodies to its members.

"San Francisco will not tolerate this type of predatory behavior from opportunists who want to make a mockery of our local medical cannabis laws," Gochenaur wrote in a statement.

After a press conference scheduled for noon Tuesday, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will pledge to close this loophole, according to Supervisor Chris Daly, with whom Axis of Love have been relatively close (Volunteering on Daly's 2006 reelection campaign, members of Axis of Love were kindly asked not to roll joints in Daly's campaign office, but that's another story).

Daly will introduce a resolution urging the board to change the law (he can't introduce the legislation actually changing the law; "I don't have enough time left on the board [to see a change to planning law through]," he explained. Changing Planning law usually takes six months or more; Daly's out in January).

That leaves either David Campos -- who formed the medical marijuana task force -- or Ross Mirkarimi -- who wrote the original 2005 law allowing pot clubs -- to carry the water. Exactly who will do it isn't yet decided, but it's going to happen, Mirarkimi vowed.

The idea of "big-box retail ... taking over mom-and-pop dispensaries is not far-fetched," Mirkarimi told SF Weekly. "There needs to be some modifications [to the law] to stave that off."

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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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