A prominent Mission district businessman is leaving the restaurant and real estate industries for the medical marijuana trade.
Ghassan “Gus” Murad, who owns the New Mission Theater and Medjool restaurant with its controversial rooftop bar, is a partner in Morado Collective, according to records. The medical marijuana dispensary is proposed for space that’s currently empty at 2520 Mission St., a property that also houses the restaurant and a hostel, according to records filed Feb. 22 with the Department of Public Health.
If approved, the dispensary would be part of a “pharmacy and respite care” complex for the gay Hispanic community, said Eduardo Morales, who is listed as an operator on the application and is executive director of city nonprofit AGUILAS, which provides HIV/AIDS prevention services to that community.
Plans for Morado have not been finalized, but patients would be able to access cannabis and other medications from an on-site pharmacist, Morales told The San Francisco Examiner. Patients also would be able to stay overnight, possibly in the space currently occupied by the Elements Hotel, Morales said.
“It wouldn’t be like some place in Amsterdam to go and buy marijuana,” Morales said. He said Murad approached him about the dispensary, the profits of which also would provide a dedicated revenue stream for nonprofits such as AGUILAS and the LGBT Center.
“It’s about sustainability for nonprofits ... within the rubric of respite care,” Morales said.
AGUILAS receives about $350,000 annually from the Department of Public Health for HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention services, Morales said.
Murad did not respond to calls seeking comment. Real estate attorney Victor Marquez, speaking on Murad’s behalf, said Murad is the dispensary’s landlord. Murad also made a “small loan” to help start the project and paid the $8,656 permit fee, records show.
Medical marijuana dispensaries need approval from both the Planning and Public Health departments, a process that can take up to a year.
Medjool was previously involved in controversy surrounding height restrictions on its rooftop bar — which has hosted fundraisers for nonprofits and for politicians such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former mayor. The proper permits were eventually obtained, but not before Murad resigned from both the Small Business Commission and the neighborhood Business Improvement District.
Medjool has closed, but a new eatery operated by the group that runs Beretta, Starbelly and Delarosa is expected to open.
Opening a cannabis dispensary could be risky. Five San Francisco outlets have closed since November after receiving letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who on Feb. 21 also issued a similar letter to the landlords of a dispensary in the 2400 block of Mission Street.
But the feds won’t bother Morado, promised Marquez, because “we’d provide bona fide patient care,” he said.
A new medical cannabis dispensary received city approval Thursday to open a block from Market Street in the Financial District.
Seventy Second’s application to operate at 70 Second St. was approved by the Planning Commission in a 5-2 vote, with commission President Rodney Fong and Commissioner Michael Antonini voting no.
Dispensary operator Ondyn Herschelle of Palo Alto also owns the building at 70 Second St., according to property records. The dispensary would operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, with reduced hours Sundays, and employ up to 15 people, she said.
There are now 21 licensed dispensaries operating in San Francisco. Several more, including one at 952 Mission St., have been approved but have yet to open.
In 1996 California was the first state in the nation to approve medical marijuana. Patients need a doctor’s recommendation to acquire marijuana from a dispensary, and dispensaries pay sales taxes to the state.
City planners received 69 letters from downtown merchants and residents opposing the dispensary, saying it was too close to existing dispensaries and to nearby schools. City law says pot clubs must be 1,000 feet away from elementary and secondary schools.
“I don’t want our employees going out for a smoke,” said Jim Patrick, owner of office supply store Patrick and Co., who spoke out against the dispensary. “That’s not healthy.”
— Chris Roberts