Letters to the Editor

Week of January 22, 2002

Potshotting a Pothead

Cheap weed for the masses!: WTF is up with SF Weekly and medical pot [Dog Bites, Jan. 8]? “High Quality” was one of the worst examples of yellow journalism you've spewed, and you've spewed a lot.

The main problem with Proposition S is that it is just talk. Because federal oppression remains unchallenged by local and state officials, patients must pay prices that are far too high due to artificial scarcity (one reason that business may not be “brisk” at Mission Street Caregivers is that several clubs have lower prices and a wide selection as well). All of the clubs, however, must get their supplies from the same vendors who sell to the “recreational” market, such as your anonymous writer “Morbidund Orbidund” (it should be pointed out that the poorest patients do resell pot, because they simply have no other way to obtain medication), and this means that the prices are far too high for the most impoverished, and most needy, patients. So if you are not wealthy or “connected,” you have no de facto access to medication.

The clubs can't just give away product they have to purchase at “street” prices. All of the vendors are unprotected by Proposition 215, as a recent appellate court decision stated. That means that the city cannot “go into the business” of cultivation. Only patients can grow, and their caregivers. Pot clubs and vendors are not patients or caregivers.

That is why I proposed to Assemblyman Mark Leno et al. more than two years ago that the city help patients set up grower co-ops, since it is ridiculous to assume that all patients, or even many of them, are willing or able to grow pot, since not everyone has a back yard, a spare room, and the money to invest in a decent growing system. We are talking about a weed that will grow easily outdoors in our climate, so there is no reason not to produce as much as we can, by whatever means necessary.

There is no need to “compete” with current vendors. The market for marijuana has been there for thousands of years for a reason — it works. Those who wish to continue with their current suppliers are free to do so, after all. If the wholesale price of cannabis drops, this will make the real criminals lose interest in the market, and there are some truly evil people out there. The DEA continues to bust vendors, and many S.F. distributors have proven to have less than honorable intentions and shown a complete lack of interest in cooperating with each other, to the point of narcing out their competition.

The city has empty greenhouses, buildings, and rooftops that could be used for cultivation of high-quality medicinal pot, from each patient according to ability, to each patient according to need, and the patients must control the means of production.

This is the only method that can work for the duration of the war on drugs. But it is unpopular, since most of the self-declared leaders of the “cannabis community” are more interested in controlling the market and keeping their profits high. It would seem that Leno et al. are more interested in publicity and votes than providing medication to patients. Outside groups such as Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project are moving into the city and dictating terms and conditions to supervisors, and no one is bothering to ask us patients what we want or need. Vendors, club owners, and former club owners should not be in a policy-making capacity either, because of the obvious conflict of interest.

The city is unique, and those who didn't vote for Proposition S should not be in control of “implementing” it, even though, for all intents and purposes, they are doing nothing about it, and will do nothing about it for the foreseeable future, even though it passed by a much larger margin than Prop. N.

Elizabeth Frantes
Via the Internet

Love From Afar

You locals are lucky to get my girl: Meredith Brody may be “getting San Francisco for Christmas” [“From Smog to Fog,” Eat, Dec. 24, 2002], but San Franciscans are getting a real treasure in Meredith Brody. Having followed Meredith's restaurant column in Los Angeles, I look forward to exploring new culinary treats in a new city.

Deborah Kerr
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

No Way, Segway

Run, don't walk, from these things!: Matt Smith's column on Segway heartens those advocates from such vulnerable constituencies as seniors and the disabled that see Segways as significant hazards to the safety of pedestrians [“Showing Segway the Highway,” Dec. 18]. Respected advocates who oppose Segways on sidewalks consistently ask how politicians can support unrestricted experimentation of Segways on our sidewalks. More directly, can Segway supporters only hear the arguments of lobbyists, fantasizing futurists, and fatuous flacks?

There simply is no groundswell of public support for Segways, nor is there any record of safety officials, respected advocates for seniors or the disabled, or any respected environmental group actively supporting Segways.

In addition to the already-mentioned public health aspect of Segway's likely risks to people, there's the safety hazard they present. The devices weigh anywhere from 70 to 95 pounds, travel at speeds of 12.5 mph, and have no requirements for state licensing or insurance. The silent operation of Segways has caused both national and state groups representing people who are blind or have poor vision to oppose Segways on sidewalks. Senior groups (including the Older Women's League, California AARP, the Berkeley Senior Commission, and S.F.'s Senior Action Network) and disability groups (including Californians for Disability Rights and the S.F. Mayor's Disability Council) also oppose unrestricted Segway usage.

That raises the larger question of why the rest of society so blithely ignores the safety concerns of vulnerable constituencies. California's state legislators were dismissive, unresponsive, and patronizing to the safety concerns raised by seniors and the disabled. The San Francisco Chronicle has squelched letters to the editor opposing Segway since they also criticize curmudgeon columnist Ken Garcia. How inclusive and responsive to diversity are society's opinion-shapers and policy-makers?

Segway's success so far rests on the money and the dreams it spread around. Kudos to Matt Smith for breaking the journalistic silence on the Segway scam.

Bob Planthold


A Jan. 15 Dog Bites mischaracterized a 1998 attack on the Vail ski lodge in Colorado that caused $12 million in damage. The method used was arson, and the group that claimed responsibility for it was the Earth Liberation Front.

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