Medical Cannabis Task Force: So Long, Farewell

These are hard times for medical cannabis. The federal Justice Department crackdown has closed nine marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and, in contrast to the days when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom sent letters to Washington demanding the feds back off the state-legal industry, Mayor Ed Lee required a sit-in to be reminded that these city-licensed, taxpaying entities merely exist.

In a City Hall addicted to task forces — there's one for peak oil and one for food security — marijuana has an advisory body, too. But in its two years in existence, the Medical Cannabis Task Force hasn't accomplished much.

Formed in 2010, when marijuana legalization in California seemed to some a done deal, the 15-member body has since been paralyzed by parliamentarian rules and infighting. Its first annual report to the Board of Supervisors went largely unheeded, and seats left vacant since a walkout last year haven't been filled by a disinterested board. Low turnout at monthly meetings means the Task Force hasn't had quorum — minimum attendance required for votes and action to be held — at a meeting since May, and likely won't before it is scheduled to sunset (aka fold) Dec. 31.

Agreeing on a basic mission is part of the problem. Activist Shona Gochenaur claims credit for crafting the legislation. Gochenaur, who doles out free cannabis donated to her by growers to low-income patients via a network called Axis of Love, didn't want "big box pot" — large-scale dispensaries — taking priority. "If they want a cannabusiness chamber of commerce, build one," she says. "I'm not going to support having my work turned into a business lobby."

No representatives from the city's registered medical marijuana dispensaries sit on the Task Force. Kevin Reed, CEO of cannabis delivery service The Green Cross, once one of the city's most visible dispensary operators, was one of the Task Force members who resigned last year, citing the Task Force's ineffectiveness and Gochenaur's often antagonistic behavior. Former SPARC President Erich Pearson, one of the sitting members who refuses to show up, says that until the empty seats are filled and the body's mission is reaffirmed, there's not much point.

Those left on the Task Force are "committed" to working together, Gochenaur says, but they might not have much time. Privately, several marijuana activists think that a low profile may be a good thing. Rather than lobby for a more moderate Board of Supervisors to revisit the city's dispensary laws, better to hunker down and wait for better times.

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jaewoongsohn 1 Like

Dear Chris Roberts, in the third paragraph of this article, you you mentioned that the M.C.T.F. has failed to meet quorum since May, and also mentioned that Erich Pearson formerly of SPARC has refused to attend. Why then, would you fail to report that the M.T.C.F.'s lack of attendance of Erich Pearson, was also coupled by consistent absences and shady failed attempt to hold the M.C.T.F. in a private session by a self-serving Martin Olive (Vapor Room, founding member of the California Cannabis Chamber of Commerce) with the help of Stephanie Tucker, while also failing to reflect upon the "ACTUAL" antagonistic and disturbingly psychotic behavior of Stephanie Tucker (M.C.T.F. spokeswoman, Chair of the NON-FUNCTIONING and FAILED Outreach Committee, Christina Olague's office) which ultimately caused the M.C.T.F. to fail even further besides just being unable to meet quorum. This, which tactfully suspended any progress for M.C.T.F., also strategically impeded the efforts of Shona Gochenaur, Brent Saupe, Maureen Burns, Stewart Rhoads, Dr.Jean Talleyrand, Sarah Shrader, Raymond Gamely, were attempting to further the Patients' Movement, as well as preventing them from being able to move forward on any action items that would have allowed for a more functional governing body. They managed to also implore intimidation tactics to cause Leonard Watkins to also be a no show, indirectly assist them further. Please do not insult the intelligence of the Public which comprises of PATIENTS as well as people that actually care about them. Erich Pearson and Kevin Green lost interest in being a productive part of the M.C T.F. because it was not profitable for THEM. That is A FACT. Do you want to know what is also a fact? Stephanie Tucker (who has a degree in Government Relations) was just using the M.C.T.F. as a stepping stone to ultimately get into Supervisor Christina Olague's office. Erich Pearson, Stephanie Tucker, & Kevin Green are not direct stakeholders of the consequential weight of the decisions that come out of the M.C.T.F., and therefore will not be ever productively be assertive unless there is profit in it for them. Why don't you emphasize on those facts besides and instead of attacking Shona Gochenaur, individual who has dedicated her entire to helping patients before seeking profits? Are you, Chris Roberts, such a morally indifferent and humanely hostile of an individual? Well, I hope they're paying you enough to do it.........

