Monday, October 31, 2005

Regulating the pot clubs: What's the problem?

In today's edition of BeyondChron, Randy Shaw expends almost 1300 words on the medical marijuana club issue and still sheds absolutely no light on the subject. This is partly because Shaw prefers the blind quote to attributing an opinion to anyone in particular. 

Actually, even "blind quote" doesn't accurately describe his modus operandi, since Shaw doesn't have the anonymous opinions in actual quotation marks. Instead, he refers to even vaguer sources: "The feeling was...," "more complex than many anticipated...," "The Mayor and others...," "Most progressives...," "The Green Party's stalwarts...," etc. (emphasis added). 

In short, his readers are justified in concluding that Shaw's riff was nothing but his opinion thinly disguised as representing a significant segment of the city's progressive community. Beyond the Chron? The San Francisco Chronicle has much higher journalistic standards than this.

The primary intent of Shaw's piece is to scold Supervisor Mirkarimi for trying to negotiate a sensible ordinance to regulate the city's many marijuana clubs. Shaw adopts Supervisor Daly's line in his latest blog entry: "When you deal with the Devil, it usually comes back to bite you." 

The "Devil" in this context, of course, is Mayor Newsom. Daly accuses Mirkarimi of "ill-advised compromises" and crafting "fundamentally flawed" legislation. In fact, for Daly there can be no flawless legislation to regulate the city's pot clubs---or "dispensaries," as he calls them---since he evidently doesn't believe there should be any regulation at all.

Shaw provides some clues about what happened here: Daly wanted to water down Mirkarimi's ordinance, but the Murk and the mayor, being more or less reality-based on the issue, wouldn't go for it: "...Mirkarimi persisted in seeking to maintain control of the legislation...In hindsight, Mirkarimi made the classic mistake of responding to his opposition's agenda rather than pushing his own." 

For "opposition's agenda" read "Mayor Newsom" and all those who think the clubs need to be regulated. Mirkarimi's real mistake in the opinion of Shaw/Daly was negotiating with the mayor at all. By definition, in real negotiations you listen to your opposite number's concerns and try to incorporate them into a compromise agreement. 

But real negotiation is not Daly's way, his shakedown of Rincon Hill developers notwithstanding. Did Jesus negotiate with Pilate? Did John Brown negotiate with anyone? Instead, Daly stakes out the "right" and "progressive" position---the same thing in his mind---and his opponents can take it or leave it. Daly doesn't want any real regulation of the pot clubs, because he thinks that's a surrender to those who oppose medical marijuana.

Shaw tries unconvincingly to put the pot club kerfuffle in the wider context of city progressivism:

...passing new medical marijuana regulations had not been an issue in the District 5 Supervisors race, and it was certainly not a priority for Mirkarimi's Green Party...Mirkarimi's progressive and Green District 5 base did not see pot club regulation as a critical issue, yet Mirkarimi was...trying to hammer[out] a consensus proposal...those who worked hard to elect him did not support the ordinance...I spoke confidentially with some of the city's Green Party stalwarts, and none supported the Mirkarimi legislation.

Shaw's claims are suspiciously lacking in specifics. Who did he talk to in District 5? Who did he talk to in the Green Party? Are District 5 voters so stupid that they don't think the pot clubs need to be regulated? This is city politics at its worst---political gossip, backstabbing, and plain old smoke-blowing bullshit.

"The measure would also cut in half the amount of marijuana a patient could purchase from a single club." Shaw doesn't provide any specifics here, because if he did his readers would understand that Mirkarimi's ordinance would restrict purchases to a half a pound as opposed to the full pound advocated by Daly and Shaw. 

This is preposterous. No one but a dealer needs to buy a whole pound of marijuana at one time---or half a pound, for that matter---and even dealers would presumably find buying a pound from a club prohibitively expensive. Like dealers, the pot clubs make money by buying pounds wholesale from growers and then charging high prices for small quantities:

"Mirkarimi's legislation would close 15 current pot clubs, and result in concentrating pot clubs south of Market. This understandably aroused Chris Daly's ire, for while Daly opposes the new restrictions included in Mirkarimi's measure, he was not about to transform a District 6 neighborhood into little Amsterdam.

What Daly says on his blog is quite different: 

"I believe in medical cannabis and will not vote for legislation that zones any dispensaries out of existence...I continue to oppose all of the zoning regulations that affect any existing or future dispensaries including those in the South of Market." (emphasis added) 

The map Daly attached to his blog post shows that there are now 17 pot clubs in his district alone. By Daly's own account, Mirkarimi's ordinance would close only five of these, which is still unacceptable to him. In fact, it's fair to say that Daly does indeed want to make San Francisco into something like Amsterdam. What else can his "future" terminology mean?

Like a true demagogue, Shaw plays the AIDS card: "And what do progressives stand for if they sit silent while misguided legislation affecting people with AIDS is about to be passed by the Board?" If Mirkarimi's ordinance was passed, it would, even according to Daly, close 14 existing clubs, leaving the city with 19. The idea that 19 marijuana clubs aren't enough to serve the city's genuinely sick people is outrageous bullshit.

Like Daly in his blog, Shaw insults Mirkarimi with his condescension: 

"But the job of Supervisor involves a learning curve. In his inexperience, Mirkarimi lost control of the pot club legislation and then became too invested in its passage to recognize that it deviated too far from its original goal." 

The real lesson that Mirkarimi needs to learn: Chris Daly, Shaw, and the fringe left are unreliable political allies. If the Murk has any notion of running for higher office, he'll need to distance himself from the fringe left---the anti-car bike nuts and Critical Mass, the graffiti-is-art crowd, the Muni fare-strikers, etc. 

And what about the learning curve for would-be journalists like Randy Shaw? Surely he's been on the BeyondChron job long enough by now to know better.

What Daly and Shaw are doing is discrediting the whole medical marijuana movement in San Francisco, providing the Feds with justification to come in and shut all the clubs down if they were so inclined. While they are at it, they are discrediting the city's left. Add regulating the pot clubs to the growing list of issues that city progressives are clueless about: homelessness, graffiti/tagging, Critical Mass, the garage in the park, and housing.

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At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can't we all just get along!!


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