Medical Marijuana

Jock joints


CULTURE Jim McAlpine wants the world to know that not all marijuana users are lazy, permanently couch-locked, junk-food addicted stoners. That’s why McAlpine is organizing the 420 Games, a series of athletic competitions in which weed enthusiasts will run, walk, and bike their way to larger societal acceptance.

The Games’ inaugural event, a five kilometer fun run in Golden Gate Park Sat/13 that McAlpine hopes will attract 500 participants, will be followed by a road cycling competition in Marin County, a “Marijuana Olympics Challenge” in Sacramento, and foot races across the state. “What better way to prove that you’re not a stoner just because you use marijuana, than [by] going out and being motivated and athletic?” McAlpine points out in an e-mail interview with the Guardian.

The visual of hundreds of healthy weed users jogging en masse through Golden Gate Park’s winding green thoroughfares seems like an apt PSA for responsible pot use. The 420 Games also just sound like a good time. At the inaugural event, attendees have the option to skip the athletics completely and come for the afterparty, which features an artisanal beer garden sponsored by Lagunitas and a set by Zepparella, an all-female Led Zeppelin cover band.

Those expecting the baseball bat-sized joints and puking, littering high schoolers present each year at the 4/20 celebrations on Hippie Hill in the park, be warned: There will be no sanctioned on-site cannabis use at the 420 Games, and attendees are encouraged to drag only on legal weed before and after the event. The Games are not a free-for-all smoke out, radical demonstration, or a call to legalize weed now; rather, McAlpine has packaged his sporting events in a way that will encourage even cannabis skeptics to examine their views about marijuana in 2014.

In his previous life, McAlpine was an entrepreneur who ran a discount ski pass company. But drought and years of dismal snowfall have driven McAlpine to find additional ways to spend his time. He was inspired by the potential of the cannabis industry, and seeks to use many of the proceeds from the 420 Games to fund a 501c3 nonprofit, the PRIME Foundation, which he’s establishing. Though PRIME has yet to begin educational programming and McAlpine has few details on when it will begin operating, he told the Guardian that he wants the organization to be a source of education for youth and adults about marijuana addiction, and about the very real benefits of weed and hemp. “I hope we can begin to raise some money to create campaigns to really educate the public on topics like this,” he says, referring to the 420 Games kickoff.

Of course, the 420 Games are not the only proof that weed-smoking athletes exist. One need only look at the countless Olympians and NFL, NBA, and NFL players who have been caught with pot to know that the sporting life is not one that is necessarily devoid of THC. The highest-profile case was that of swimmer Michael Phelps, the Olympic phenom who has won more medals than anyone in the history of the Games (22 total, 18 of them gold). In 2009, three months after dominating the lanes in Beijing, a leaked photo appeared to show Phelps smoking a bong. Since the photo’s depicted infraction took place during the off-season, Phelps escaped Olympic sanctions, but he did receive a competition suspension and lost a few endorsement deals.

In 1998, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was nearly stripped of his Olympic gold medal after a post-competition positive drug test, but ducked punishment when it was proven that marijuana wasn’t officially on the banned list of the Olympics’ governing board. It was added three months later, which meant American judo star Nicholas Delpopolo was expelled from the 2012 London Olympics when his results came back positive for pot (he maintains he unwittingly ate weed-infused food, but no exception was extended for ignorance of intoxication).

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns was the NFL’s leading receiver during the 2013 season when he failed a drug test for pot. The league recently announced he will be suspended for the entire 2014 season. Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were pulled over with weed in their car last month, but have yet to be suspended from play. And of course, who could forget SF Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum’s 2009 off-season misdemeanor charge, when a pipe and weed were found in his car’s center console during a traffic stop? The list of athletes who have been discovered with weed is rather lengthy, all things considered.

The NHL has removed marijuana — and all drugs not deemed to be performance-enhancing — from its list of banned substances, choosing instead to offer optional addiction counseling to athletes who repeatedly test positive. But NFL spokespeople have repeatedly asserted that no change will be forthcoming in the league’s weed policy. This is especially distressing given that football players likely stand to benefit much more than most people, particularly athletes, from marijuana’s pain management effects. A lawsuit filed earlier this year by 750 ex-NFL players takes on the league for alleged distribution of opioid painkillers that have been shown to have detrimental long-term effects on players’ health.

Cannabis’ natural painkillers are a different story. In an interview with the Fusion network, former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson estimated that 70 to 80 percent of NFL players “gravitate toward the green,” and not just for recreational use. “Managing and tolerating your pain is how you make your money in this game,” Johnson said.

Berkeley doctor Frank Lucido knows full well why sports enthusiasts would turn to marijuana. “Some athletes might benefit from using cannabis after sports for the acute pain and inflammation from that recent activity or trauma,” Lucido writes in an e-mail interview with the Guardian. “Depending on the sport, a player may use cannabis before to ease chronic pain or muscle spasm, so they can function better.”

Lucido said he has prescribed various ex-NFL players medical marijuana, has worked with patients on seeking cannabis treatment since the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996, and holds the opinion that performance in some noncompetitive sports can benefit from cannabis use beforehand. He’s not alone. Others have commented anecdotally that weed can improve sporting ability, especially in pursuits involving high levels of finesse like golf and bowling.

McAlpine says thus far no pro athletes have announced their support of the 420 Games. In our interview, he alludes to plans to approach Phelps’ management, but he might have better luck shooting for Rebagliati. After his close shave with Olympic disgrace, the snowboarder is now the CEO of Ross’ Gold, a Canadian company that sells 14 strains of premium branded medical cannabis. Philadelphia Flyers veteran Riley Cote is another ex-pro in the world of marijuana — he recently started a foundation to teach people about the role hemp can play in a sustainable lifestyle.

But perhaps the 420 Games will manage to sway public opinion not with the appearance of gold medal winners, but rather everyday people who use weed in their everyday lives — something that weed expos, with their green bikini babes and emphasis on innovative new ways of getting blasted, have failed to do.

“I believe very strongly that there is a huge problem with public perception of marijuana users,” says McAlpine. “Even as it becomes legal. I knew it would be a big step to take on this new venture, but it is 100 percent for a cause I believe in, so that makes it all a lot easier to get up and put the hours in.”

There’s no question that it will take many muscles to change much of professional sports’ opinion on marijuana. But maybe we can start here. Call it a joint effort. *


Sat/13, 7am check-in; 8am race; 9am-noon afterparty, $60 (afterparty pass, $42)

Bandshell, Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF

San Jose cracks down on pot clubs after eschewing SF’s regulatory approach


San Jose’s current (and harsh) crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries contrasts with San Francisco’s decade-old (and still working well) regulations.

Over the last five years, cannabis club after cannabis club sprouted throughout San Jose while the city’s local government debated, wavered, and faltered over the best way to regulate their pot clubs. But last month, San Jose City Council members, citing an abundance of pot clubs as the cause of a surge of marijuana use in schools, got tough. They voted to enact regulations that would make it too costly for more than 70 of their pot clubs in the city to operate. Only about 10 would survive.

Meanwhile, San Francisco pot clubs rest easy, undisturbed, and untouched — at least by the San Francisco officials who pioneered regulations in the city early on. In fact, the city’s Planning Department has recently recommended expanding the so-called Green Zone where dispensaries are allowed to operate by allowing dispensaries closer to schools.

As it stands, getting a permit to open a dispensary in San Francisco is no easy task. San Francisco regulations mean dispensaries are limited to less than 10 percent of all of San Francisco.

“Because zoning is so limited, the biggest struggle is finding a location,” Shona Gochenaur, director of Axis of Love SF Community Center, told the Guardian. “I’ve known collectives that have searched for over two years for a space correctly zoned. If you get through all those mindfields and to your Planning Commission hearing, it’s smoother. Very few permits have been denied if they survive to that point.”

But San Jose’s proposed regulations take it a step farther: they would limit pot shops to industrial areas that make up roughly 1 percent of San Jose. Plus, under San Jose’s proposal, San Jose’s pot shop owners will have to grow their own cannabis and produce any topicals and edibles in house. For that, they’ll need kitchens, labs, health inspections, and a host of costly equipment. Also unlike San Francisco, no concentrates will be allowed, causing many marijuana patients to suffer from lack of access to the medicine they need.

After San Jose approved the relegations, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to enact a temporary moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Santa Clara County. David Hodges,  a member of the Silicon Cannabis Coalition and owner of the All American Cannabis club, says he has until July 18 to put forth a referendum that would undo San Jose’s vote.

“I want regulations that work,” he said. “We want to remove the language that makes it impossible for dispensaries to operate and to keep everything else.”

The problem, he said, is that San Jose hadn’t enacted regulations soon enough. San Francisco was way ahead of them.

Gochenaur worked on some of San Francisco’s early regulations, recognizing that the feds would step in if cannabis activists didn’t act first.

“[The] San Francisco movement came with the AIDS crisis with city electeds that were both empathetic and personally affected by watching loved one’s suffering, our ZIP code being hit the hardest,” said Gochenaur .“We had the risk takers and the trail blazers willing to open their doors.”

Risk taking for San Francisco included regulating dispensaries in ways the state has since failed to do. Since San Francisco began regulating dispensaries in 2004, anyone wanting to open up a dispensary in San Francisco has had to jump through a series of tough bureaucratic hoops while also garnering neighborhood support.

San Jose, instead, opted for the laissez faire approach, allowing their dispensaries to grow, and then regretting it later.

When San Jose attempted to enact similar regulations back in 2011, Hodges used a referendum to stop the council’s plans. But, once he succeeded in defeating San Jose’s proposal, no new regulations were proposed.

“The cannabis movement in San Jose is back at square one,” Hodges wrote on his website after his referendum succeeded.

John Lee, director of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, said his organization’s biggest mistake was repealing, rather than revising, San Jose’s proposal 3 years ago. “We just knew that we couldn’t do with what they were proposing,” he said. “We just wanted to stop their relegations. But we had no idea how to regulate this back then. Now we want to.”

Having narrow relegations to begin with leaves San Francisco with room for revision later. For instance, Sup. John Avalos is working with the Planning Commission to help expand the Green Zone by bringing dispensaries 600 feet away from schools rather than 1,000 feet now. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Santa Clara Deputy County Executive Sylvia Gallegos has claimed before that San Jose’s dispensaries, totalling over 90 at the time,  caused a 106 percent increase in drug abuse-related suspensions of students in East San Jose schools in 2011-2012.

“I was smoking pot in high school before I even knew what a cannabis club was,” Hodges said. “Keeping dispensaries away from schools won’t stop that.”

If Hodges referendum fails, he says he’ll leave the cannabis industry for good.

“Right now, this could happen anywhere. There’s no safe place,” he said. “Save for Oakland – kind of. And San Francisco. But they have the territory well-covered in those areas. There’s no need for me there.”

San Francisco dispensaries may have local support, but without statewide regulations, they’re not immune to federal crackdowns, either, as the closures of Vapor Room and HopeNet made clear back in 2012. For years, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has been trying to create statewide regulatory framework for California to help limit the crackdowns. In May, his most recent bill to address statewide regulation failed to pass the Assembly Floor. Since then, Ammiano has backed a bill from Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that would force dispensaries to obtain local approval prior to obtaining state approval.

David Goldman, a former member of the San Francisco Medical Marijuana Task Force, told us, “It’s basically the only sensible approach towards state framework. The US Attorney is less likely to go after states with a strong structure. The tighter the regulations, the less the feds will go after dispensaries.”

For now, cannabis owners in San Jose must focus on their own, local battle to save themselves. As for the San Francisco cannabis owners who’ve passed their bureaucratic tests and received their golden permits, business resumes as usual.

American revolution: Smith Henderson talks ‘Fourth of July Creek’


Smith Henderson is all smiles. His debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, has been receiving rave reviews since its release two weeks ago, has a 100,000 copy pressing from HarperCollins, and was recently called “the best book I’ve read so far this year” by Washington Post critic Ron Charles.

“I was not expecting the Ron Charles thing … that was amazing,” Henderson says, sipping his beer on the outdoor patio of Farley’s East in Oakland. (He’ll be reading from the book Tue/17 at San Francisco’s Book Passage.) While the degree of success that the book is receiving tickles Henderson, he doesn’t pretend to be shocked that people are enjoying his work. “When people tell me ‘I love your book,’ I’m happy, but not chagrined. I wrote the book toward my interests, so of course I like my book.” Henderson smokes a cigarette as he chuckles. 

His novel explores the plight of Pete Snow, a Montana social worker who discovers a feral boy, Benjamin, and his survivalist father Jeremiah Pearl. While dealing with the dissolution of his own family, several other cases, and a tumultuous romance, Snow uncovers Pearl’s revolutionary ideas and begins to question his own safety and that of his entire community, the rural town of Tenmile. Henderson’s intertwining plot confronts a plethora of contemporary societal ailments, including alcoholism, suspicion of government, child neglect, cultural polarization, and the gift and curse of religion. 

Much of our conversation concerned the intricate plot points that Henderson somehow manages to sew together seamlessly. Such a combination of topicality and technical flourish has led Charles and several other high-profile critics to throw around words like “Great American Novel,” meaning work consistent enough and broad enough in  political scope to say something profound and lasting about the nation. 

Henderson isn’t one to label his own work, but he doesn’t entirely laugh off the potential hyperbole either. “I think it’s tricky to use words like ‘Great American Novel’ because it’s set in Montana — it’s a very white state. There’s a lack of diversity that I think is necessary in talking about the whole country.” After a moment of rumination, however, he offers a partial refutation of his own point. “That being said, the novels that come to mind are pretty regional as well; Beloved is pretty focused on a single location and group.”

While Montana might not be the optimal mirror for America, it’s a place that Henderson knows quite well. A native son, he grew up in the state and went to college, like Pete Snow, in Missoula. (He now lives in Portland, Ore.) “My whole family are cowboys and loggers. My dad is still a logger,” he says proudly. “Montana is a weird place … there’s a libertarian streak that is pretty unique in how it manifests itself.” 

Henderson cites the 2004 election, in which Montana voted for George W. Bush, legalized medical marijuana, and constitutionally banned gay marriage all on the same ballot. The odd mix between “live free or die” and socially conservative practices in the state provided an ideal climate for the confrontation between Snow, a government employee with the Department of Family Services, and the fiercely anti-authority Pearl. The eventual escalation between the government and the community is easy to believe. 

“Things are always liable to get a bit wacky and out of control up there,” says Henderson. 

Yet Henderson, while by no means conservative or religious, isn’t trying to write a book about extreme zealots. “At first it’s possible to look at Pearl and think he’s completely insane. But a lot of his paranoia is not entirely unfounded.” 

Near the end of the book, Pearl uses an example of government agencies  replenishing the Montana wolf population as an example of how dangerous Federalism can become. “Pearl basically suggests, ‘You may think your wolves are pretty, but they are liable to eat me.’ That lack of practicality is real.” 

While Henderson set Fourth of July Creek in the early 1980s, he was inspired by the rhetoric going on in national politics today. “Arguments like those of Pearl’s are all over the place right now, and initially they may seem just as paranoid. But when you have unmitigated drone strikes and NSA surveillance it isn’t impossible to see where people are coming from.” 

He does, however, see the value of government intervention — Helena pays his ultimately heroic (or at least likeably anti-heroic) protagonist, after all. “On the other hand, you have health care, gay rights, the environment, all receiving meaningful support.”

Though informed and interested in the modern state of affairs, Henderson was very intentional in his chronological setting of the book. He leans forward and takes on a quieter, more intense tone as he talks about the era directly succeeding Carter’s economic and military failures. “1980 was an inflection point. Obviously Carter, while getting a lot right, struggled a ton in the implementation. And the backlash to that, coming in the form of the Reagan Revolution, has really defined modern society … We learned how to make wealth out of thin air — at least for some people.” 

Reagan’s election and the surrounding rhetoric takes center stage in the book. Judge Dyson, an aging and alcoholic Democrat, openly weeps as he watches the election results with Snow. “It was the death of the LBJ, rural-big-government Democrat. And that’s something I’m not sure we’ll ever get back.” 

In addition to highlighting the philosophical shifts that have led to the urbanization of liberal thought, Henderson also uses the relatively unorganized pre-digital bureaucracy as a major plot device. “There was no concept of secondary trauma in 1980 Montana. There was no social worker to help Pete deal with the horrific things that he sees on a daily basis.” 

The dearth of support systems fuel Snow’s drinking bouts, depression, and difficulty in handling his daughter’s disappearance and ex-wife’s instability; he may be a great social worker, but the state’s inability to track his emotional progress and casework eats away at his life.

A fascinating storyteller and political force, Henderson is also often  technically experimental. The portion of the book that details Snow’s daughter’s descent is done in the form of an anonymous question and answer. “When I write, I almost always write questions to myself: ‘Where is Pete Snow from?’ ‘Choteau.’ ‘Why Choteau?’ For the Rachel section, I just left it in that form.” 

But the section is far from unfinished. Henderson left the section as is because of the intensity of its content — in a pure third-person narrative it felt too stilted. “The voices are full of an anxiety and intensity that couldn’t be captured with the more impartial voice in the rest of the book.”

The frenetic 90 minutes that we spent discussing Fourth of July Creek further convinced me that the book cannot be distilled to one message, but is rather a varied rumination on insecurity, suspicion, and government. When I asked Henderson what he thinks the primary takeaway is, however, he was remarkably candid and quick in his response. He pointed me to the Thoreau quotation that opens the book: “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.” 

Henderson then highlighted a passage in which Snow is likened to a priest for how much he gives up to help dysfunctional families. “America in the ‘80s was losing trust for institutions, and continues to. Despite all of his flaws, Pete is worthy of our trust, and hopefully represents a powerful refutation of Thoreau’s instant suspicion for government or those who come to help us.”

Henderson’s creation, while transcending political ideology, powerfully shows the potential for altruism even in a country as broken as the US.


Smith Henderson

Tue/17, 12:30pm, free

Book Passage

1 Ferry Building, SF

Don’t police the pot docs



By Ahimsa Porter Sumchai


Senate Bill 1262 was introduced in the California Senate on Feb. 21 by veteran legislator Lou Correa. It is a medical marijuana bill designed to regulate physicians, dispensaries, and cultivation sites via rigid government oversight. Sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association, SB 1262 promises to “provide a clear road map for the responsible implementation of Proposition 215 in California since voters approved it in 1996.”

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which created Heath & Safety Code 11362.5, ensures that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes when the use is deemed appropriate and recommended by a physician.

As a licensed physician with a registered medical practice in San Francisco, I have reviewed the wording of SB 1262. The bill is highly punitive, clearly seeking to punish doctors who recommend medical marijuana (MM). SB 1262 concerns me most because it duplicates and violates existing state and federal statutes that clarify the physicians’ role in recommending MM.

In the 2002 case Conant v. McCaffrey, the federal government was enjoined by the US District Court in San Francisco from punishing physicians for recommending MM. That ruling affirms physicians’ First Amendment right to make recommendations.

SB 1262 requires the Medical Board of California to audit any physician who recommends MM more than 100 times a year. On April 2, the US Supreme Court struck down limits on federal campaign donations under the auspices of First Amendment free speech rights. Thus, a SCOTUS precedent was set that can be legally interpreted to defend a physician’s free speech right to authorize as many patients to use MM as deemed medically necessary.

SB 1262 establishes requirements for prescribing and record-keeping for physicians who recommend MM in a bill sponsored by law enforcement officials who lack medical or relevant education training. Guidelines and accepted standards for recommending MM were developed by licensed California physicians and adopted by the MBC on May 7, 2004.

SB 1262 violates the California law that protects the privacy of patient medical information — The Confidentiality of Medical Information Act — as well as federal law protecting health information, by mandating physicians report all MM recommendations along with private patient records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires patient authorization for disclosure of patient health information. HIPAA is a federal regulation, and MBC has no authority to evaluate HIPAA violations.

SB 1262 mandates a training and certification requirement for any doctor who recommends MM, with a $5,000 fine for noncompliance. I support SB 1262’s efforts to establish standards for quality assurance and testing of marijuana cultivated for medical use, but even that section duplicates guidelines developed and adopted by the Attorney General’s Office in 2008.

Physicians are capable of regulating their practice standards without law enforcement oversight and SB 1262 is opposed by the California Medical Association, which issued guidelines for physicians recommending MM in 2004, which includes proper record-keeping and annual examinations.

“Medical marijuana evaluation clinics are engaged in the practice of medicine, and physicians are responsible for their patients,” that 20-page Digest for Medical Marijuana Clinics affirms.

Marijuana remains listed in Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and has no accepted medical use. The lack of dose response curve research conducted in large population-controlled trials coupled with the lack of standardized cannabinoid profiling, potency, pesticide, and microbiological testing make it difficult for the physician to offer dosing recommendations for MM short of the adage “start low, go slow.”

The American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and many other medical institutions join Americans for Safe Access — the largest member-based marijuana advocacy organization in the country — in promoting safe and legal access to MM for therapeutic uses and research. Polling shows Americans of all political stripes support medical marijuana, and SB 1262 would be a step backward that the public doesn’t want to take.

Ahimsa Porter Sumchai is a physician and former District 10 supervisorial candidate.

Where there’s smoke


It was April 20 in Golden Gate Park, the fabled 4/20 in the parlance of pot smokers, and we found Nick and Chris standing under the shade of a tree with a cluster of friends, including Geoff, the proud owner of a five-foot bong.

Nick had done several hits through the supersized smoking device that day. Beside him, Chris took hits from his own handheld bong. “I’m feeling good,” Nick reported. “But I’m also kinda hungry. I could go for some Chinese food. Ohh, and some Sapporo!”

Administering a hit of marijuana through such unwieldy paraphernalia is quite the operation, requiring one person to stand and hold one end, another to light the marijuana once it’s packed into the bowl, and a third to inhale the five-foot column of milky smoke that rises through the chamber. The smokers on the receiving end contorted their faces as they inhaled, inevitably coughing and laughing as they breathed out, seemingly amazed by the experience. The college-age friends were in 420-induced bliss.

The annual 420 celebration in Golden Gate Park is unpermitted, with no official organizers, yet thousands of festivalgoers nevertheless flock to it year after year. It’s a quintessentially San Francisco experience: Young and old congregate for a collective daylong smoke-out, bringing drums, dogs, grills, shade structures, hand-blown glass, tie-dyed tapestries, Hacky Sacks, sound systems, and other picnic paraphernalia along with them.

The area around Hippie Hill — at the eastern end of the park, near Kezar Stadium — was a jumble of humanity crammed elbow to elbow, reeking of pot smoke. The crowd reflected a wide range of ethnicities and brought out many displaying an outlandish sense of fashion, sporting shiny plastic marijuana-leaf necklaces, sleeve tattoos, piercings, face paint, and piles upon piles of dreadlocked hair.

San Francisco maintains an iconic status as a weed-friendly city. While 420 in Golden Gate Park is a lighthearted scene that’s also proved irksome for city agencies plagued by leftover trash and traffic jams, serious year-round marijuana advocacy efforts continue to mark the Bay Area as a hotbed for drug policy reform and thriving, legitimate pot-based entrepreneurship.



The movement to legalize marijuana for medical purposes started in San Francisco, the lovechild of the city’s hippie movement and its caregiving response to the AIDS epidemic. It was Dennis Peron and other activists here who wrote Proposition 215, the statewide legalization measure that California voters approved in 1996.

A decade ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive set of regulations for its two dozen or so medical marijuana dispensaries, guidelines that have proven to work well and be a model for other jurisdictions to follow, elevating pot purveyors into accepted members of the business community (see “Marijuana goes mainstream,” 1/27/10).

Some have even begun to regard the Bay Area as a model for how to implement a sensible approach to regulating marijuana. On April 16, US Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) traveled to San Francisco on a fact-finding mission after Clark County, Nevada legalized medical marijuana, with Las Vegas and other Nevada cities expected to follow shortly.

“I want the state to learn from someone who’s done it right,” Titus told the Guardian as she toured The Apothecarium on Market Street, an elegant dispensary reputed to be one of San Francisco’s finest.

In addition to helping guide Nevada’s implementation of medical marijuana legalization, Titus said she’s working on federal legislation that would better protect small businesses involved with a marijuana industry that is growing rapidly in the US, thanks to Colorado and Washington taking the next step and legalizing even recreational uses of marijuana.

For example, Titus wants to make sure marijuana businesses have full access to banking services, something that the US Department of Justice has occasionally interfered with. As Titus told us, “The federal government shouldn’t be wasting time and going after people who are abiding their state laws.”



Back at 420 on Hippie Hill, Amber and Charlie lounged on a blanket with Gizmo, an affectionate pooch they’d adopted from “this guy who lives in a tree house” in Santa Cruz. The young couple, ages 18 and 20 respectively, had hitchhiked to California from Washington. Yes, “we may have done some weed,” Charlie said before letting out a peal of laughter.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” Amber said. “Literally, there was smoke coming from everywhere,” the moment 4:20pm arrived. As far as the eye could see, she said, the scene was nothing but “people smoking weed. It was crazy.”

Lilian was at the park with a friend, wearing a crown of daisies she’d woven with flowers plucked from nearby the park entrance. “All day we’ve been doing joints and blunts and pipes,” she explained. “We haven’t had any bong hits yet, but we had a couple vape hits, because they were like giving free test trials here at the park. So we were like, alright, why not?”

Lilian exulted the “positive vibes” of the event, but it wasn’t all weed and roses. A short while later, reports of gunfire sent police cars racing into the park with sirens wailing. While police later reported that they never found evidence of anyone actually discharging a weapon, two different individuals were arrested on charges of possessing a firearm.

Emergency personnel responded to four medical calls, police reported the following day, including one person who had a seizure, someone who suffered an abrasion at Haight and Ashbury streets, and two underaged individuals who experienced problems after becoming overly intoxicated. For a crowd of thousands pushed the boundaries of indulgence, quite a small number suffered harm.

Eight other arrests stemmed from charges of selling marijuana or possessing it for sale, possession or sale of opiates, one warrant arrest, and another on charges of “malicious mischief,” according to police.

A few days before the unpermitted gathering, city officials held a press conference announcing a “comprehensive plan” to crack down on the anticipated debauchery, which included not only the Golden Gate Park marijuana celebration but the “Hunky Jesus” competition, a countercultural hallmark held annually on Easter Sunday in Dolores Park.

“Last year we had a lot of challenges,” said Sup. London Breed, whose District 5 encompasses Golden Gate Park. “We need to make the city and streets safe this year. We want people to come and enjoy San Francisco, but we also want them to respect San Francisco.”

Thus, city agencies ramped up deployment of both plainclothes and uniformed police officers, and sent out more parking and traffic control officers.

The previous year, when massive amounts of debris had been left strewn throughout the park, it took 25 city employees over 12 hours to clean up five tons of trash left by intoxicated visitors, said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. The Department of Public Works’ tab for cleanup exceeded $10,000.

But the main draw of the event, in true San Francisco fashion, was behavior Police Chief Greg Suhr hinted in advance would essentially be tolerated. “The sale of marijuana is still a felony,” Suhr emphasized, “but I don’t think [the SFPD is] naive enough to believe that we can stop people from smoking on 4/20.”



Advocates for legalizing even recreational use of marijuana had hoped to make the November ballot this year, but the campaign’s signature-gathering effort has sputtered out.

Sponsored by the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, the legalization measure was named for Jack Herer, a renowned cannabis advocate who passed away in 2010. The campaign is now ramping up for another try in 2016, when some advocates hope the presidential election will drive younger voters to the polls.

But while efforts to legalize weed in California for recreational use falter for now, the legitimate use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has giving rise to healthy businesses and research on health benefits. At the April 16 event at the Apothecarium, Titus had lots of questions for Allie Butler, an expert in marijuana who has a master’s degree in public health and told Titus, “I want to do cannabis research for the rest of my life.”

Butler introduced Titus to the various strains of marijuana, explaining what ailments each is good for. The CaliWidow can be a cure for headaches, she explained, and Blue Dream is “good for nausea. We prescribe that for cancer patients all day.” She indicated another strain, saying, “this is the Jack Herer, it’s my mom’s favorite.” Fancy, knowledgeable, and above ground, this isn’t your mom’s marijuana business anymore.

Record Store Day: Where to get your (musical) high tomorrow


You did it! It’s Friday!

This weekend will see a convergence of two holidays that, come to think of it, overlap rather nicely given their impact on chocolate sales. Whether you’re celebrating the resurrection of Christ by donning an elaborate hat for church or the recent renewal of your medical marijuana card by finding new and creative ways to mainline THC (word to the wise: be careful in public this year), Sunday, April 20 is shaping up to be a fine day for people-watching in this city.

But hey, fellow music nerds: We all know both of those pale in comparison to what’s going down on Saturday. Yes, like the first esoteric, vinyl-collection obsessed, possibly slightly-condescending-at-times robin of Spring, Record Store Day is upon us once again. Tomorrow, Sat/19, will be a pretty good day to visit just about any (actual, brick-and-mortar, non-Internet-based) record store in the Bay Area. Now in its seventh year, the holiday — which, its website notes, was kicked off in 2008 at San Francisco’s Rasputin, by none other than the boys from Metallica — is celebrated at stores on every continent except Antarctica.