elliott418 2 Like

Illiottistwo Being a concerned cannabis card-holder/ activist, I've attended almost every single task force meeting and must agree that making progress was a problem, in large-part due to the antagonistic & outlandish behavior of one "caos-agent' Stephanie Tucker, who consistently, along with Hunter always prevented most, if not all discussions on topics relating to causes of the low-income, veterans, handicapped, or mentally, chronically, and terminally ill patients, on whose backs and dollars sustain the industry. The very facts that people like Eric Pearson's, ( a sitting member) refusall to attend ANY meetings and those who systematically failed to attend so quorum wouldn' t be made and the political infighting of bigbox store-type profiteers vs. compassionate services made progress impossible, thus, causing a lot of wasted time and time & efforts of the many patients who came again and again u.k.. I believe a new taskforce should be elected of patients whose representing the interests of the "PATIENT COMMUNITY.

pfcup 2 Like

Chris Roberts, are you really so indifferently just overlooking the factual truth, that the M.C.T.F. was originally formed for Patients, and its seats and chair to be comprised of PATIENTS, not profiteers or experts in government relations posing as such?     Its Original Primary Goal - was to establish Safe Access in San Francisco.   Not to irresponsibly promote unsafe, commercial "ALL ACCESS" and piss off the FEDS! 


[Comment from James the Advocate, SF Cannabis Patients' Union - SFCPU.ORG]:   "The Elite Arrogance and roadblocking of Quorum, plus Profiteering From Patients' Paperwork (i.g. Join a 'store front' collective by signing up which authorizes them to grow many plants in our name - then turn around and retail our own medicine back to us ??!) has caused us all harm. Only a handful of dispensaries gave compassion and rock bottom, true 'at cost' pricing to patients in line with State Law.  Others acted like they 'owned' our medicine and jacked us up with Tourist pricing and treated patients as less thans, especially low income and vets who need harm reducing medicine the most.   In the end, the routine mistreatment of patients combined with poor performance by elitist styled members of the MCTF (with financial conflicts of interest, as well) led to the environment we see in San Francisco, today.    This November 2012, the States of Washington & Colorado are well on their way to Serving the Needs of All Patients and Cannabis Users, while we appear to be moving backwards.   Unless We Assemble a New Task Force comprised Solely the Most Important Primary Stakeholders (being only those necessary for the growth & use to take place) namely Growers, Doctors & Patients or what we call A GDP Task Force which has a sole mission to map out the needs of the Growers, Doctors & Patients to keep us all safe from Federal Intrusion.    After that Task Force issues its List of Needs, another subordinate body (comprised of government health agencies, delivery folks, trimmers, dispensaries, et al) can feed off of Our Primary GDP Task Force who will guide them to create ways for them to meet Our Needs.  We must take back power to the people that matter to protect our Natural Right to use any safe plant, as we see fit, without government intervention where there is no harm and without corporate exploitation, because it doesn't belong to any of them.  Cannabis & Hemp belong To The People not the fictitious bodies we create to govern us and keep us safe from things that actually cause harm. [END SFCPU.ORG COMMENT]


   That being said, I must state that your article is absurdly biased in favor of the commercial Cannabis Collective/Co-Op industry and holds a deaf ear to the patients! Your lack of moral fortitude is no doubt a key indicator that you too, are truly more interested in glorifying the unfounded prestige of pot profiteers like Kevin "Greed" & Erich Pearson, who use their profits to employ and finance "Political Operatives" like Stephanie Tucker (Christina Olague's office), Kay Vasilyeva (Mayor Ed Lee's Office), Caryn Woodson (Green Cross Operations Specialist), just to name a few, than acknowledge and also recognize along with your communities of readers, that Access to Medical Cannabis in San Francisco as a whole, has become increasingly UNSAFE, because of the FEDS closures of 9 MCDs, and that it is still NOT AFFORDABLE to the sick and the poor?


  You cleverly draw attention away from these highlights and attack Shona Gochenaur, a person who keeps it real by making the charitable promises of the MCD industry a reality, and doing it herself by advocating for and helping create QUALITY COMPASSION PROGRAMS as well as personally ensuring safe access once a month and feeding hundreds of the City's poorest patients by facilitating and consistently hosting a charitable monthly dinner, who YOU, CHRIS ROBERTS, have attended and witnessed yourself to just get a interview with a City Supervisor, or some other VIP?  


