Marina District Could Finally See Legal Marijuana

How much longer can San Francisco’s wealthiest area go without a legal medical cannabis retailer?

If you walked into The Apothecarium’s current location at the intersection of Church and Market this week, you received a flyer asking if you’re available to “speak briefly before the SF Planning Commission on Thursday October 22nd.”

The Apothecarium’s application to open a second location at 2414 Lombard, in the heart of San Francisco’s wealthiest supervisorial district, is on tap today. And the dispensary needs help.

It would be completely new territory for retail marijuana, which has struggled to gain ground in San Francisco north of Market Street and west of Twin Peaks. Currently, only three storefronts are open for business north of the slot, and they’re all a pretty long walk uphill from your typical weekend corn hole camaraderie at Frat Mason.

Most dispensaries are still in District 6, the district with both the highest number of on-site dispensaries and the lowest median income in the city.

Which is not to say that you can’t get medical-grade cannabis in Pacific Heights. There are plenty of nearby options for delivery, a point made by opponents of The Apothecarium’s plans.

What you can’t get is the face-to-face consultation and support services offered by the non-profit, which has done much to position itself as both a high-end, boutique shopping experience and a model member of the community.

Further, since nearly every delivery service is unlicensed, the only options are unregulated. (Think Uber, but for weed and even less regulated).

The application includes plenty of artist’s renderings of fashionable, smiling white people ensconced in natural wood interiors with no mention of the marijuana trade in the tasteful, discrete signage. And all that’s alongside a positive quote from State Sen. Mark Leno and a photo of District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner embracing the founders on the occasion of “The Apothecarium Day,” which was proclaimed by the city earlier this month.

Opposition has come primarily from the Cow Hollow Association and the Golden Gate Valley Neighborhood Association, which cite as deal breaker the proximity of an at-risk youth residential facility, managed by Larkin Street Youth Services. The Marina Community Association board vote was split on the issue, and as of this writing remains neutral.

The Cow Hollow Association (which also opposed the Edward II) also cried foul in its opposition letter over the fact that The Apothecarium purchased the building with the intent to open a dispensary and only then doubled the organization’s donation to Larkin Street Youth Services.

“Please give the at-risk youth at Edward II some breathing room in their struggles to get their lives together. Require that the proprietor of this proposed MCD find a more suitable location for the business,” Golden Gate Valleny Neighbors President Robert Bardell wrote in the association’s opposition letter. Cow Hollow’s President Lori Brooke, for her part, helpfully included a map.

However, efforts by the Green Cross to open a dispensary near Fisherman’s Wharf failed in 2007, The Hemp Center in The Richmond is still delivery-only pending permit approval, and The Divinity Tree Wellness Center was denied a new permit in 2014 when it attempted to re-open in its previous location in the Tenderloin after closing when their landlord was threatened with criminal charges and property seizure by the United States Attorney in 2011.

The Apothecarium has been exhaustively thorough in its approach to the process. As the Planning Department has noted in it’s recommendation to the Planning Commission for approval with conditions. Owner and sponsor Ryan Hudson and his team have seem to have checked off every box from community notice and engagement to conforming with all relevant zoning rules and obligations since deciding to move to the neighborhood. But that may yet be enough.

The Commission is set to decide the matter as the last item on the agenda at a public hearing on Thursday evening at City Hall. If the permit is approved, opponents would have thirty days to file an appeal with the Board of Appeals, which denied a permit approved for a dispensary on Taraval, a decision that was upheld by Superior Court.