••••• IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••••

Dog Days

Canines shape local interactions

 

 

They’re pampered, outfitted and pushed in strollers, no matter the situation. And in the Castro, the pervasiveness of these leashed creatures has given rise to a nuanced culture.

 

There is a wide variety of dog walkers in the Castro such as Olga Stromberg, who pushes her small Terrier-Chi she calls “my baby” in a stroller. Up close it’s quite a surprise to see her tiny dog resting on the covers.

 

“I got the idea to put my dog in a stroller after I had a knee replacement and needed help with my balance,” she explained. “I found a stroller made for dogs on sale at Best in Show with a handle bar that gives me stability. It was worth the $300 I paid.”

 

Sara Morrow, a recent transplant in her early 20s, agreed. “I was so depressed, I wasn’t meeting anyone. I felt so isolated until I got my big white dog from a shelter,” she said. “People are much friendlier when you have a dog. Now I know people in two parks.”

 

John Troxel told me he’d gotten all of his friends in the last 14 years from walking a dog.

 

“I’ve known her since she was a pup,” he said, squatting on the sidewalk petting a black lab. “She’s my friend’s but I often take her on walks.”

 

Most walkers have one or two dogs that fit well into San Francisco’s small to medium-size apartments and houses. One exception was a man with four dogs.

 

“They’re family,” Francisco Rosillo said, with his teenage son walking behind the dogs. “I live in a small space and my landlord doesn’t like dogs but I keep them anyway.”

 

Some dog walkers with physical limitations managed quite well like a woman in a stylish black and white blouse, a straw hat and a black cane walking a greyhound. A man who had previously suffered a stroke walked with difficulty as his dog trotted by his side.

 

Often you’ll see new mothers with a dog on a leash while walking a baby carriage. “We waited eight years between having a dog and a baby,” Jim Howe said. “It was a trial run.”

 

“Parents” meeting for the first time often ask each other what kind of dog the other has. Many choose a shelter dog. City Dog Rescue placed 800 dogs last year. Shelters all require interviews before adoptions. This is what happened to Karen Glaubinger, a retired teacher, who adopted a spunky, gray-hair, part-miniature poodle, Louie. For several months at lunchtime, she saw a walker with the cutest dog.

 

She fell in love with him and asked the SPCA on Fillmore if she could walk him. Eventually she and her partner, Jane Lawton, who lives in the East Bay, got an interview. They beat out six other contenders including families with kids. “We’re so happy with Louie even though we wanted a girl [dog],” Lawton added.

 

I met a couple of real dog walkers who get paid to walk big and small dogs. Michael, in his mid-30s, said, “Dogs like to be in a pack,” as five dogs led him up the Noe Street hill on a hot day. “It is a lot to manage.”

 

Another walker with three dogs said, “My neighbor asked if I’d mind walking his two dogs along with mine for a nominal fee. You have to be unrelentingly reliable!” he laughed. “The best part of this is I meet people from all over the world. San Francisco is like that.”

Photo: Sally Swope

 

••• ALSO IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••

 

 

City Gears Up for Pot Legalization

Potential at ballot box sparks commission

 

 

If California voters decide next fall to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by legalizing adult use cannabis, San Francisco plans on being ready.

 

This summer the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation to form a Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, which will be tasked with planning local policies if adult use cannabis becomes legal. District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said the taskforce will allow the city to prepare for legalization by making policy recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to ensure an effective local implementation.

 

“If cannabis is legalized in 2016, we want to be prepared to hit the ground running in terms of implementing that legalization locally in a very rational, thoughtful and calm way,” Wiener said. “If we don’t, then inertia will set in and it becomes a chaotic fire drill.”

 

The 22-member task force will spend the year grappling with the complex issues the city will be confronted with following a statewide legalization and will formulate a strategy to promptly act if a ballot measure passes. Its diverse membership will feature representatives from the cannabis industry, business community, hospitality and nightlife industry, neighborhood groups, organized labor and public health and drug policy experts.

 

The backdrop for the task force’s creation begins with Terrance Alan, an innovator in nightlife reform who led a political movement in the 90s to create the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. Alan became an inadvertent cannabis activist in 1992 after more than 150 SWAT, DEA, CHP and SFPD officers raided his home and threw him and his partner Randall to the ground with guns in their faces. He was arrested for growing marijuana for himself and Randall, who was dying of AIDS.

 

His arrest caught the attention of longtime marijuana activist Prop 215 author Dennis Peron, who used Randall’s clear medical use to pressure authorities to reduce charges. The medical cannabis movement got a poster child out of the case, and the longer vision of Dennis Peron began to unfold, leading to the passage of Prop 215 in 1996.

 

Driven by his intense personal experience, Alan has remained involved in the medical cannabis movement ever since. “I can’t ignore that first experience, which ate up a year and half of my life, where I didn’t know if I was going to jail or what was going to happen at a time when I was pretty beaten,” Alan said.

 

In 2014, Alan co-founded the California Cannabis Voice, a political action committee to support fair medical marijuana use legislation. If California legalizes adult use cannabis in 2016— early polling indicates that 55 percent of CA voters strongly support it—then Alan believes the City must reexamine its medical cannabis regulatory system.

 

Under the current licensing system, medical cannabis dispensary (MCD) locations are limited to “green zones” that require them to be at least 1,000 feet from a school and operated in a location zoned for retail use. It has allowed for 29 licensed MCDs in San Francisco thus far. There is no restriction on the number of permits the city can grant, so given the number of green zones, there could theoretically be up to 100. But it doesn’t work that way. Once you find a green zone, it is usually comprised of very few pieces of suitable property, maybe a block and a half at most. What if all those buildings are rented or the landlord doesn’t want to rent to a MCD, or if the rent is too high?

 

Once you start drilling down into each green zone, this seemingly large map of possible MCD locations shrinks drastically.

 

When asked how legalization could impact the Castro business dynamic, Alan said it all depends on whether or not the city wants to participate in a cannabis dispensary expansion. “If we are able to regulate it and nurture it so that it grows in a way that we are all comfortable with and minimize negativity, if that happens—and that’s the goal of the task force—then I think it will be a huge employer and monumental cash cow for the entire city,” Alan said.

 

This system of parsing out the city into green zones created a clustering problem, leading to an over-concentration of MCD’s in some neighborhoods.

 

“None of the MCD’s that has been proposed over the last 18 months has been approved,” Alan said. “When you’ve got legalized adult-use cannabis and a system that won’t even allow for another dispensary, and we have an economy that is based on tourism and a huge population of cannabis users already living here, how in the world are we going to serve a million tourists and a couple hundred thousand local residents out of 29 tiny dispensaries dotted around the city? They are going to expect to come to a city that is prepared for cannabis tourism, and I think it’s right to create a rational regulatory marketplace for them to fulfill their expectations.”

 

When Colorado became the first state to legalize adult use cannabis last year, they did not anticipate that it would produce a new stream of tourism, nor did they anticipate how many of their existing tourists would want to participate in the cannabis market as well. Their problem was the state legislature did not create a way for tourists to use cannabis products. Visitors can buy cannabis, but there is no legal place to smoke it except for in a private home. As a result edibles dominated the recreational marketplace, but nobody thought to regulate edibles, whose potency can be highly variable due to THC levels that often differ from what is promised on the label.

 

Last March Colorado released its first annual report on the status of its marijuana market one year after legalization. It revealed a significant divergence in the way recreational users consume cannabis compared to medical users. Of all the cannabis sold in the first year of legal sales, 75 percent of it was purchased by medical users compared to 25 percent for recreational users. Cannabis-infused edible products tell a different story: recreational users bought 60 percent of them compared to 40 percent for medical users.

 

Because of his experience as an innovator in nightlife reform, Alan believes he has a unique skill set that he can bring to the cannabis challenge. Even though the product is very different, he sees a lot of similarities between the pre-Entertainment Commission regulatory environment and the current medical cannabis regulatory environment. “The challenges are similar, and the lack of infrastructure is similar, and the public perception is similar,” Alan said.

 

Most mature industries have trade associations that represent them in City Hall, communicating their needs. Everything from hotels to restaurants to nightclubs - which did not until Alan helped create the Entertainment Commission – have trade associations. This has yet to happen in the world of medical cannabis, and a task force could help form some industry wide organization to get people together to approach issues as a unified group.

 

Drawing on experience from state legalization in Colorado, Alan went to the Board of Supervisors one by one presenting his concerns. He suggested the idea of a blue ribbon task force to help prepare the city for legalized adult use cannabis. He received support from Wiener, as well as from fellow Supervisors Eric Mar and Jane Kim, and they put together legislation to form the task force. He has spent the past few months drumming up interest in the task force and pledged to the board to do everything in his ability to give them qualified appointees from which to choose. Selection hearings should begin by the end of the month.

 

“The future is bright if we do it right,” he added, chuckling at his accidental rhyme. “Maybe that should be our slogan.”

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••••

 

Wiener eyes move from Supervisor to State Senator

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has chosen to run next year to succeed termed-out Mark Leno seat in the State Senate to represent the city. He spoke to The Castro Courier to discuss this decision.

 

Sywak: What will be different about this new role for you?

 

Wiener: If the voters send me to Sacramento, I intend to play a role similar to my role on the Board of Supervisors but on a larger scale, focusing on the long term sustainability of the city, the region and the state, and tackling the very difficult and thorny issues that we sometimes have a tendency to put off —issues like housing, transportation, water, education and healthcare access. These are the critical issues that are going to determine our community’s future, and we need to tackle them effectively and soon. They will be my focus.

 

Sywak: What about the environment in Sacramento that you would be stepping into?

 

Wiener: The political environment in Sacramento is very different than in San Francisco. For San Franciscans to succeed there, we need to pursue our progressive forward-looking agenda while being able to work collaboratively with more conservative Democrats and with Republicans. In San Francisco, we are almost all liberals, so, per human nature, we segment ourselves into degrees of liberalism. We don’t really have many conservatives here. Instead, you’re left or “lefter.”

 

For those of us who are left— but not extreme left enough for some—we are labeled as “moderates,” even though we would be considered extremely liberal anywhere else. My mother thinks it’s hysterical that some in San Francisco brand me as “moderate,” since I’m the guy who authored legislation to expand healthcare access for transgender people, who fights for funding for public transportation, and who authored groundbreaking water recycling legislation.

 

People who are regarded as “moderates” in San Francisco are considered the most liberal legislators in Sacramento. Mark Leno was considered a moderate when he was on the Board of Supervisors, as was David Chiu, but in Sacramento they are seen as the most liberal of legislators.

 

Sywak: In order to be effective in the larger mix of statewide legislators, to what extent might it be essential to compromise our distinctive Bay Area values?

 

Wiener: We represent San Francisco and the Bay Area. As such, it’s important to represent our city’s and our region’s progressive values, around fairness, housing affordability, transportation, access to health care and quality education, and a passion for protecting the environment - all of the things that define the Bay Area. It’s important to represent that perspective while also being able and willing to work with those who have different values.

 

Sywak: Speaking of Sacramento, how will your work be different there from here in the city?

 

Wiener: My work in Sacramento, should the voters honor me by sending me there, will be an extension of the work I’ve done here in San Francisco, with the ability to impact these issues in a broader way. I’ve always fought to improve investment in our public transportation systems - Muni, BART, Caltrain - and in Sacramento I’ll be able to advocate for the state to use its enormous funding powers to prioritize transit in the Bay Area and throughout the state.

 

The second Transbay tube and the downtown train extension for Caltrain and high-speed rail won’t happen without strong state-level support, and I intend to provide that leadership. I’ve always fought for affordable housing, and in Sacramento I’ll be able to work with Assemblyman Chiu and others to establish more state support for housing affordability. And, I’ll take my work around smart water policy, access to nutrition, services for seniors and at-risk youth, healthcare access, and public education to a much larger stage in terms of impacting policy here and throughout the state.

 

Sywak: As a result, will you have different priority areas on the larger stage in the state capitol?

 

Wiener: Transportation and housing are going to define the future of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and they will continue to be key focuses for me. I’ll also be able to take my work on healthcare, education, and nutrition access to a higher level, given the impact the state has in these areas.

 

Sywak: Looking back on your accomplishments as supervisor over the past five years, what really stands out, and what are you particularly proud of?

 

Wiener:

 

• I authored Prop B, which ties transit funding to population growth. It took a big fight to get that on the ballot, and we did so, and convinced the voters, which was a huge victory. I’m proud of what we did as a transit coalition to get Prop B passed.

