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SF approves first ever medical cannabis dispensary in the Sunset

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The Barbary Coast Collective was approved to open a new medical cannabis dispensary at 2161 Irving St. in the Sunset. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Cannabis is coming to the Sunset District after the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted in favor of plans to open the first medical cannabis dispensary in the mostly residential neighborhood.

Barbary Coast Collective will be the first dispensary to sell weed in the neighborhood from a shop on Irving Street and 22nd Avenue.

The dispensary owners, including David Ho, a political power player in Chinatown, beat out fierce opposition from predominantly Chinese neighbors concerned about marijuana causing crime and harming children in the Sunset.

The Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to reject an appeal of the dispensary plans, with Supervisor Katy Tang dissenting despite her personal support for the dispensary owners. Tang, who represents the Sunset District, said she had to vote in line with the vast majority of her constituents who oppose the dispensary.

“The Sunset will not be moving forward in the future without a dispensary,” Tang said before the vote. “If we’re going to have a dispensary in the Sunset District, I want it to be run by good operators. I do believe that is the case here.”

The vote happened on the same day the Board of Supervisors approved retail cannabis regulations for San Francisco, which are expected to kick into effect a month after Mayor Ed Lee signs the legislation into law Wednesday.

This was the second time in recent months that the Board of Supervisors had to decide on a medical cannabis dispensary in the Sunset District. On Oct. 3, neighbors swayed the Board to reject plans from former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to open a dispensary on Noriega Street.

The appellants in the case of Barbary Coast argued the dispensary plans raised safety, traffic and odor concerns for the neighborhood.

“What I’ve been hearing is the people who support it have a need for the medical marijuana,” said appellant Salvatore Alioto. “But the problem is putting a dispensary in that particular neighborhood on Irving Street.”

“Medical marijuana has a need, but the place is not on Irving Street,” he added.

The Board of Supervisors disagreed.

“The reality is that if you had [to have] a medical marijuana dispensary these are probably the best sponsors you could ever have,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer. “I think these are responsible small business owners.”

The Board encouraged the dispensary to have on-site consumption after Tang voiced concern about “people walking up and down the street smoking.”

“I would like the project sponsors to actually offer smoking on site because I don’t want people walking around,” Tang said.

It’s unclear if the dispensary will have on-site smoking, which would need additional approval from the Department of Public Health.

Jesse Henry, executive director of the Barbary Coast, said there is not enough space in the dispensary for on-site smoking.

As a concession with concerned neighbors, Tang also shortened the operation hours for Barbary Coast to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. for the first year of business so that children would not see the store open on their way to school.

Henry said the Barbary Coast plans to blend in with the community. The store will have no visible signage advertising marijuana and have a security guard ensuring that no one smokes marijuana or loiters within 500 feet of the store.

“I am and will be personally accountable to this neighborhood,” Henry said. “If there is a problem, I will personally correct it.”

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