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District 4 candidates tap into Sunset’s anti-cannabis fervor

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District 4 Supervisor candidate Gordon Mar announces his opposition to a proposed cannabis business along Taraval Street in a news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Assembling a small group of Sunset voters Wednesday in front of a proposed cannabis business on Taraval Street, District 4 Supervisor candidate Gordon Mar told the community he would oppose it.

Mar’s announcement fell in line with anti-cannabis sentiment among members of the Chinese community who have long fought to keep cannabis businesses out of the Sunset neighborhood.

For years the Sunset District has blocked proposals for dispensaries. Only last year did one clear approval hurdles to open, and even then it was still opposed by the current District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang.

SEE RELATED: SF approves first ever medical cannabis dispensary in the Sunset

So it is not surprising Mar and the other top fundraising candidates Jessica Ho, legislative aide to Tang, and public school teacher Trevor McNeil are also in step with the district’s cannabis opponents as they head into November’s election.

Mar held a Wednesday press conference outside of 2014 Taraval St., where there is a pending application to open a cannabis business currently being processed by the Office of Cannabis. It would require a conditional use permit from the Planning Department, which could be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

“I will oppose this dispensary if the community opposes it,” Mar said. “I would only support it if, and only if, the project sponsors earn the trust and support of their neighbors.” He added, “This campaign isn’t about my views alone. It is about all of yours.”

SEE RELATED: Dispensary alleges supervisors were under political influence in Sunset pot shop decision

Mar also said if elected he would convene a working group to discuss increasing regulations, including “expanding the buffer zones around schools and childcare centers, restricting the number of cannabis dispensaries in our neighborhood and further limiting areas that dispensaries are allowed in the Sunset District.”

The candidate also said he supports a ban on cannabis businesses in Chinatown, which the board voted Tuesday to approve in a second and final 8-3 vote, with Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Hillary Ronen and Vallie Brown opposing it. Opponents of the ban said it does not treat communities equitably and perpetuates a “reefer madness” stigma.

“Sounds pretty political,” McNeil said of Mar’s announcement. McNeil said that he was unaware of Mar ever speaking against cannabis in the past, adding that Mar is the “progressive candidate.”

However, progressives aren’t united on the issue. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is considered a progressive leader on the board, proposed the Chinatown ban, which was also supported by other progressive board members.

SEE RELATED: SF supes ban cannabis businesses in Chinatown

But McNeil said he does see “eye to eye” with Mar on cannabis. For example, McNeil said he would support increased restrictions, including increasing the required 600 foot buffer zones cannabis businesses must be from schools.

He questioned why the cannabis industry would even want to open up in a neighborhood where they are not welcomed other than for a “chance to make a ton of dough.”

Asked to respond to Mar’s press conference, Ho said in an email: “I support the Chinatown ban and believe that residents of the Sunset deserve the same right to voice their concerns about where marijuana dispensaries open in their neighborhoods.”

After the event, Mar told the San Francisco Examiner that “this is a not a politically motivated— We did a series of neighborhood sessions in August. This issue came up repeatedly.” He plans to hold other press conferences related to other issues that came up from those sessions, such as around affordable housing and Muni.

He added that “there are strong sentiments against cannabis dispensaries at this moment. I think that is going to shift over time as it becomes more normalized.”


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