 

• I authored three pieces of legislation to allow people to add new in-law units into existing buildings. In-law units are the most affordable type of non-subsidized housing, and I’m proud we were able to get this legislation passed.

 

• Every year since I’ve been on the Board of Supervisors, I’ve helped lead the charge to backfill in our local budget every penny of federal HIV budget cuts we’ve been hit with, and I helped convince Kaiser to abandon a drug pricing change that had severely escalated the cost of HIV drugs for residents.

 

• I authored groundbreaking legislation to require water recycling in new development and to create a bill of rights for LGBT seniors living in long-term care facilities.

 

• I championed the Castro Street sidewalk and streetscape project, obtained the funding for it, and shepherded it through the community process. When I took office, people laughed when I said we were going to make the Castro Street project a reality. We then got it done.

 

• I authored the legislation to purchase the site of the Noe Valley Farmers Market, thus saving this site from development. I also obtained significant funding to allow the site to be transformed into a permanent town square. That project will happen next year.

 

Sywak: How would you describe your relationship with Governor Brown?

 

Wiener: I have met Governor Brown and have great respect for him. What stands out for me are the Governor’s principled stances, that he is tough as nails, and that he has the best interest of the state in mind at all times, pushing solutions to critically important issues like water and transportation. I respect that. He’s moving things forward, even if at times I may disagree with him.

 

Sywak: What about your relationship with the business community?

 

Wiener: It is always important to have a collaborative relationship with the business community. After all, our businesses, large and small, create jobs and pay a lot of taxes to fund city services. In addition, I maintain a very close relationship with organized labor and support many initiatives to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for employees.

 

Q - How do you feel about your anticipated competitors for Mark Leno’s seat?

 

A - I’m focused on my own work in the community and talking to voters about my track record and my vision for the future. I learned long ago that I can only control what I do, not what others do. I’m confident I’ll have a strong opponent and that we will have a robust and spirited debate about the future of our city, region, and state.

 

Sywak: Do you feel you represent the gay community?

 

Wiener: As a gay man who’s worked to advance the LGBT community for a quarter century, the LGBT community will always be a key priority for me. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I’ve done enormous work to support our LGBT residents, including authoring legislation to support LGBT seniors, obtaining funding for housing and other services for LGBT youth, fighting to protect and expand HIV care and prevention services, participating in the Getting to Zero Coalition in formulating a plan to end HIV infections in San Francisco, and much more. In Sacramento, I’ll continue to fight every day for our community.

 

San Francisco is a city of very engaged voters, and the LGBT community is no exception. People here don’t reflexively vote for you because you are of a certain sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender. They look at each candidate individually and judge you on your work and vision. So, I don’t take my support in the LGBT community for granted. I will need to work hard to communicate to all voters what I’ve done and what I intend to do to support our community.

 

Photo: Jeff Creton

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••

 

 

Magnet Moves, Hires New Organizer

 

 

Steve Gibson is the founder and director of Magnet, a Castro resource for health and community services. In addition to free HIV/STD testing, Magnet hosts a variety of arts related events each month, curated and facilitated by their community organizer. This September, Magnet welcomes a new community organizer, Baruch Porras-Hernandez.

 

Wendy:

 

The number one piece of news is that Magnet is moving to a larger space on Castro Street.

 

Steve:

 

We’ll be moving to a new location at 470 Castro Street, pretty much just around the corner from Magnet. You’ll remember it as Superstar Video, and going back a few years before that it was the site of Eureka Valley Market, and Rent Tech. We’re moving into that building later this fall, along with some of the other [San Francisco AIDS] Foundation programs. In addition to Magnet, it’s part of the Stonewall Project, as well as a program called Bridgemen, another program called Positive Force, another one called DREAAM, as well as a group called 50+ Network. We’re in desperate need of more space!

 

Wendy:

 

What sorts of events do have coming up at Magnet in September?

 

Steve:

 

We have a lot going on at Magnet in September. Normally we have our art openings the first Friday of the month but in appreciation [of] Leather Week the September artist, named Jok Church, has asked that we host his reception as a closing reception, so his reception will be Friday, September 25th, from 8 - 10PM.

 

Wendy:

 

When does his work actually go into your gallery?

 

Steve:

 

It’ll be up September 1st through September 30th.

