Despite its liberal reputation, San Francisco struggles with the issue of medical marijuana. And, what some consider to be local politics is really a conflict of interests and understandings that appears to be nationwide.
Yet the idea of marijuana used as medicine goes on. Supporters of a medical marijuana dispensary on Taraval Street in San Francisco's Parkside District are disappointed that the initial permit approval by the Planning Commission in May of 2011 was later rescinded. This past November The Board of Appeals revoked the permit. Opposition to the idea by the local community has been steady. Supporters told this reporter, this past December that the recent crackdown by Federal authorities has prompted them to "step away" from the effort.
Paul Hansbury and others like Greg Schoepp who worked on the effort told this reporter that much of the opposition to a medical marijuana (or cannabis) dispensary (MCD) opening up on Taraval near 32nd Ave is due to preconceived or misconceived ideas. Hansbury believes the process got stalled and “delays seemed predetermined because of local political games,” he said.
Schoepp who owns Crown Hardware on Balboa declined to make any further comment in fear of reprimands. Federal authorities have reiterated a commitment to crackdowns.
While the effort has been thwarted, supporters like Hansbury and others say a medical marijuana dispensary is still needed for the western part of the City.
Many in the local community, especially along Taraval Street, disagree. This is why Supervisor Carmen Chu sees the establishing of an MCD on Taraval as problematic. "Even though the proposed site at 2139 Taraval met all the criteria, (including being more than a thousand feet from a school), Supervisor Chu respects the community's wishes," said Cammy Blackstone.
Blackstone is a legislative aid in Supervisor Chu's office at City Hall.
And, she mentioned by phone that the supervisor's office received over 4,000 letters and phone calls against the idea of an MCD on Taraval. Only 40 people contacted the supervisor’s office to support it.
Blackstone confirmed that complaints about the smell of smoke emitting from the site were reported, even when the site had not officially opened for business. Hansbury and others say that such complaints are "a lie" because, "there is no adjacent wall from which the smell of smoke can be detected," said Hansbury.
The compliance to current regulatory standards aside, the location is next door to a church and near a tutoring center. Taraval Street is a busy hub of commuter traffic and is the thoroughfare for two high schools (Lincoln High and St. Ignatius) and a popular public library branch. The influence of a MCD, some officials fear would only lead to more trouble in the neighborhood.
The City has struggled in its attempts to establish guidelines and enforcement, such as setting a moratorium, etc.
Since Proposition 215 passed by 56 percent of California Voters more than 10 years ago, the controversy regarding the medical use of cannabis has raged on. The conflict between local state law and Federal law continues. Most of the concern centers upon the prolific increase of MCD’s in residential areas. This concern is expressed in communities nationwide.
Supporters noted that security measures like the installation of surveillance cameras, etc. would be included for the proposed Taraval MCD. But residents and community leaders doubt this will deter potential crime.
Opponents question the extent of marijuana used for medical purposes, namely pain-management. Marijuana has been used to help those on chemotherapy treatments for cancer to alleviate nausea. Claims that marijuana helps relieve back pain, arthritis and other common pain conditions like fibromyaligia were noted.
Yet the validity of such claims is debated. Documentation is varied and inconclusive. Those in favor of a MCD on Taraval say that it would be operated like a pharmacy, not like a pot club. Yet here again is where guidelines, regulations and definitions get blurry.
A doctor's prescription would be required. But, what type of doctor? And in what form would the patient or recipient take the medicine? Marijuana can be administered in a variety of forms, not just by smoking. Opponents question the dosage and the duration of the prescription as with any drug. And, who will enforce and manage the cost of regulation?
Still, those in favor of a MCD on Taraval insist that people with ailments alleviated by cannabis find it unfair that they must travel a distance to reach one of the 22 MCD's in the City.
The Associated Press reported this past December that during the holiday season MCD's like the Apthecarium in the Castro District were taking advantage of the holiday season to boost sales by offering sale discounts to patrons who brought in donations for local food, coat and toy drives. Despite of Federal restrictions, use of marijuana is legal in 16 states. While Hansbury said he has “lost heart and should step away,” he and Schoepp hope those opposed will see the benefits reconsider.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com