The Politics of Pot

The Politics of Pot
Posted by CN Staff on October 25, 2005 at 21:52:17 PT
By Steven T. Jones and Ann Harrison
Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian
California -- Everybody in San Francisco supports medical marijuana, but nobody wants to live next to a pot club. That's the simple – if overgeneralized – political truth now plaguing Sup. Ross Mirkarimi and others at City Hall who want to regulate the quasi-legal dispensaries that were proliferating in the city before a moratorium went into effect earlier this year. Mirkarimi spent six months developing legislation to regulate pot clubs, which was considered by the Board of Supervisors Oct. 18, heavily amended, and continued to Oct. 25. 
That hearing was later postponed after a representative for some club owners filed a challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act that requires a 45-day comment period. "It's the ultimate NIMBY issue," Sup. Sean Elsbernd told us, noting that he supports medical marijuana but thinks the three dozen dispensaries now operating are too many. In some supervisorial districts, the main concern about medical marijuana is how the city can facilitate its distribution, but in more conservative districts, that isn't the case. "What I have banging on my door is neighborhood concerns," Elsberd said. On the other end of the spectrum is Sup. Chris Daly, whose district (which includes downtown and SoMa) houses almost half of the clubs, a concentration that could increase if Mirkarimi's legislation retains all the geographic restrictions it was introduced with. "I think he went in the wrong direction with the zoning stuff," said Daly, who argues the city should limit its role to giving the clubs legal protection. "It was Ross trying to placate the mayor." Elsbernd and Daly – along with Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier and Sophie Maxwell – were the unlikely partners who shot this historic legislation full of holes during the Oct. 18 hearing, making a full dozen different motions to delay or weaken legislation that Mirkarimi has spent six months crafting. It was a frustrating situation for the freshman legislator, but one that didn't completely surprise Mirkarimi, who opened the debate by warning that many of the interested parties "are trying to sabotage this altogether." And that's exactly where Daly is at this point, telling us he wants a "total rewrite," and, "What I'd like to see is for us to go back to the drawing board. What happened Tuesday was an example of what shouldn't happen during the legislative process." Yet part of the chaos from that hearing was injected by Daly, who, unhappy with the restrictions on dispensaries that were the product of compromises with Mayor Gavin Newsom and some supervisors, won a 7-4 vote to make much of his district off limits to dispensaries, angering some club owners who would be closed down by the amendment. "I don't understand why he shut eight clubs down," said Cathy Smith, proprietor of the HopeNet medical cannabis dispensary, which would close if Daly's proposed zoning carve-out went into effect. She and members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) flooded Daly's office with angry phone calls over the next few days, and Daly is now considering rescinding his motion. The conflict highlights the convoluted politics at play, swirling together honest neighborhood concerns, a backlash against the proliferation of pot dispensaries in the city, posturing politicians, existing clubs trying to maintain market share, new clubs trying to break in, and the needs and desires of those who use marijuana. "You have to reconcile all these different interests, which is what I'm trying to do," Mirkarimi said. "What I find weird and awkward is the representatives on behalf of certain club owners want no regulations, so the city is hands-off." After the vote on closing off Daly's district, Smith said she was hurt to see fellow medical cannabis activist Wayne Justmann and others in his row applauding. "I thought we were in this together," Smith said, pointing at Justmann. But Justmann and his allies said they were simply happy to see Daly short-circuiting Mirkarimi's legislation, which they viewed as a threat to the dispensaries. Justmann told us, "We need to send it back. There wasn't a lot of communication going forward no matter what Mirkarimi will claim. We are trying to grandfather in existing facilities and not legislate any facilities out of existence." Yet ASA legal campaign director Kris Hermes still hopes Mirkarimi's legislation can be salvaged, telling us, "While ASA believes that regulations are not a prerequisite for effective dispensary operation, there is some benefit to having this city back their operations if ever the federal government came in and interfered with this activity." At the Oct. 18 hearing, Elsbernd tried and failed to create a "de facto cap" on the number of clubs by allowing just a six-month window for them to apply for permits. But Mirkarimi is opposed to such a cap – and the zoning fight could drag on for months. E-mail Steven T. Jones at: steve sfbg.comE-mail Ann Harrison at: ah Pass The Pot-Club LawMarijuana, like alcohol, tobacco, and prostitution, ought to be legal, taxed, and regulated. The state of California hasn't quite been willing to take those steps yet, but the voters have approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana, and the implementation of that law in San Francisco ought to be based on the same basic philosophy. In other words, the clubs that sell medical cannabis in San Francisco ought to be able to operate openly, safely, and with the full support of official San Francisco. And, like any other legitimate business, they ought to be regulated and taxed. Instead the clubs operate in a strange, fuzzy area of law: Since the federal government still thinks they're breaking the law, they can't exactly get business licenses and file income tax returns. But some of the clubs and their advocates have taken that to mean they shouldn't be subject to any of the laws other businesses have to operate under – and that's crazy. Sup. Ross Mirkarimi has drafted a law that takes a reasonable middle-ground approach to the problem, giving the clubs the right to sell pot (and even, in some cases, to have patients smoke it on the premises), but subjects them to some basic public-health and zoning laws. The bill isn't perfect, but the supervisors ought to pass it and go back and fix any problems that occur after it's implemented. There are a lot of practical problems with the current situation. Without zoning rules, the clubs can be situated anywhere, and when they're too close to schools, or there are too many in one area, or too many clients are congregating outside, the neighbors get nervous. Some neighborhood groups have gone to court to shut the clubs down, and more of that's likely to happen. In fact, the more the businesses clash with neighbors, the harder it's going to be to keep the feds out (and to preserve the city's ability to protect medical marijuana sales in the long term). Mirkarimi, after months of work with all sides, has proposed that the Department of Public Health be the chief regulatory agency for pot clubs, and that they be required to follow a standard planning process to get permits, subject to the Planning Commission's discretionary review. Initially Mirkarimi had wanted to require the clubs to keep some basic financial records (to ensure, among other things, that the employees were paid a legal wage). But the clubs pointed out that those records could be used against operators in federal criminal cases, so he's backed off. We get the point, but it's still frustrating. Most of these clubs are run by well-meaning folks, but some are parts of larger chains with outlets in several cities and a clear profit motive, and none of them, frankly, are giving this stuff away. The profit margins in the business are high: A pound of pot that costs $3,500 wholesale goes for closer to $6,500 when it's broken into eighth-ounce packets and sold. And remember, this is all cash, untaxed income. There has to be a way for the city to get its fair share of tax revenue from the clubs, and we urge Mirkarimi to pursue that idea in the future. In the meantime, it's not too much to ask that pot clubs accept modest regulations that will wind up helping them stay in business and will demonstrate that legal marijuana sales aren't in any way harmful to society. Note: San Franciscans support medical marijuana, but not necessarily in their neighborhoods. Stoner NationThis weekend's wonders of Cannabis fair promises to confirm what many San Franciscans already believe: Green is good – especially when it comes to buds. The fair's more than 60 exhibits and booths will feature hemp-infused skin-care products, clothing, candy, and an abundance of baked goods; a screening room featuring three new bud-based films; and a glass pipe gallery; as well as free legal advice to answer those nagging questions about what to do when the big bust finally happens. The festivities will "wrap up" with a rolling contest, evoking a pre-bong era when joints were the easiest way to get high. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Golden Gate Park, County Fair Building, near Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, SF. $20 per day, $30 for weekend pass. (510) 533-0604, ext. 4; -- -- (Kelsey Rigg) Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian, The (CA)Author: Steven T. Jones and Ann HarrisonPublished: Oct. 26 - Nov. 1, 2005 • Vol. 40, No. 04 Copyright: 2005 San Francisco Bay GuardianContact: letters sfbg.comWebsite: Articles: Green Hills - San Francisco Bay Guardian Pot Club Debate Nears End Agents Can't Keep Up With Pot Growers
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 26, 2005 at 17:18:41 PT
We are a strange phenomenon. Some people don't seem to understand that a hippie was another way of thinking not a way of dressing. A real hippie to me cares about social issues. There are many issues to care about and still be considered a hippie in my mind. It was a spirit that was present during that small window in time that was special to all those who caught that spirit if that makes sense. It really never went away.
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Comment #11 posted by Dankhank on October 26, 2005 at 17:02:55 PT
Unrepentant hippie ...
That's the way I spell it ...Flower child ...'till the end ...
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on October 26, 2005 at 12:23:18 PT
Flower Child
A hippie, especially one advocating universal peace and love as antidotes to social or political ills.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on October 26, 2005 at 12:19:30 PT
Hope I Looked It Up
I guess both ways of spelling hippy are right.hip·pie also hip·py A person who opposes and rejects many of the conventional standards and customs of society, especially one who advocates extreme liberalism in sociopolitical attitudes and lifestyles.
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on October 26, 2005 at 12:14:45 PT
or Hippy
Never have been quite sure of the spelling.
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on October 26, 2005 at 12:13:32 PT
I've been hearing that word a lot more everywhere, lately. It's noticable.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 26, 2005 at 11:55:54 PT
Hippy Generation
They have been doing commercials on tv about investment companies and they show our generation if you are a boomer as being really cool and living outside the box then and also now. We are a unique generation the commercials are implying. One has a VW Bus and another a Lava Light and great music with it. We made it!
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on October 26, 2005 at 11:44:22 PT
Hope, RE Unflattering Descriptions
I don't get personally offended by being called a 'pothead.' I take it as a badge of honor. I don't get *personally* offended by the term 'druggie.' However, I am opposed to the sloppy sports-influenced reporting that misrepresents us, blurs scientific distinctions, and encourages others to continue in their blind, deaf and dumb prejudice against us and against the truth. The 'war on drugs' is NOT a bloodsport. Real people suffer. Real people die. Real families suffer. Over a healing herb!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 26, 2005 at 11:31:57 PT
I prefer Those Hippies then Baby Boomers. LOL!
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on October 26, 2005 at 11:24:53 PT
Baby-Boom performers
I so prefer the term "Children of Peace" over "Baby Boomers".
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Comment #2 posted by Had Enough on October 26, 2005 at 02:47:58 PT
Comment 1
If I was married to Lois, I would want a dee-vorce too.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 25, 2005 at 22:42:22 PT
WND Article: Medicinal Matzo
So singer Melissa Etheridge's currently making the TV chat-show rounds extolling the joys of "getting healthy" via what she calls "medicinal marijuana." Like any recent convert, she's utterly convinced, a classic True Believer on the Proselytizing Trail: "I decided to go the natural route," she proclaims to some rapt television talking head, maintaining even oncologists agree pot's the best remedy for chemo pain. And because we're sympathetic with anyone surviving the Big C, we assume she speaks with authority. Soon we'll witness a spate of similar on-air testimonials by Baby-Boom performers --probably already lifelong recreational pot-smokers – suddenly seizing the opportunity to stump for "medical marijuana" in what amounts to free TV commercials, their faces stretched taut by their most recent plastic surgeries. Copyright: 2005 Maralyn Lois Polak Complete Article:
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