 

Wendy:

 

What other events will happen at Magnet this month?

 

Steve:

 

We have Smack Dab, which is our monthly open mic on Wednesday, September 16th. We’re hosting an event the night before as well; on Tuesday, September 15th, called Queering the Castro. That’s gonna be a series of spoken word events that are gonna be held at Magnet for three months.

 

Wendy:

 

Wonderful. So that’s the beginning of the series, which will be a monthly series?

 

Steve:

 

Yeah. It’s gonna be September, October, and November. Then the book club will be meeting on Tuesday, September 29th.

 

Every month the book club members choose the book that they wanna read and the book that they just chose is called “On the Move: A Life” by Oliver Sacks. Many of us did not know that he was gay. One of the things - I love the book club in general, but it’s also a club linked with Books Inc., so Books. Inc will be selling the book and people can get it at a discount.

 

Wendy:

 

It’s great that you have so many community partnerships. Will you be involved with the Folsom Street Fair festivities this year?

 

Steve:

 

Not at the street fair itself. As you know, Magnet does HIV and STD testing and we work with a bunch of other partners in the city who do testing, many of whom who do tests at the Folsom Street Fair, so we don’t test at the events where our collaborating partners are gonna test.

 

Wendy:

 

I remember that in years past you’ve done some work at Folsom.

 

Steve:

 

We’ve done different things; last year we had a new campaign that we launched around Folsom Street Fair, so we were in a booth, but this year we’re just gonna be busy the week before and the week after.

 

Wendy:

 

Because obviously Folsom is, to a very large degree, about sexual expression and of course Magnet very much fosters that too.

 

Steve:

 

Indeed. We’ve been busy this week; lots of people have been coming in this week getting ready for Burning Man. We’ve got a group of people coming into Magnet a week or two before to make sure they’re not bringing anything with them to Burning Man, and then a group of people will come back to Magnet after Burning Man to make sure they didn’t bring anything back with them.

 

Wendy:

 

What goes to La Playa stays at La Playa.

 

Steve:

 

Exactly! (laughter)

 

Wendy:

 

I noticed on your website that you have positions open for all of your volunteers opportunities right now.

 

Steve:

 

Correct. We rely very heavily on volunteers; we really couldn’t do all the work that we do, in terms of [not only] the events, but also the number of clients we see. People go to the website which is www.magnetsf.org; they then have to click on Why We Click, and then there’s a link for volunteering. [Steve has kindly provided us with the direct link which is http://www.magnetsf.org/about/volunteer.html]

 

Wendy:

 

It’s wonderful that you’re there for the community, and being on Castro Street will make you more visible to people who might not be from the area; of course everyone in the Castro already knows about you.

 

Steve:

 

We’re in this weird situation where we rarely advertise our services because we’re so busy. So many people already know about us and frequently we’ll book up in the first hour after we open our doors.

 

Wendy:

 

Of course, aside from appointments, you have a lot of other offerings at Magnet. It’s a good community spot overall.

 

Steve:

 

Yeah. We do acupuncture and chair massage and people come in and hang out for some time. We’re taking all of that, all that which makes Magnet Magnet and moving it into a new space.

 

Wendy:

 

What brought you to Magnet?

 

Steve:

 

I’m the director and founder here at Magnet. We opened more than twelve years ago, July 9, 2003. We became a program of San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 2007. Our mission was and continues to be to promote the health and well-being of gay men. The idea for Magnet came at a time when the gay community was reimagining what it meant to be healthy after the plague years when so many men died. We have better treatments for people living with HIV and better prevention options. We held and continue to believe that gay men, when provided accurate information can make informed decisions to take care of their health, as well the health of the gay community.

 

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

••••• IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••••

Dog Days

Canines shape local interactions

 

 

They’re pampered, outfitted and pushed in strollers, no matter the situation. And in the Castro, the pervasiveness of these leashed creatures has given rise to a nuanced culture.

 

There is a wide variety of dog walkers in the Castro such as Olga Stromberg, who pushes her small Terrier-Chi she calls “my baby” in a stroller. Up close it’s quite a surprise to see her tiny dog resting on the covers.

 

“I got the idea to put my dog in a stroller after I had a knee replacement and needed help with my balance,” she explained. “I found a stroller made for dogs on sale at Best in Show with a handle bar that gives me stability. It was worth the $300 I paid.”

