Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jun 2005
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: B - 8
Copyright: 2005 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Ken Garcia
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


SAN FRANCISCO has more pot clubs than any city in the nation and
essentially no rules to regulate them.

So it's no surprise that renegade cannabis clubs are popping up like
mushrooms all over the city. When a town decides to go into the
pot-club-licensing business, you don't have to ask what its officials
are smoking.

I'm all for the use of medical marijuana and believe Congress missed a
good opportunity to show it understood the basic concept of states'
rights this week when it defeated an amendment to stop the Department
of Justice from prosecuting sick people who purchase the drug in
states like California, where medical pot is legal.

And, frankly, I don't care if adults want to make like Hunter S.
Thompson in his pill-popping heyday, as long as their puffing fervor
doesn't endanger the lives of others.

But San Francisco's ongoing experiment with pot clubs underscores one
of the city's lingering problems, one that negatively affects the
overall quality of life and makes it appear that Cheech-and-Chong
movies are models for public policy. The town's uber-lefty politics
have created a dynamic of such permissiveness that basic standards and
oversight don't exist, or are lightly regarded or ignored altogether.

The city placed a moratorium on the dozens of pot clubs operating a
few months back, recognizing that they were popping up in
neighborhoods overnight, in part because the liberal bastion of
Oakland decided to crack down on them. And unlike almost any other
kind of business, the clubs are being allowed to operate without a
permit. Perhaps with an unintended pun, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said
that city officials need "to catch our breath" in dealing with the

But rather than clamping down on clubs, the Board of Supervisors'
action has just encouraged more clubs to open, because there's money
to be made in those magic buds. And as anyone who walks by one of the
pot clubs knows, the customers are not just sick people -- not that
the city attorney or any other enforcement agency seems to care.

It pays to remember that, just a few years ago, supervisors discovered
the city had no law barring someone from urinating or defecating in
public. In fact, a lot of people exploited the loophole as a cherished
civil liberty, much to the chagrin of disgusted tourists and residents.

When then-Supervisor Tony Hall tried to introduce a measure regulating
the use of public bathrooms, some "progressives" like Supervisor Chris
Daly protested, saying that laws on illegal drug activity and
prostitution didn't belong on the books because "it's not the San
Francisco way to go."

Such twisted logic comes in handy today when surveying the city's
streets, which, in too many areas, have the grimy feel of a
third-world country. Equating lawlessness with civil liberty has been
a hallmark of the left-leaning San Francisco for decades, as has the
constant disconnect between the city's weak policies and their effect.

"It's like everyone is concerned with infringing someone's rights,"
said longtime city resident Dennis Cruz. "Meanwhile, the place looks
like a dump."

A host of issues, ranging from prostitution to dog ownership to
litter, has had a regrettable impact on life here and the tolerance
for it is waning. Sex clubs that are magnets for human traffickers
abound -- officials estimate thousands of underage girls are involved.
Loose dogs have made some parks off-limits for families. The filthy
streets have become an obsession for a succession of mayors.

The town's laissez-faire approach to such problems has been tolerated
here, but as Mayors Rudy Giuliani showed in New York and Richard Daley
is proving in Chicago, the best way to transform a city is to steer
it, soundly, from the center. For Mayor Gavin Newsom to shake up the
status quo in San Francisco, he will have to show his centrist resolve.

Willie Brown learned the hard way when, after concertedly looking the
other way while homeless camps and drug dens flowed into Golden Gate
Park, the issue blew up in his face and voters demanded -- and got --
the park's much-needed cleanup.

There is no ideology involved in providing clean streets, safe parks
and neighborhoods free of illicit drug or sex activities. Cracking
down on crime is hardly an anti-progressive philosophy, even though in
San Francisco it's often closer to a crack-up.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake