Advocates decry proposed SF medical marijuana restrictions

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner

A group of medical marijuana advocates and a pot dispensary applicant made a last-minute push Monday to counter Supervisor John Avalos’ effort to prevent more dispensaries from opening in the Excelsior district.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote today on legislation that would force dispensaries to go through a tougher approval process to open along Mission Street between Alemany Boulevard and the San Mateo County line.

Avalos said last week that the commercial stretch is “backsliding” with an abundance of liquor stores, check-cashing outlets and “Internet sweepstakes cafes,” and “to add medical cannabis dispensaries into the mix … is actually going to have a detrimental impact on the corridor.”

Three dispensaries opened in the past year, he said, adding that, “I don’t believe by putting two more MCDs where we already have three MCDs increases access at all.”

But Gary Tabachnik, who wants to open Lucky Dragon at 4130 Mission St., said it’s unfair to change the rules midstream. He spent more than two years searching for a location that complied with 2005 zoning regulations.

“It’s the only district that had storefronts in the right zone for lease,” Tabachnik said. “I didn’t draw those maps, I just followed them.”

On Monday, Tabachnik met with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to plead his case, hoping to see Avalos’ legislation defeated or include a grandfather clause.

Medical marijuana advocates are on Tabachnik’s side. They say the proposal will lead to similar piecemeal restrictions in other neighborhoods. Advocates also argue that the 2005 zoning laws for pot clubs are already too restrictive, creating zones that cover just 10 percent of The City’s land mass.

Avalos initially proposed a ban for the corridor, but watered down the proposal to require a special conditional use permit, which can be appealed to the board, for clubs looking to open up within 500 feet of one another.

Avalos said it’s unfair to have high concentrations of dispensaries in only certain neighborhoods. He also has separate legislation before the board today that would require the Planning Commission to re-examine the 2005 laws and consider allowing the businesses in more places.

Shona Gochenaur, executive director of low-income dispensary patient collective Axis of Love, held a rally Monday with 12 medical marijuana patients outside City Hall opposing the zoning restrictions.

“Do not allow Avalos to be the dragon slayer in our beautiful compassionate city,” she said. “Let’s make sure that Lucky Dragon gets on that map.”

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