Cookie D’oh

In February, the San Francisco Planning Commission said the Upper Haight would finally get a dispensary, giving the notorious illegal pot-deal hotspot its first whiff of legal marijuana sales.

Hoodline reported in July that the still-unnamed Upper Haight establishment was exploring a collaboration with Cookies, the popular dispensary chain, apparel brand, and groundbreaking cultivator credited with inventing the strain Girl Scout Cookies.    

But the collaboration with Cookies crumbled upon review from the San Francisco Office of Cannabis. That office had concerns that the arrangement violated the city’s cannabis equity program that prioritizes business owners who were victimized by the War on Drugs. The Upper Haight dispensary was the first equity storefront approved under the equity guidelines that went into effect in early 2018.

The Cookies collaboration may still happen under a different iteration. A Cookies representative tells SF Weekly the teams are “just about to have an internal regroup on all of this.”

Cookies is a well-known California cannabis brand founded by San Francisco native Gilbert Milam Jr. — better known as rapper and marijuana mogul Berner. The company operates two dispensaries under the Cookies name in Los Angeles, an apparel brand where pretty much every item bears Cookies’ ‘cursive C’ logo, and of course, the famed line of cannabis flower whose name drew cease-and-desist letters from the Girl Scouts of America.    

The yet-to-open Upper Haight dispensary will be near Cole Street at the site now  partially occupied by Silver Sprocket comic shop. It’s primary owner is Brothers Against Guns founder Shawn Richard, with co-owners John Delaplane, a partner in the new dispensary Project Cannabis SoMa, and Conor Johnston, who served as London Breed’s chief of staff when she was District 5 supervisor.

When the collaboration was announced, Johnston said that Cookies would be the new dispensary’s “operational and managerial partner,” and media reports said that “the name of the shop is still uncertain, but it would likely be an indirect nod to the Cookies brand.”

A tweet the next day from the cannabis advocacy group San Francisco Social Club said, “It was announced last night by the Cole Ashbury Group at their Community Forum that they are in negotiation with @berner415 and his @CookiesSF group to take over management of the Haight Ashbury Dispensary now being built at 1685 Haight St. Ownership would remain same.”

Berner himself endorsed that description of the arrangement, retweeting that post and adding, “It would be an honor and the city deserves a real cookie club.”

But the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, the regulatory body that oversees local marijuana businesses, had issues with allowing changes to a dispensary’s governance structure after a different structure had already been approved by the city’s Planning Department.

While the Office of Cannabis (OOC) does not comment on pending applications, Director Marisa Rodriguez did broadly explain local permitting.

“The permitting process is relatively new and continues to be refined,” she tells SF Weekly. “Additional changes to an application or unforeseen developments may require additional evaluation.

“This is the first time a substantive change has been proposed post-Planning,” she adds. “This is an organic process and we want it to be thoughtful. We want to protect our Equity Program.”

The sudden change in management  may not have been the only issue; there could also be problems with the name “Cookies”. The city’s 2018 cannabis regulations state that “applicants should not name their business something that appeals specifically to young people.  A youth friendly cannabis business name (e.g. The Candy Corner) does not align with the OOC’s mission.”

“I’m not interested in naming [cannabis] businesses after things that appeal to young people,” Rodriguez says.

You might remember there once was a Cookies SF dispensary on Mission Street near Geneva  Avenue. That dispensary has since rebranded as Connected Cannabis  Co., but still uses a very similar ‘cursive C’ logo and powder blue color scheme associated with Cookies. Oddly, Connected Cannabis continues to bill itself as “Cookies SF” on their Yelp page, and uses the account name @Cookies_SF on Twitter.

Meanwhile, yet another Mission District dispensary called Cookie Co  415 also mimics the Cookies name and cursive script  logo.

The irony of Cookies’ situation is delicious: They’re trying to get into San Francisco’s legal dispensary game, while existing licensed dispensaries are trying to pass themselves off as Cookies with similar logos and branding. We’ll see if the proposed Haight Street arrangement allows Cookies to once again get their hands in the local cannabis industry cookie jar.

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