 

Sara Morrow, a recent transplant in her early 20s, agreed. “I was so depressed, I wasn’t meeting anyone. I felt so isolated until I got my big white dog from a shelter,” she said. “People are much friendlier when you have a dog. Now I know people in two parks.”

 

John Troxel told me he’d gotten all of his friends in the last 14 years from walking a dog.

 

“I’ve known her since she was a pup,” he said, squatting on the sidewalk petting a black lab. “She’s my friend’s but I often take her on walks.”

 

Most walkers have one or two dogs that fit well into San Francisco’s small to medium-size apartments and houses. One exception was a man with four dogs.

 

“They’re family,” Francisco Rosillo said, with his teenage son walking behind the dogs. “I live in a small space and my landlord doesn’t like dogs but I keep them anyway.”

 

Some dog walkers with physical limitations managed quite well like a woman in a stylish black and white blouse, a straw hat and a black cane walking a greyhound. A man who had previously suffered a stroke walked with difficulty as his dog trotted by his side.

 

Often you’ll see new mothers with a dog on a leash while walking a baby carriage. “We waited eight years between having a dog and a baby,” Jim Howe said. “It was a trial run.”

 

“Parents” meeting for the first time often ask each other what kind of dog the other has. Many choose a shelter dog. City Dog Rescue placed 800 dogs last year. Shelters all require interviews before adoptions. This is what happened to Karen Glaubinger, a retired teacher, who adopted a spunky, gray-hair, part-miniature poodle, Louie. For several months at lunchtime, she saw a walker with the cutest dog.

 

She fell in love with him and asked the SPCA on Fillmore if she could walk him. Eventually she and her partner, Jane Lawton, who lives in the East Bay, got an interview. They beat out six other contenders including families with kids. “We’re so happy with Louie even though we wanted a girl [dog],” Lawton added.

 

I met a couple of real dog walkers who get paid to walk big and small dogs. Michael, in his mid-30s, said, “Dogs like to be in a pack,” as five dogs led him up the Noe Street hill on a hot day. “It is a lot to manage.”

 

Another walker with three dogs said, “My neighbor asked if I’d mind walking his two dogs along with mine for a nominal fee. You have to be unrelentingly reliable!” he laughed. “The best part of this is I meet people from all over the world. San Francisco is like that.”

Photo: Sally Swope

 

••• ALSO IN THE SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE •••

 

 

City Gears Up for Pot Legalization

Potential at ballot box sparks commission

 

 

If California voters decide next fall to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by legalizing adult use cannabis, San Francisco plans on being ready.

 

This summer the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation to form a Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, which will be tasked with planning local policies if adult use cannabis becomes legal. District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said the taskforce will allow the city to prepare for legalization by making policy recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to ensure an effective local implementation.

 

“If cannabis is legalized in 2016, we want to be prepared to hit the ground running in terms of implementing that legalization locally in a very rational, thoughtful and calm way,” Wiener said. “If we don’t, then inertia will set in and it becomes a chaotic fire drill.”

 

The 22-member task force will spend the year grappling with the complex issues the city will be confronted with following a statewide legalization and will formulate a strategy to promptly act if a ballot measure passes. Its diverse membership will feature representatives from the cannabis industry, business community, hospitality and nightlife industry, neighborhood groups, organized labor and public health and drug policy experts.

 

The backdrop for the task force’s creation begins with Terrance Alan, an innovator in nightlife reform who led a political movement in the 90s to create the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. Alan became an inadvertent cannabis activist in 1992 after more than 150 SWAT, DEA, CHP and SFPD officers raided his home and threw him and his partner Randall to the ground with guns in their faces. He was arrested for growing marijuana for himself and Randall, who was dying of AIDS.

 

His arrest caught the attention of longtime marijuana activist Prop 215 author Dennis Peron, who used Randall’s clear medical use to pressure authorities to reduce charges. The medical cannabis movement got a poster child out of the case, and the longer vision of Dennis Peron began to unfold, leading to the passage of Prop 215 in 1996.

 

Driven by his intense personal experience, Alan has remained involved in the medical cannabis movement ever since. “I can’t ignore that first experience, which ate up a year and half of my life, where I didn’t know if I was going to jail or what was going to happen at a time when I was pretty beaten,” Alan said.

