Blowing Smoke

As is S.F.'s wont, everyone is hurling daggers at the right-wing storm troopers.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who last week came first to the defense of the CBC, apparently kept blissfully ignorant that a precious resource only blocks from City Hall was being so wantonly abused. A "petty, vindictive, pseudo war on drugs," Ammiano opined.

"I am dismayed by the Gestapo tactics displayed by Attorney General Dan Lungren," an eventually outraged Mayor Willie Brown said Aug. 6.

The same day, Sheriff Michael Hennessey told the Attorney General's Office he would not abide by its request that he enforce a temporary restraining order imposed on the CBC Aug. 5.

(At least one goat's been scaped so far: S.F.'s top narcotics cop, Greg Corrales, was reassigned at the end of last week.)

For his part, Hallinan questions the sufficiency of the investigative work leading up to the raid. "It's like a defense attorney's dream come true," says Hallinan, suggesting the undercover work was legally shoddy and therefore can't be used to prosecute Peron on criminal charges.

Mind you, Lungren has yet to charge anyone with a crime. He filed a discreet civil "nuisance" complaint under a state law passed to allow localities to close crack houses. He must be tempted to go further, however, given what has transpired at the CBC the past two years.

But don't take authorities' word for it. That Peron's shop was lax on demanding proof of medical need has been an open secret in S.F.

"Let me put it this way," says a prominent gay activist and former AIDS prevention educator on the subject of nonmedical herb buys at the club, "I had a conversation with a friend, and I told him I knew for sure someone I knew was doing it. And he said he had two friends who were doing it." The activist adds: "I saw my friend showing his Cannabis Club card to a bunch of his friends at a bar -- none of them had cancer or HIV or anything -- and they were all dancing around kissing the card."

Far from the bars, health officials knew Peron had turned his program into something that smacked of a dealer's enterprise. Word filtered to the Health Department's AIDS director, Mitch Katz, as far back as a year ago, says an informed source. His alleged response: We'll deal with the fallout when it comes. (Katz did not return phone calls seeking comment.)

Thankfully, one city liberal isn't content to simply point fingers at Sacramento. Health educator and Police Commissioner Pat Nolan gives the straight dope about the travesty. "Although I'm not happy the state came into the city and busted a very, very important avenue for people with HIV and other life-threatening diseases," she says, "I'm equally disappointed that they had anything at all to find other than a credible, well-run operation."

If only that were the end of it.
Now, Ammiano is calling for another declaration of a municipal public health emergency, like that invoked to allow hypodermic needle distribution to intravenous drug users; this time, the idea is to sanction selling marijuana to the infirm.

Big mistake. And we can only hope that will be made clear to the supervisors before a public hearing on Thursday, Aug. 15.

Working behind the scenes, needle-exchange advocates are trying to drop the curtain on Ammiano's act. Their fear is that Ammiano's plan could prompt a collateral attack from Lungren on the legality of the local emergency declaration that has allowed clean needles to be exchanged for dirty ones to stanch the spread of HIV.

"It is not clear to me whether the practical mechanism that most quickly allows [for the distribution of medicinal marijuana] is a local state of emergency," says Pat Christen, executive director of the AIDS Foundation. "I'm just not sure if an emergency declaration could apply to medical marijuana."

If supervisors would really risk sacrificing an efficacious policy of needle exchange on the altar of a dubious character such as Peron, they must be toking some of his stash.

Power Drain San Diego Mayor Susan Golding made a pitch last week to lure the Pacific Stock Exchange away from San Francisco. She told exchange veep Dale Carlson that she would turn over City Hall to the exchange, put in an options floor, and seismically retrofit the building for free. The move would reduce the exchange's tax bill of $200,000 a year to $2,000 a year. Carlson and Golding will have had plenty of time to talk about the offer, sitting in her private skybox at the GOP convention listening to Colin Powell.

Plug Pulled It was a November natural -- especially for contrarian consultant Jack Davis, the man who convinced S.F. to trade in liberal Mayor Art Agnos for Frank Jordan and then Jordan for Brown. The allure being a crowded liberal field for six supervisors seats -- all sharing the ballot with a pro-labor city charter amendment carrying an estimated annual price tag of $50 million.

Davis was set to run the campaign of former Supervisor Annemarie Conroy, a Republican easily packaged as the taxpayers' best check on the liberal largess. But after a private dinner with Ringmaster Willie, the once fiercely independent pol tucked his tail and left town for a brief respite in Arizona. And Conroy has scotched her candidacy.

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