Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


Marijuana is alive and well in the Sunset District -  just not the 
legal kind. San Francisco police bust  illegal grow houses on the 
city's west side with a  comforting regularity, but one must travel a 
minimum of  two miles to find the nearest medicinal cannabis  dispensary.

This dearth of legal green is not likely to change, if  the story of 
the Bay Area Compassionate Health Center  (BACH) is any indication. 
BACH wishes to do business on  Taraval at 32nd Avenue, but since it 
signed a five-year  lease in November, neighbors and merchants along 
the  corridor, the local police captain, and the Sunset's  elected 
representative, Supervisor Carmen Chu, have all  come out against the club.

The safe money is against BACH opening at that  location, as city 
planners listen when neighbors  object. But there's now fear among 
pot advocates that  BACH might foul the waters for clubs citywide, 
after earning Chu's ire.

Currently, a fast-food restaurant or an American  Apparel store must 
jump through more permitting hoops  to open its doors than a pot 
club. Those merchants must  get what's called a conditional use 
permit, which often  has a host of extra requirements tacked on. The 
upshot: Conditional use permits are stricter and tougher to get  than 
the discretionary review permits required for pot  clubs.

So what if pot clubs needed to get the stricter  permits? Earlier 
this year, staffers from Chu's office  and the Planning Department 
gave a detailed  presentation to a city-appointed pot advisory group 
on  what that would mean. "They said, 'We've been working  together 
to change the [medical cannabis dispensary  permitting] process,'" 
said David Goldman, president of  the local chapter of Americans for 
Safe Access, who  attended the meeting.

Chu has not introduced any legislation, but did tell SF  Weekly that 
tougher rules citywide on pot dispensaries  are "a potential option." 
"I think whenever you open  any business, you would want to have the 
tools to be  able to enforce things when things go wrong," she said.

Still, some pot advocates think Chu has had a hand in  fomenting the 
opposition to BACH, and ask why a change  is needed at all. The Green 
Cross, after all, went to  delivery-only after neighborhood 
opposition scuttled  its existing site on Valencia and a proposed one 
at Fisherman's Wharf. They note that Chu was one of two  supervisors 
to vote against creation of a new medical  marijuana advisory board, 
and that she told the  Examiner that she's considering a moratorium 
on new pot  clubs.

"To me," said Paul Hansbury, one of BACH's operators,  "that sounds 
like a closed mind."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart