By Paul Kozakiewicz
After listening to the concerns of Outer Sunset District residents and merchants for
five-and-a-half hours, the SF Planning Commission voted 5-1 to allow the district’s first-
ever medical cannabis dispensary (MCD).
The July 13 hearing was supposed to start about 2 p.m., but did not get going until about
6 p.m., and ended late in the night. Many of the attendees were at City Hall for five hours
or longer waiting to give a two-minute testimony.
Members of the Sunset’s Asian community dominated the hearing, with many
Chinese speakers, who gave impassioned pleas to reject the MCD.
The Apothecarium cannabis dispensary, which is partly owned by former Oakland
Mayor Jean Quan and her husband, Dr. Floyd Huen, will be located at 2505 Noriega St.,
in a dense commercial area. Huen attended a meeting in the Sunset in February and was
greeted by an angry group of local residents.
“I was shouted down and not allowed to speak,” Huen said.
Opponents of the marijuana dispensary said its location was too close to children, and
could have a deleterious effect on their well-being. There were also concerns about
increased traffic in the commercial corridor, secondhand smoke from people near
the dispensary and the possibility of increased crime, including robberies.
There were representatives from more than a dozen different neighborhood
organizations, including the Noriega Street Merchants Association, who came out to
testify against the MCD. Many of the people testifying were concerned about the children
at the Arc of Hope Preschool, which is located within 1,000 feet of the MCD. But
guidelines restricting MCDs next to schools govern kindergarten through 12th grades,
with preschools being exempt.
Proponents countered that MCDs are legal in the state, and that Sunset residents
should have easy access to marijuana for the drug’s perceived medical benefits.
They said safety threats, including those to children, were unfounded because
other MCDs in the City have not had those types of problems. One speaker, former SF
Board of Education member Jill Wynns, spoke in favor of the MCD and said fears about
children were unwarranted.
According to Apothecarium cofounder Ryan Hudson, there are already
thousands of medical marijuana users getting the drug delivered to them in the
At the end of the hearing, members of the Planning Commission asked for clarification
concerning the upcoming Jan. 1, 2018 legalization of marijuana for recreational
purposes and whether or not their approval of MCD permits will allow the
MCDs to sell recreational marijuana at that time.
The response was that the City is currently putting a new marijuana department
together and that it would create a policy for recreational marijuana later
this year. No one knows if MCDs would automatically get permission to sell recreational
marijuana, or if the Planning Commission or other city agencies would need to sign off
on a case-by-case basis.
Despite the uncertainty of what their vote means in the long term, the commissioners
voted to allow the MCD on Noriega Street. A couple of the commissioners supported their
decision by saying MCDs were disproportionately located on the east side of town and
that the west side had to do more to carry the burden.
After the vote, local residents who remained to the end of the hearing booed
the commissioners’ decision.