Owners Uncooperative

Personality clashes within the cannabis movement have real-life consequences.

With all the talk about legalization looming on the horizon, it's hard to believe that San Francisco's medical cannabis community had some good old days that are now gone. But if you turn the clock back to 2004, one stretch of Divisadero had six pot dispensaries — there are now two — one of which was the San Francisco Patients' Cooperative at 350 Divisadero. A kind of Graceland for S.F. medical pot, it was seen as a scion of Proposition 215 author Dennis Peron's Market Street collective, which closed in 1998. It provided services like psychotherapy and massage as well as dishing out medicine. That's before a confluence of factors — landlord issues, DEA issues, money issues — forced director the Rev. Randi Webster to close its doors in early 2008.

350 Divisadero might someday host a pot dispensary again, but not anytime soon. At a June 9 Board of Appeals hearing, a host of Divisadero Corridor and Panhandle neighbors testified against a plan by Joseph Hunt — who operates the Mr. Nice Guy dispensary on Valencia — to open a pot club there. Webster spoke out against it, too. Her testimony seems to be a main reason Hunt's plan was foiled, despite a positive October 2009 letter from the city zoning administrator and legal representation by former District Attorney Terrence Hallinan and his son, Brendan.

Hunt and Webster have a personal history: He loaned her some money when the Patients' Cooperative fell on hard times, she admits, but she says now that the two are straight — at least financially. The issue with 350 Divisadero was “with the law, pure and simple,” she says. “It's about the patients; they need to know that what [Hunt proposed] was not going to be the Patients' Coop.”

Hunt had further issues: Many neighbors thought he was opening a boxing gym, not a pot club. Hunt's plan also faced opposition from the mayor's office and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. None of that should have mattered, according to Brendan Hallinan: “We have a very strong position, legally,” he says, but Webster's “was the most damaging public testimony presented at that hearing,” and so the board listened to her.

Hunt is now stuck in legal limbo, figuring out what he wants to do with the building while continuing to pay about $6,000 a month in rent, as he has since January 2009. And the patients? They can truck over to the Vapor Room on Haight or Bay Area Safe Access on Grove, neither of which has to worry about competition.

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