I am such a poorly designed athlete, albeit, an natural one, that when playing any competitive, ambitious under taking of a game like darts or ping-pong, at the outset when the score is neutral, I have a habit of remarking to my opponent, “Score’s 0-0, I’m winning.” I do that for two reasons; one, to get into my adversary’s head just like Reggie Miller did, and second, it may the only time in the contest that I may actually be winning.
That’s what it feels like now, still no victory and yet, not defeated either. Let me explain...
I spent almost the whole night at City Hall yesterday for the hearing by the SF Planning Commission for a Medical Cannabis Dispensary to be allowed to open at 32nd and Taraval.
For those unfamiliar with the San Francisco landscape, going west towards the Pacific, the City is divided North and South by Golden Gate Park. On the south side is what is called the Avenues and on the north side of the park is the Richmond, not to be confused with the City of Richmond across the Bay Bridge to the east. The Avenues and the Richmond is much more of residential area than most of the city. It used to be home of the Irish working class, the other Italian contingency outside of North Beach, and consists of a very large Asian population. If Frissy was Boston, these areas would be the Southside and maybe Dorchester, because of the diverse make-up of people.
To begin with, it was going to be a hard sell to get the neighborhood to agree to have a dispensary in this area.
Here’s the dealio, I left at 1:30 am last night, and there was still no verdict. I do not know the outcome as I write this and the EFFING Chronicle hasn’t stated whether it was approved or not. In a way I can’t blame the media, the commission hearing was so incredibly boring, I don’t know how anyone could have stuck it out.
This is what I think...
Right now all the polls are showing that California voters are split right down the middle on the issue of legalization that will be voted on this November. I see the Taraval Dispensary as a referendum on the vote, in a way.
As I’ve stated many times before, As San Francisco goes, so does the nation. We are the wellspring for the movement, no matter how much the greed and avarice of LA tries to bring us down. At the proceedings last night I saw our future, or should I say the lack of it.
I knew about this hearing for the approval or not of a Pot Shop being allowed in the Avenues for a while. A lot of good people have been working getting a dispensary opened in the Avenues. Yesterday in the EFFING Chronicle they posted a notice of the time and place of the hearing in the paper. They said the hearing starts and 5:30pm and in the comment section, all activists were asked to attend. I went as a sneaky journalist.
What they didn’t tell you was... the hearing for the MCD was like fifty-third on the commission’s docket. The hearing for the Dispensary didn’t start until around 10:45 pm.
During this time the noise from the halls was interrupting the proceedings and the sheriffs who were there to keep control, had to shout at both parties in the hall, the pro and cons, to shut up. There were so many people arriving for both camps, that over-full rooms were set-up with monitors to accommodate the public’s need. It was surreal to be there so late and have these groups eyeing each other suspiciously. I take that back. One group was going out and getting stoned and really didn’t take the other group as serious as they might have.
One incredibly funny note, the general public is allowed to comment on the issue before the Commission that they are reviewing at that moment. I can’t tell you how many times Joey Buzzhead came in and walked to the podium with the words coming out of his mouth, “Dudes, the reason we need a Medical Marijuana Club in...” Before one of the commissioners would stop Joey and tell him, “Easy Tiger, save it, not yet...”
It had to have happen like five times.
The group against the MCD on Taraval was predominately Asian; I’d say almost 90%. The district’s supervisor came in and spoke, against it, manifesting the will of her voters. That was a bad sign. I did think one of the advantages the pro MCD side had was, the lateness of the evening. I figured when it was time for the general public to speak, it would be too late for the Taraval gang, consistency mostly of white color and working-class people in their forties, fifties and older. The pro side was skaters, stoners, patients who visible needed medication, but a hearty group, never the less. Boy was I wrong.
Tonight the proceedings are being replayed on Comcast cable channel 26. If you’re not being water-boarded and you want something fun to do, watch this. Trust me, after ten minutes, you’ll cry out for more aqua.
Watch the hearing and after a certain time, the only people speaking at the podium provided are the naysayers against the opening of a Cannabis Club in their neighborhood. The pro MCD must have gone home or passed out.
And truthfully so did I. After a certain point, I realized I could be home on the couch with a nice Hybrid waiting out the verdict while watching the proceedings on Government TV. Rolled a Raw one with the shorty crutch and dug in with the tube. I planned to stay up till the bitter for the verdict so I could report it in the morning like a good blogger. Didn’t happen. I woke up at around two or three in the morning with the TV watching me playing a nice jazzy soundtrack and a clearly mark sign on the tube, ‘Go to sleep, the Government did.’
So I don’t know the verdict yet.
But this is what I saw. I saw the Fifties versus the ‘10’s, whatever NOW is.
Those against having a MCD opening in their neighborhood brought out every Hallmark Card issue and made the proceedings into a Lifetime cable special. Speaker after speaker pleaded with the Board, “What about are children? If you allow this to open in our neighborhood, you’re sentencing our children to become drug addicts.” One woman at around 1am had her nine year old son read a prepared statement that she wrote for him. She prompted him with each word and sentence. One could look at it as a concern mother who is scared or the amount of old–time family-values control these kids grow up with. Listen, my mother wanted me to be a doctor and look what I’m doing. You can understand her concern.
