Support your Neighborhood Cannabis Dispensaries
Originally published in The Bay City Beacon in August 2017.
As legalization of all kinds sweeps across states of all shades, most would be surprised to see the headlines coming out of our foggy City as of late. The intense calls for neighborhood caps and a citywide moratorium of cannabis dispensaries have overshadowed even the fiercest opposition in traditional land-use battles.
As a representative of the cannabis industry, I actually believe it’s in the City’s best interest to pause, reflect on the progress we’ve made and adjust where we needed. Clustering is definitely a problem; however, I would argue districts like the Sunset and Excelsior are premature in crying foul. Below are the existing 38 dispensaries, by district, in descending number of dispensaries:
District 6: 13 (13/27 in pipeline)
District 3: 10 (1/27 in pipeline)
District 9: 5 (3/27 in pipeline)
District 11: 3 (1/27 in pipeline)
Districts 5/8: 2 (0/27 in pipeline)
District 10: 1 (3/27 in pipeline)
District 7: 1 (1/27 in pipeline)
District 1: 1 (0/27 in pipeline)
District 4: 0 (4/27 in pipeline)
District 2: 0(1/27 in pipeline)
At a July Planning Commission hearing, hundreds of Sunset neighbors argued for almost seven hours on whether to approve the opening of The Apothecarium cannabis dispensary on Noriega Street. The business was ultimately successful in obtaining its permit (though appeals are pending) but the level of outrage sparked the City’s leaders into action. The Board of Supervisors quickly limited the number of dispensaries in the Excelsior district to the existing three and asked for a 45-day moratorium to be instituted upon return from the August recess.
Granted, District 6 and District 3 see the greatest amount of foot traffic, but it’s a little strange for the balance to be so lopsided. While delivery services fill in a lot of the gaps, it’s important for cannabis businesses to participate in their surrounding communities just like any other local enterprise. For example, the staff of District 10’s sole dispensary – Dutchman’s Flat – are part of the Dogpatch community, chatting with fellow business owners on the corner and grabbing lunch at Hard Knox three to four times a week.
Neighbors may be expecting a Haight-Ashbury hippie or a stereotypical stoner (and there will be some), but there will also be the UCSF medical patients who don’t have to trek downtown to find their relief. There will be the older residents who discover micro-dosing to relieve chronic pain or young professionals who find more peace at the end of a joint than at the bottom of the bottle.
My alcohol consumption has plummeted since moving to California and I highly recommend making the switch.
However, the neighbors don’t have to make all the adjustments. Cannabis businesses – particularly dispensaries that will drive traffic of all kinds to the neighborhood – must go out of their way to show they understand the communal commitment being made. For many of us, cannabis is as normal as the sun rising in the east and Karl the Fog obscuring it, but for just as many people, cannabis policy represents a national wound we have only begun to mend.
For many people, cannabis dispensaries represent a direct affront to the decisions they actively made for decades. As a nation, we supported policies and their politicians that pushed the plant out of sight and the communities we associated with them out of mind. As an industry, we need to heed the concerns of the communities we’re entering, so we can lead on the major issues of criminal justice reform, homelessness and health care down the line.
Our businesses will continue to see an exponential growth in revenue over the next several years. How we choose to nurture these relationships now will determine if and how the City’s industry will thrive.