If you thought San Francisco’s weed wars were over, well, light one up. I’ve got a tale for you.
Wait for it, wait for it, exhale. Ready? Cannabis dispensaries could be banned in Chinatown.
That’s if the Board of Supervisors passes legislation Supervisor Aaron Peskin quietly introduced April 3, which will go before a board committee Monday.
Didn’t The City already go through a massive legislative battle about dispensaries late last year? Yep.
Didn’t Chinatown residents equate benign cannabis use with opium wars in China? Yep.
And will this open the door for bans in other neighborhoods? Well, that one’s a maybe.
“Does it open the door? The door’s been open,” said Sunny Angulo, Peskin’s legislative aide. She added that “the community was shouted down” when previously arguing for a ban.
Now that the smoke has cleared, they’re making their voices heard.
In a letter to the Board of Supervisors dated April 2, Community Tenants Association President Wing Hoo Leung argued that many Chinatown seniors live in densely packed, single-room-occupancy hotels with thin walls, making secondhand smoke a continuing problem.
“In lower-income communities, we live on top of each other, and every decision impacts a neighbor,” Leung wrote.
He also argued dispensaries encourage gentrification. “The competition for commercial space is rigorous, and local merchants catering to the cultural and traditional needs of our large immigrant community are being pushed out due to high rents and illegal conversions,” Leung wrote.
Peskin wasn’t alone in pushing for a ban: This was a joint effort with co-sponsors supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Katy Tang, Jane Kim and London Breed.
Breed and Kim, who are running for mayor, may be hot to join the call for a ban to lock up Chinese community votes.
In matters like these, it’s handy to open the pages of Chinese-language newspapers, as they report on a whole world of messaging from politicos that they rarely direct to the English-speaking world.
A Jan. 28 story in the World Journal, for instance, detailed a speech by Breed to the influential Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of America, aka the Chinese Six Companies, where she pledged to fight the perils of cannabis.
The story reported Breed as being “absolutely opposed” to cannabis shops in Chinatown and calling for cannabis shops to be 1,000 feet away from schools, a flip from her earlier position that cannabis shops should follow the state minimum distance of 600 feet.
Interestingly, Breed’s statement came a short time after the World Journal reported its president, Henry Huey, was pushing for a dispensary ban. That’s a keen eye to the neighborhood.
But lest you think Breed is alone in her appeal to a particular voter base, don’t worry: Kim said she supported a Chinatown dispensary ban because “I believe that communities should have a say.”
Leno’s spokesperson also said he supported it and dispensary bans need to be a “neighborhood by neighborhood” decision.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.