Marijuana club won't open in Mission hotel
March 22, 2005
Suzanne Herel, San Francisco ChronicleThe owner of a city-funded welfare hotel in San Francisco canceled his lease Tuesday with a medical marijuana clinic that was planning to open on the ground floor this week, after Mayor Gavin Newsom cited it as Exhibit A for a moratorium on new cannabis clubs.
Craig Walker, a construction company owner who uses marijuana for back pain, had planned to open his Holistic Center on Friday at the All Star Hotel on 16th Street in the Mission District. Late Tuesday, he got the news in a meeting with the hotel owner that the agreement was off.
'I'm discouraged and disappointed,' Walker said.However, he added, 'I'm not mad. I am for good regulation. I agree with the mayor -- there has to be more thought put into this.'
Newsom said Monday that the Holistic Center's impending opening showed that he and other city officials had failed to pay close attention to the boom in medical marijuana clubs, at least 37 of which are now operating in San Francisco. Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Ross Mirkarimi introduced an emergency ordinance at Tuesday's board meeting that would institute a 45-day halt on new cannabis clubs while the city investigates ways to regulate them.
The board is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday. Passage would require approval by nine of the 11 supervisors.
The mayor said Tuesday that the city departments of Human Services and Public Health had instituted changes, effective immediately, to prevent medical marijuana clubs from opening in locations where the city pays for support services to substance abusers and the homeless -- a category that would include the All Star Hotel, which houses people under Newsom's Care Not Cash program.
'We have a responsibility to the people that we are helping climb out of homelessness,' Newsom said. 'And that responsibility incudes providing them with a clean, safe and healthy environment to help them get back on their feet. '
Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which provides social services at the hotel under the Care Not Cash program, said he was relieved that the Holistic Center wouldn't be opening.
'It was a psychological thing,' Shaw said. 'It sent the wrong message to the tenants' -- some of whom are recovering drug addicts.
Neil Patel, the hotel's owner, could not be reached for comment.
Trent Rhorer, director of the Department of Human Services, said current city contracts would be amended to prohibit the presence of pot clubs, and the ban would be included in future contracts.
However, Rhorer said, there are no medical marijuana clinics located in any of the dozen hotels participating in the Care Not Cash program.
Newsom will be convening a group of city officials to examine policies involving medical marijuana clubs, which are largely unregulated.
The group will include the department heads from Public Health, Human Services and Planning, along with Treasurer Jose Cisneros and someone from the city attorney's office. Newsom has asked the task force for a report within 30 days.
Although marijuana use is against federal law, California voters legalized it for medicinal purposes by passing Proposition 215 in 1996.