   Do you really think that just because you are a morally shallow person that your readers are as well? You are WRONG, Chris, so wrong, and neither the patients or the public are fooled, this piece of #$^&* you call an article is, and always will be a testament to your crappy reporting.

odinthewidecatlima 2 Like

My name is Kenneth Harold Lima and I was born with a heart defect known as a VSD. My lunge bleeds as a result and if I don't have my medical cannabis then I could bleed out. I was not given a long time to live but with the aid of cannabis alone I have lived to the age of 43. I have been in the hospital many times and one time was very close to death. Without cannabis I cannot handle the trauma of seeing my own blood. I got involved with the TaskForce in the hope of being represented by people not politics. Politics is what i got. I was spending over $800 a month at cannabis clubs until I joined the AXISOFLOVESF and Shona Gochenaur over 4 years ago. This was the patient not profit group I was looking for. I have been on the Patient Advocacy Comity for about 2 years now and have not to miss a meeting because I need the PAC and the work we do to matter. With people holding up the progress that Axis of love and Shona are working so hard to accomplish many patients will suffer and pay more to the clubs. Many of the patients can't afford to pay club prices.

j.stone2004 2 Like

During the many occasions on which I have attended the Task Force meetings, I have continually noticed and been very annoyed by all the infighting, which for quite a while prevented the task force from doing much of anything. After that, people just didn't take on their responsibilities, and just quit showing up at all. One obvious example is Hunter Holliman. I have also seen Shona Gochenaur work for many hours trying to prepare and work with that task force. I do not believe it is a wasted effort. In short, if we want our medicine, we must work together to keep it.

obamalover 2 Like

Chris Roberts is following Mitt Romney's tactics of shooting first and aiming later. His target should be Eric Pearce's greedy obstructionism during a crisis period of our movement.

Take for example that Stephanie Tucker prevented the Veterans Committee from being represented on the task force by voulenteering and thennever attending the meetings and refusing to step down. Stephanie Tucker then caused her own expulsion, which set back Veteran's representation by several more years.

Eric Pearce's antics have severely damaged the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Task Force as well.

alexblue420 2 Like

The mmj task force is first and foremost an advisory board. However certain business interests hijacked it for their own purposes and they were happy to settle for an ineffective task force rather than one that suited their own selfish purposes. Those persons have recently resigned and one actually took a job in Washington although he swore up and down that he wasn't a lobbyist. My point is this: the task force is still necessary and there are hordes of applicants willing to donate their time to truly serving San Franciscans who are on the medical cannabis front. We need this task force because the news networks aren't out to inform, they are out to entertain. I urge l to not give up on on the mmj task force, reinstate it.

axisofloveposse 2 Like

The above article was obviously written by someone who only talks to the lobbyists & business, not the patients. I am a patient who has been to almost every well attended task force meeting and taken videos so I have the most complete archive of all that took place. Those videos reflect that more meaningful things were accomplished after the walkout over a petty argument that thewalkers chose not to move past. They behaved strikingly like the house majority (gerrymandered) GOP did during the President's first term, making irrelevant arguments, & blocking meaningful progress at every turn. Low cost cannabis for patients should have been a primary goal but instead the Task Forced was often bogged down with silly regulations for the sole Delivery service  --the only one on SF coincidentally owned by a task force member with no recusal!! Before you criticize Shona Gochenaur's hard work for my/y/our rights as  patients you really should listen to my testimony & watch my task force videos. The obstructionists were long gone & we got more meaningful work done than they did. Before I was a member of a collective I used to shop at vulture capitalist 1%er dispensaries (like the ones the obstructionists who got positive press in this paper) constantly advocated for on the task force and so I was always broke & in soup lines. Being in a member of collective like Shona continued from Robin Fewer has improved my quality of life immeasurably because they nurture patients instead of extracting what little money they may have. I now can afford to write letters like this &  produce a TV show about medical cannabis & the Task Force for the last 5 years. I am very proud of the Task Force's work & the videos bear it out. We fought for the Task Force & a block of people joined it for the sole purpose of blocking patients rights.  Below is the most recent task force meeting which was well attended. Are you going to believe a roomful of people & me who took videos or someone with an agenda that has nothing to do with patients?

@Denise Dorey


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