Pubdate: Thu, 19 Nov 2015
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts

"Proper" San Francisco Is Still Embarrased by the City's Position in 
the Cannabis Pantheon


For a certain generation, Joe DiMaggio was San Francisco's greatest 
citizen. The son of a Sicilian fisherman, whose people gifted the 
city cioppino and christened Fisherman's Wharf, DiMaggio never forgot 
his roots. Even after the Hall of Fame baseball career with the New 
York Yankees and the marriage to Marilyn Monroe - whose legend 
eclipsed his own during his lifetime - he spent much of his 
retirement at the family's waterfront restaurant on Jefferson Street. 
Located next to the docks where, when Joe was a boy, the clan would 
gather on Sundays to help repair his father's fishing nets, the 
restaurant's two story building - now named after his younger 
brother, Dominic - is still in the DiMaggio family.

Recently, the DiMaggio building had a chance to play host to one of 
modern-day San Francisco's cultural and commercial commodities. A 
legal marijuana store, looking to be the first to operate in an area 
visited by more than 10 million tourists annually, had approached the 
family with a solid offer: a long-term lease, at well above the going 
rate in a market where T-shirt and souvenir hawkers already pay $40 
to $60 per square foot.

When word of the potential new neighbor spread, however, the local 
merchants were so opposed that they went out and found the DiMaggio 
building an alternate tenant. Now, an outfit called "Rocket Fizz" - 
an "upscale soda and candy shop" - will open up in the ground floor 
of the DiMaggio building as early as this year.

This is the third time that would-be cannabis sellers have approached 
the wharf in the last year. This latest effort, led by former 
software salesman Romwold Connolly and called Krinze, has secured a 
lease in an old video camera store on Taylor Street, across the road 
from the longshoreman's union hall.

The fight over whether Connolly can secure a permit to sell marijuana 
is already fierce. Competing petitions have popped up on, 
and a showdown at the city's Planning Commission is scheduled for Dec. 17.

The controversy begs an unanswered question.

San Francisco's tourists smell cannabis, see it, and buy it in the 
street. Yet the wharf, one of the few places in San Francisco zoned 
for a dispensary, has successfully beaten back dispensaries for 
almost a decade.

What's behind the city's deep aversion to showing visitors how we do 
legal marijuana?

In downtown Denver, when you want to kill time before a Rockies game 
or walk off a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe, you can stroll along a 
pedestrian mall and, within a few blocks, find a merchant selling 
adults 21 and over recreational cannabis. In Denver, tourism and 
cannabis coexist.

For almost as long as the Haight was famous for hippies, San 
Francisco has been the intellectual and commercial capital of the 
cannabis industry. The legal marijuana enjoyed by more than half of 
Americans began with Dennis Peron's renegade cannabis club in the 
Castro in the 1980s. Our proximity to the state's cannabis-producing 
regions mean that the city is the de facto hub for the state's 
biggest cash crop, valued at over $16 billion.

And yet this is not a point of civic pride. Leaders in the Chamber of 
Commerce and in City Hall have long behaved as if San Francisco's 
place in the pot pantheon were a great municipal shame, akin to the 
downfall of Detroit. This may be why the city's cannabis dispensaries 
are generally located in lower-income, rundown parts of town: the 
places too politically weak to say no.

In 2006, the wharf successfully steered away a dispensary proposed by 
The Green Cross (which now does brisk business in the Excelsior).

The same opposition is out in force this time because, the merchants 
say, Fisherman's Wharf is supposed to be family-friendly. In-n-Out, 
the Rainforest Cafe, the Spy Shop - a marijuana retail outlet is an 
"awkward" fit among these kid-safe zones, says Troy Campbell, 
executive director of the wharf's Community Benefit District. Our 
tourists, he says, aren't marijuana users. (The weed you smell at the 
wharf? That comes from homeless people and gutter punks.)

It is true that adult fun is hard to find at Fisherman's Wharf: There 
are only a handful of bars and liquor stores, Campbell points out, 
and a troublesome nightclub a few blocks away was successfully shut 
down. (The shops selling t-shirts that promote marijuana use, for 
now, go unprotested.)

This conversation, of course, is happening before California is 
expected to entertain the question of legalized recreational 
marijuana. If the state legalizes, and there's a legal adult cannabis 
shop where millions of out-of-towners mill around, business will be 
beyond brisk.

This is also at least the third try for Connolly, Krinze's would-be 
CEO, to open up a dispensary. (Zoning defeated an effort in the 
Castro; an effort to rent in the Fifth and Mission Garage near 
downtown was felled by the landlord - the city's Municipal 
Transportation Agency.) He swears the out-of-towner market is not his 
focus, and that he just wants to give the 250,000 San Francisco 
residents who live in the northeast quadrant of town an alternative 
to going to dispensaries located in the Tenderloin, SoMa, or the Mission.

Whatever Connolly's motive, maneuvering into a future market that 
could measure in the millions is smart business. It is also unwelcome 
in San Francisco, where accepted weed tourism may remain a thing of 
the future even after it becomes legal.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom