Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Supervisors fall for a sham


Pacific Justice Institute supporters line up outside the Board of Supervisors hearing Tuesday. Photo: Sari Staver
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It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Apothecarium, a highly respected medical cannabis dispensary, had been working for three years on opening a facility in the Sunset. Its studies had shown 3,900 of its patients live in the area, yet have to travel to other parts of town to safely obtain their medicine. Medical marijuana has been legal in California for 20 years. The Apothecarium offers top quality products and has been an excellent merchant and neighbor in the Castro and the Marina.

But thanks to a myopic view of nine members who were duped by a misinformation campaign led by the right-wing Pacific Justice Institute, the Board of Supervisors caved in on Tuesday, voting 9-2 to withdraw the Apothecarium's permit. The supervisors fell hook, line, and sinker for the lies around medical cannabis use. They bought into PJI's unfounded predictions of a crime wave overtaking the neighborhood and an accompanying decrease in property values. Shameful doesn't even begin to describe the complete abandonment by the so-called progressive wing of the board, which believed false hysterical claims by a right-wing activist hate group over rational studies and the empirical experience of an acclaimed medical marijuana dispensary that wanted to better serve its patients. Even as several board members condemned PJI, they still voted with an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-gay hate group.

"It was absolutely surreal to watch colleague after colleague criticize Pacific Justice and then vote in their favor," gay Supervisor Jeff Sheehy told us Wednesday. "PJI is a hate group. Validating them is validating hate and it's just wrong."

Sheehy's correct – and he should know. As the board's only openly HIV-positive supervisor, Sheehy has been open about his own use of medicinal cannabis, and about fighting stigma associated with both pot use and HIV. Those board members that voted against the Apothecarium – Sandra Lee Fewer, Mark Farrell, Aaron Peskin, Katy Tang, London Breed, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Hillary Ronen, and Ahsha Safai – only continued the stigma and certainly earned no profiles in courage for being hoodwinked by PJI. Tang, in whose district the dispensary would have been located, particularly draws our ire because she has tried to have it both ways for months. In March we editorialized that she not fall into the trap set by PJI, an outside group that whips up local hangers-on into a frenzy, allowing fantastical claims to overwhelm the facts. Yet that's exactly what happened.

That this dispensary would have been owned and operated by Asian-Americans, in a largely Asian-American neighborhood, was also lost on the nine supervisors, even as Sheehy is focused on equity efforts in his recreational marijuana legislation that the board will soon take up. Dr. Floyd Huen and his wife, former Oakland mayor Jean Quan, would have been able to culturally connect with clients; Huen has prescribed cannabis to his patients for decades.

Sheehy and Supervisor Malia Cohen withstood the lies spread by PJI. It's absolutely reprehensible that the other board members capitulated to an organization that relentlessly targets LGBTs. In a progressive city like San Francisco, Tuesday's decision was a shock and revealed the progressives on the board as politicians who fell for a sham.

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