In a sign of medical marijuana's growing acceptance, the Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to solicit advice on the issue from a new task force.
The new environment was on display at Hope Net, a cannabis dispensary in San Francisco's Civic Center neighborhood.
There, precisely at noon, a black iron security door flung open. A steady stream of men filed past the trays of glass smoking pipes, and headed toward a back room. Before a glass counter they browsed plastic bins of pungent marijuana buds, cookies and brownies. A sign on the wall advertises a raffle.
Scenes like this, once relegated to the shadows of gritty San Francisco life, now happen in the open. And Hope Net owner Catherine Smith has city supervisors' numbers in her cell phone. In fact, she advises them on municipal medical marijuana issues.
“I think it’s a big step forward for us being able to participate in city government,” Smith said as she watched the line of customers.
Today's committee vote approved a plan to create a Marijuana Task Force to advise the city on cannabis-related issues. The full board must now approve the plan
The move comes as medical marijuana undergoes its biggest evolution toward public acceptance. The Obama Administration recently signaled it would no longer crack down on legitimate medical dispensaries. Next week California’s legislature will hold hearings on a proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Supervisor David Campos, who occupies Ammiano’s former seat on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, said the sticky issue could benefit from sage advise from the medical cannabis community itself.
“Irrespective of what we think about these issues, it makes sense to create an advisory group with people who are experts in the area, to provide some policy guidance to the board," said Campos.
Campos said dispensary operators, advocates and cultivators will sit on the task force, and will be appointed by the supervisors.
Among the issues the task force will immediately confront, is an increase in police crackdowns on marijuana growing operations in the city’s Sunset District. Police say growers in residential neighborhoods have modified houses with elaborate and dangerous heating systems to grow hundreds of plants.
Longtime marijuana advocate Michelle Aldrich says it’s an issue perfectly suited for the task force’s new agenda.
“We can work through it and get guidelines of what people can grow in their houses and what they can’t,” she said.
Shona Gochenaur of the Axis of Love patient cooperative said her group will offer advice on cultivation and how to regulate the variety of marijuana-related items.
“We are the experts,” Gochenaur said. “We live, breathe, have risked arrest and we know what’s going to work for our patients.”