 

In 2014, Alan co-founded the California Cannabis Voice, a political action committee to support fair medical marijuana use legislation. If California legalizes adult use cannabis in 2016— early polling indicates that 55 percent of CA voters strongly support it—then Alan believes the City must reexamine its medical cannabis regulatory system.

 

Under the current licensing system, medical cannabis dispensary (MCD) locations are limited to “green zones” that require them to be at least 1,000 feet from a school and operated in a location zoned for retail use. It has allowed for 29 licensed MCDs in San Francisco thus far. There is no restriction on the number of permits the city can grant, so given the number of green zones, there could theoretically be up to 100. But it doesn’t work that way. Once you find a green zone, it is usually comprised of very few pieces of suitable property, maybe a block and a half at most. What if all those buildings are rented or the landlord doesn’t want to rent to a MCD, or if the rent is too high?

 

Once you start drilling down into each green zone, this seemingly large map of possible MCD locations shrinks drastically.

 

When asked how legalization could impact the Castro business dynamic, Alan said it all depends on whether or not the city wants to participate in a cannabis dispensary expansion. “If we are able to regulate it and nurture it so that it grows in a way that we are all comfortable with and minimize negativity, if that happens—and that’s the goal of the task force—then I think it will be a huge employer and monumental cash cow for the entire city,” Alan said.

 

This system of parsing out the city into green zones created a clustering problem, leading to an over-concentration of MCD’s in some neighborhoods.

 

“None of the MCD’s that has been proposed over the last 18 months has been approved,” Alan said. “When you’ve got legalized adult-use cannabis and a system that won’t even allow for another dispensary, and we have an economy that is based on tourism and a huge population of cannabis users already living here, how in the world are we going to serve a million tourists and a couple hundred thousand local residents out of 29 tiny dispensaries dotted around the city? They are going to expect to come to a city that is prepared for cannabis tourism, and I think it’s right to create a rational regulatory marketplace for them to fulfill their expectations.”

 

When Colorado became the first state to legalize adult use cannabis last year, they did not anticipate that it would produce a new stream of tourism, nor did they anticipate how many of their existing tourists would want to participate in the cannabis market as well. Their problem was the state legislature did not create a way for tourists to use cannabis products. Visitors can buy cannabis, but there is no legal place to smoke it except for in a private home. As a result edibles dominated the recreational marketplace, but nobody thought to regulate edibles, whose potency can be highly variable due to THC levels that often differ from what is promised on the label.

 

Last March Colorado released its first annual report on the status of its marijuana market one year after legalization. It revealed a significant divergence in the way recreational users consume cannabis compared to medical users. Of all the cannabis sold in the first year of legal sales, 75 percent of it was purchased by medical users compared to 25 percent for recreational users. Cannabis-infused edible products tell a different story: recreational users bought 60 percent of them compared to 40 percent for medical users.

 

Because of his experience as an innovator in nightlife reform, Alan believes he has a unique skill set that he can bring to the cannabis challenge. Even though the product is very different, he sees a lot of similarities between the pre-Entertainment Commission regulatory environment and the current medical cannabis regulatory environment. “The challenges are similar, and the lack of infrastructure is similar, and the public perception is similar,” Alan said.

 

Most mature industries have trade associations that represent them in City Hall, communicating their needs. Everything from hotels to restaurants to nightclubs - which did not until Alan helped create the Entertainment Commission – have trade associations. This has yet to happen in the world of medical cannabis, and a task force could help form some industry wide organization to get people together to approach issues as a unified group.

 

Drawing on experience from state legalization in Colorado, Alan went to the Board of Supervisors one by one presenting his concerns. He suggested the idea of a blue ribbon task force to help prepare the city for legalized adult use cannabis. He received support from Wiener, as well as from fellow Supervisors Eric Mar and Jane Kim, and they put together legislation to form the task force. He has spent the past few months drumming up interest in the task force and pledged to the board to do everything in his ability to give them qualified appointees from which to choose. Selection hearings should begin by the end of the month.

 

“The future is bright if we do it right,” he added, chuckling at his accidental rhyme. “Maybe that should be our slogan.”

 

 

Potential at ballot box sparks commission

© Castro Courier 2014