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Monday, November 7, 2011

Medical Marijuana Pushed to Fringe Even with Fundraisers

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 7:15 AM

Go home ye rabble
  • Go home ye rabble

Everybody needs cash -- especially the medical marijuana community, with the sturm-und-drang kicked up by the federal government when it began its recent, highly publicized crackdown on state-legal dispensaries, where at least five storefront collectives in the Bay Area were given until later this month to shut down or face stiff penalties.

It's times like these that folks need to fundraise -- and San Francisco's a great town for this -- with plentiful cash and venues.

But that's not exactly the case for the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

Last year, we told you how all funds raised by the local ASA chapter were eaten up by a last-minute venue change forced by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. This year, ASA's got a venue with a marijuana smoking lounge above the Green Door -- but the space is so small that it's reserved for VIP only. That means the 99 Percent-types are being left out; it was that, or go into the red yet again at a time when all resources are needed to fight the feds, ASA staff told SF Weekly.

Last year's Medical Cannabis Competition: The Patients' Choice was originally scheduled to be held at Club Cocomo, but when the club's owners were warned by SFPD that hosting marijuana smokers could lead to a revocation of its liquor license, the plug was pulled. The party was held instead at Terra near the Rincon Tower, a tony, expansive space -- but also very expensive, as the estimated $15,000 to $20,000 in rent, cleanup, and security ate up any money the fundraiser might have otherwise raised, according to Caren Woodson, a former Washington, D.C., lobbyist for ASA's national chapter who now helps head up the city chapter.

"We can't fundraise like other nonprofits," she said. "Because we're medical cannabis patients, we pay a premium."

Oddly, it's public health concerns that are pushing patients to the fringe, according to Kevin Reed, the CEO of the Green Cross, one of the event's chief sponsors. The city's anti-smoking laws -- recently strengthened -- mean it's harder and harder to find somewhere where patrons can smoke anything.

Unable to find a suitable venue that would allow marijuana users to smoke onsite, the fundraiser went with a VIP-style party: only 80 tickets available, for $350 each. But what a ticket it is: You get 33 grams of top-shelf bud, on top of some concentrates and edibles -- or in other words, a reasonably priced, heavy ounce.

So it's not all bad -- rather than a huge raucous party, event-goers will smoke their minds out in an intimate setting -- and ASA hopes to raise around $35,000 in pure fundraising profit.

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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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