Medical cannabis opponents hold up signs while lined up outside of the Board of Supervisor Chamber at San Francisco's City Hall Tuesday, October 3, 2017 ahead of an appeals hearing for the Apothecarium's medical cannabis dispensary planned to be opened in San Francisco's Sunset District. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SF supervisors reject marijuana dispensary in the Sunset

Sunset residents afraid marijuana will hurt their children successfully prevented the cannabis industry from spreading to their suburban enclave on Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to uphold an appeal against the Apothecarium, a luxury chain of medical cannabis dispensaries that had approval to open a new location on Noriega Street and 32nd Avenue.

The Apothecarium faced opposition from scores of Chinese residents who argued during a marathon hearing that the dispensary was too close to a nearby church and a Christian preschool.

“When I was bringing up my kids there were banners flying high, proudly and significantly over our community saying ‘no to drugs,’” said Will Ping, co-owner of the Ark of Hope Preschool. “That’s the way we protect our children.”

The Ark of Hope Preschool hired a known anti-LGBT hate group called Pacific Justice Institute to file the appeal, which was a point of concern for the supervisors who voted against the Apothecarium.

Supervisor Katy Tang condemned the institute but said she had to vote with her constituents. Eight other supervisors followed, while supervisors Jeff Sheehy and Malia Cohen voted in favor of the dispensary.

“An overwhelming majority of people who live in the Sunset are opposed to the MCD opening and so I have to listen to my residents,” Tang said. “I am not there to impose my own self-views.”

Dr. Floyd Huen, who owns the Apothecarium with former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, his wife, blamed the institute for “whipping up” Sunset residents to oppose the dispensary.

“The fundamental mistake that the board made was to divide the PJI issue with this emotion,” Huen told the San Francisco Examiner. “They’re one in the same … Somehow they’re thinking that if PJI hadn’t been involved it would be equally vehement. That’s just not true.”

The news comes as San Francisco rushes to pass legislation regulating the sale of cannabis for recreational use by Jan. 1. But, San Francisco is not expected to be ready to issue those permits until later in 2018 or the following year.

The medical cannabis dispensary is one of the last to be voted on under current regulations after the Board of Supervisors passed a 45-day moratorium on new dispensaries from Cohen. Certain dispensaries including the Apothecarium were exempt from the moratorium.

On Oct. 13, the Planning Commission will vote on a permit for the Barbary Coast Collective to open in the Sunset.

PJI attorney Ray Hacke claimed the dispensary would expose children “to the evils of drug trafficking” including murder, robbery, burglary and assault.

“In the eyes of federal law, the Apothecarium is no different than the street corner crack dealer,” Hacke said.

Hacke argued the Apothecarium would violate Planning Code that prevents dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of a school or a community facility that primarily serves children under 18.

“This is a clear misunderstanding of our city’s code,” said AnMarie Rodgers, senior policy director for the Planning Department.

Though both Ark of Hope and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit are within 1,000 feet of the site, local law does not prevent dispensaries from opening near preschools.

The Planning Department also found the church does not primarily serve youth.

“I’m surprised to find that preschools are not included,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who voted against the Apothecarium.

Kim said San Francisco should consider expanding those regulations to include children under preschool age when it crafts new rules for recreational use.

“It seems like there was an oversight,” Kim said. “It certainly makes sense if we are talking about impacts to children under 18, then the way that we would write the ordinance would include all facilities zero to 18.”

The Board of Supervisors is expected to hear the recreational use legislation in the coming months.

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