Why Is Liberal SF Blocking Cannabis?

by on October 24, 2017

City’s Double Standard Over Exposing Kids to Drugs

As I entered City Hall last Thursday I confronted a large crowd creating a huge line in front of the metal detectors. All were Asian and wore white baseball caps. I asked one person what it was about and he showed me a paper that said “The Chinese Community.”

The crowd was there for a Planning Commission hearing on legislation about the siting of cannabis clubs. The residents whose angry opposition recently caused the Board of Supervisors to reject a medical cannabis club in the Sunset by a 9-2 vote were now flexing their muscles at Planning.

And their pressure worked again. The Commission voted to keep the current requirement that medical cannabis dispensaries be at least 1000 feet from schools or day care centers. The Commission refused to limit the distance to 600 feet, a reform that would help spread the facilities throughout the city rather than concentrating them in a few neighborhoods.

I’m really glad the 50th Anniversary Summer of Love celebrations are over. San Francisco has been busy promoting a national image of a pot-smoking, free love city when it is validating “Reefer Madness” type scare tactics around medical cannabis.

Official Hypocrisy

The Board of Supervisors’ earlier 9-2 vote to stop a cannabis club due to its proximity to a preschool was illuminating. It showed the double standard the city applies in its concern about kids exposure to drugs.

In the Sunset, even D6 Supervisor Jane Kim felt it was wrong to have a cannabis club too near a preschool. Yet in the Tenderloin, a mini-park/tot lot at Turk and Hyde has people freely shooting up within 500 feet of the facility.

Despite the mini-park and the 400 block of Turk being on a path of travel for kids coming home from the Tenderloin Community School, the city allows kids to walk by  overt drug activities. People shooting up next to a tot lot affects kid a lot more than customers entering a store to buy cannabis.

I guess we should ask Supervisor Kim to sponsor legislation preventing the city from allowing the city to maintain a drug containment zone within 1000 feet of a school or tot lot. This threat to Tenderloin kids is a lot greater than a medical cannabis facility near a day care center in the Sunset.

I understand why even Aaron Peskin voted against the Sunset facility. The community was up in arms, the district supervisor was under tremendous pressure, and there was no political downside to rejecting the facility.

But the Planning Commission vote shows that the politics of the cannabis facility issue are starting to resemble Alabama’s hostility to transgender bathrooms. A small group whose views are completely out of line with San Francisco’s majority is causing officials to falsely link cannabis clubs to the health and safety of kids.

San Francisco Backs Pot

San Francisco backed Prop 64, the marijuana legalization measure on the November 2016 ballot, by a nearly three to one margin. It was by far the largest victory margin in California, even beating out Santa Cruz county.

In 1991, San Francisco passed Proposition P, a San Francisco medical marijuana initiative, with 79% of the vote. It was not legally binding, so a state initiative followed. As Supervisor Jeff Sheehy recently stated, “San Francisco then led the effort the effort to pass Proposition 215 in 1996. That statewide initiative demonstrated that Californians understood the medical benefits of cannabis for people with serious conditions like cancer and HIV.”

These elections show that the Sunset’s anti-pot crusaders are a very small political minority in San Francisco. I’m told they are part of the same group that organized in favor of Ellis Act evictions, another misguided “cause” with little support citywide.

San Francisco public officials should not allow large turnouts of the city’s anti-cannabis  minority to distort the city’s political will. Most pot backers don’t even know about these hearings.

As with bars, too many cannabis clubs in a small area can be a  problem. And a poorly run cannabis club, like any poorly run business, can require the city to reduce its hours or close it down.

But San Francisco needs to stop claiming kids are at risk from pot dispensaries. Until the 1990’s dispensaries did not exist and pot was everywhere. As was true then and is true today, young people typically first get it from their friends.

The Board of Supervisors should reject the Planning Commission’s 1000 foot distancing requirement and go with the 600 foot alternative. San Francisco voters do not want to limit dispensaries to a few neighborhoods. If the Sunset group feels otherwise, it should put a measure on the June or November 2016 ballot for voters to decide.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.



Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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