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Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama's Medical Marijuana Crackdown: Two S.F. Pot Clubs to Close

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 1:00 PM

  • And Divinity Tree, and Green Door Sacramento, and maybe Medithrive

Lombard Street is in the city's oft-posh Marina District, but that stretch of US-101 that leads from the Golden Gate Bridge down through Van Ness Avenue includes seedy motels as well as high-end boutiques. It might have also contained a medical marijuana dispensary -- that is until the federal government got involved.

The operators of the Green Door, which has for years successfully run a dispensary within smelling distance of the Intercontinental Hotel on Howard Street, filed an application with the Department of Public Health to run its business at 2414 Lombard Street, city records show.
Yet those plans have been derailed, an attorney for the collective said Thursday, as the U.S. Department of Justice's statewide crackdown on medical marijuana has led two other "semi-affiliated" Green Door locations -- in Sacramento and San Diego -- to close.

Both dispensaries got letters from the local United States Attorney, who said dispensaries had 45 days to shutdown or its property would be seized by the federal government. San Francisco dispensaries Divinity Tree and Mr. Nice Guy, both of which received similar letters, announced this week they will likely shut down.

Now that's change you can believe in.

This isn't the first time dispensaries have received threatening letters: In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent cease-and-desist notices to a number of San Francisco marijuana dispensaries. However, these are different.

Charles Pappas, the wheelchair user who is president of Divinity Tree, told the Chronicle on Wednesday that he'll close shop rather than try to duke it out with the federal government in court.

Brendan Hallinan, Green Door's attorney who also represents Mr. Nice Guy, told SF Weekly on Thursday that the United States Attorney's Office is as serious as the cancer for which medical marijuana is used.

"They're prepared to do the forfeitures ... I think everyone who got the letters is planning on closing," he said.

Along with Divinity Tree and Mr Nice Guy, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax also received a letter, but operator Lynette Shaw says she plans to fight in court.

Medithrive is supposedly the third San Francisco dispensary to have received a letter. The dispensary referred press inquiries to its lawyer, Daniel Bornstein, who did not immediately comment.

The federal activity is spooking some local governments as well as would-be dispensary operators: City officials in Eureka and Arcata, both in the marijuana mecca of Humboldt County, announced they're rethinking municipal ordinances regulating dispensaries in light of the Justice Department letters. This backpedal follows the decision by a state judge in Long Beach, who ruled that when a city passes a dispensary ordinance, it is in the position of authorizing the violation of federal law.

Oakland, for its part, has thus far stood firm, taking 12 applications for four new cannabis dispensaries. A spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney did not respond to a request for comment to see what action, if any, the city will take.

Meanwhile, other dispensary operators aren't changing their plans. The Green Cross has been the city's only licensed delivery service since neighbors forced a shutdown of its brick-and-mortar location near 22nd and Valencia streets, and plans to go forward with opening up another location on Mission Street in the Excelsior District, pending approval at the Planning Commission.

Thus far, San Francisco city leaders have been silent on the issue. "We're trying to get some local political support," Hallinan said, but so far nothing's come up. "This is a pretty shitty thing to happen to everyone."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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