It’s not going to be easy for this to pass for approval. There are two tutorial centers within a thousand feet of the proposed dispensary. California law does not allow a dispensary to be within a thousand feet of a school. The locals are claiming the tutorial center is like a school with the amount of young kids attending.
Then there was the crime aspect. Ohmigod, it sounded just like the Mafia was moving in. The locals bemoaned they didn’t have the funds for extra police. Then there was the worry that the patients would buy a bag and then turn around and sell said product in the doorways of Taraval Street. Locals stood at the podium, clutching the thin microphone with shaking hands, crying and shouting about the anguish of the impending downfall of their neighborhood. They banged their breast with the pain of knowing that Marijuana is a gateway drug that will seduce their children right from under their grasp.
After a certain point, the pro MCD side was gone. There was an interpreter provided for Cantonese and Mandarin translation. I started to get loopy after one:fifteen. I knew if the person requested an interpreter, they were against the dispensary going into their neighborhood. So I started to make my own translation.
“After a hard day of pressing clothes in very hot shop, I like nothing better than after helping the kids with their trigonometry, Latin studies, and their personal hobby of mapping out the unknown parts of our Galaxy,is to sit on the couch and roll up a big fatty and switch between Adult Swim and HGTV.” Of course at the point I was just dreaming.
Then what the other side didn’t get, the pro pot side, was the neighborhood didn’t care about the medicinal effects of Marijuana or whether it should be legal. The other side didn’t care about the pain that some of the patients spoke about concerning their debilitating diseases and the wonder treatment they’ve found. The issue wasn’t WEED. It was the location where the WEED was going to be sold.
And here’s the rub. The fly in the oatmeal. Those who are against MCD opening in their neighborhoods give very emotional pleas that resonate with other families. There were very few if any last night that said Marijuana was bad. They had their fears and prejudices, but mostly, they didn’t want it in their backyard. There other big complaint was that there are twenty-six other places to get WEED from and two in the City delivers. The opposition felt if a person wanted WEED, they could get it from some other source.
Understand to a straight, getting WEED delivered seems like the Jetsons or something. That a futuristic service exists that the locals are having troubles getting their collective heads around. As in, “what more do you need babies! You can get it delivered to your front door?”
The patients’ rebuttal; “We want our own pharmacy out in the Avenues. The next closest MCD is two miles away. In a wheelchair, that can take up to two hours.” Another gentleman wanted the independence of getting his own stuff instead of sending a care-giver who has their own life and sometimes can’t be counted on. There were elderly men and woman, people who you couldn’t imagine knowing what WEED is, let alone ingesting it who spoke eloquently about their diseases and the cure they found with WEED. Didn’t matter. The issue wasn’t WEED. But where it can be sold.
Finally, and I was waiting for this, a guy brought up the fact with the neighborhood citing the possible surge in crime and the way the streets are going to be paved with shake of all those leaving the stores with Santa bags of WEED, what about the liquor stores and bars within one thousand feet of the proposed club. What about that? Did the bars serving booze bring crime to the neighborhood? The liquor stores have bars on their windows for protection. Does that mean that they are expecting trouble?
The commission was so beat and tired at this point, I don’t know what they heard or not. It is my feeling they’re mind was made up after the supervisor spoke right at the beginning of the night. I think the die was cast.
In a way, I hope the dispensary isn’t approved. I think it was a bad location and that is it. I don’t know. It’s a matter of consciousness. In the future, when it becomes legal and the microscope isn’t burning down on every move the Pro-Marijuana activist do, when money can change hands more freely, we’ll see dispensaries in the strip malls and next to the pet stores and ice-cream shops. Once you’re used to seeing it, it’s not that hard to see them everywhere.
In a complete sidebar: On the docket before the hearing of the proposed dispensary was a hearing for the gentrification of 5th and Market Street. The proceeding for this went on for like four hours or more. The team that wanted to build the new 475 occupancy dwellings has been working on the project for three years. And this is before any shovel has hit the ground. This is all about getting the permits and okays from the Planning Commission. While it all seemed like a good thing, it would disrupt that area that has been traditionally home to a large Filipino population. Many passionate people spoke out about their neighborhood and the change this monster structure would bring. Occupying city blocks, changing the whole configuration of the downtown area, even though many agreed it would be for the better, it would still be change. And once that happens, you lose the old ways.
The project passed unanimously.
I saw the dejected looks on the mothers with little children attending hearing. Elderly Filipino men in worn Navy baseball caps depicting the battleships they served on sat quietly with the news that the area of 5th street would be demolished along with some of their clubs and old haunts.
The architects, project managers and a bevy of assistants and associates sprung up there their chairs making their exit like an over-time game bell had rung. Exhausted by three years of planning but invigorated with the big win.
I knew right there that’s what both sides of change looks like.
There’s more to say what the Legalization side needs to do, like first thing, organize a PAC. That right there is going to be interesting. If last night was any indication what the Legalization side is up against, it’s going to be the same old story.
You got to win the hearts and minds of the people. For the people who live around 32nd and Taraval, the influx of revenue and capitol to the area wasn’t going to be good enough.
Money sometimes won’t be enough. You’ve got to organize. IF a dispensary can’t open in San Francisco, it can’t open anywhere.