No need to pack your bags though: Here’s what’s going down at a few Bay Area establishments that sell music in all its excellent tangible, physical forms.

From the Mission’s Aquarius Records, owner (and Minor Forest drummer) Andee Connors wrote us the following when we asked what he was stoked on this year:

1. A Minor Forest, Flemish Altruism / Inindependence, 4 LP reissue on Thrill Jockey, both albums from this nineties math/post/noise rock band [acknowledgement of personal bias here]

1. The Ghostbusters‘ glow-in-the dark 10″

3. Ron Jeremy, Understanding and Appreciating Classical Music With Ron Jeremy, 7″ (only a 7″??)

4. Cardinal 2/t LP, vinyl reissue of this seminal baroque indie-pop classic

5. Scharpling & Wurster, Rock, Rot & Rule LP, vinyl reissue of maybe the funniest record ever, especially for music nerds

I think our customers are probably excited for those, but they’re / we’re also looking forward to the Heatmiser (Elliott Smith’s old band) LP reissues, the four soundtrack LPs on Death Waltz, Pussy Galore reissue, Rodion G.A. reissue, the Space Project compilation…also, we have a new release from local band Twin Trilogy, featuring Sean Smith, the first in a series, ONLY available at aQ on RSD, and on Sunday, Twin Trilogy will be playing a special in-store at aQ. Record store day part 2!!! [Ed. note: Should pair well with your other Sunday celebrations].


Across the Bay at Oakland’s 1-2-3-4 Go!, a full-day party will kick off when the store opens at 8am. “Last year people started lining up around 4:30am, to give you a heads-up if you plan on coming for the opening,” advised owner Steve Stevenson, adding that they’ll have coffee from SubRosa and donuts from Pepples (while supplies last) for those of you who line up early.

Giveaway: A test pressing of the Green Day Demolicious 2xLP, autographed by Berkeley boy Billie Joe Armstrong. The first 100 people in line will get a raffle ticket; once the 100th person has handed in their ticket, the drawing will commence.

James Williamson of The Stooges will be doing a signing and chatting with fans from 10am to 11ish. (Ed. note: !!!!)

Hella Vegan Eats will be on hand making breakfast and lunch throughout the day. “Not free, but well worth it even if you’re not vegan,” says Steve. They’ll also have a couple of kegs from Linden Street Brewery for over-21 folks, for free, after noon.

Bands: Ghoul will be playing a very special “surf” set from their RSD Hang Ten 10″ out on Tank Crimes at 3pm, with Occultist opening. 


An entirely non-comprehensive list of what’s happening at other stores:

Amoeba Berkeley — In-store DJ sets from Jonah Nice and DJ Inti; 20 percent off all turntables, posters, and some other accessories; giveaways TBA.

Amoeba SF — Same sales as above, plus live silk-screening from 11am to 2pm with special RSD 2014 designs, one by Zach of Saintseneca; t-shirts and totes available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the San Francisco Rock Project. Plus a full day of guest DJs, including folks like Andy Cabic of Vetiver and Ezana Edwards and Ryan Grubbs from Blood Sister.

Rasputin Berkeley: Free acoustic show by Phillip Phillips.

Groove Merchant Records (Haight): Cool Chris’ hand-picked “batch of 300+ Rock, Soul, Jazz, Italo Disco, and Post-Punk records (LP’s, 12”s, & 7”s),” selected especially for RSD.

And now a word from your Record Store Day 2014 ambassador, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, whose duties coincide with an RSD reissue of a very fine 1988 album. Happy crate-digging!

Crime and politics


San Franciscans awoke March 26 to the surprising news that state Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF) had been arrested on federal corruption charges as part of early morning police raids targeting an organized crime syndicate based in Chinatown, along with reputed gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and two dozen others.

Yee had a reputation for sometimes trading votes for campaign contributions, a perception that had only gained strength in recent months as he launched his first statewide campaign, running to lead the Secretary of State’s Office, casting key votes for landlords and big industries that he refused to explain to local activists.

So in a year when two other Democratic Senators have also been stung by federal corruption and bribery probes, the televised image of Yee in handcuffs wasn’t beyond the realm of possibilities. It was surprising, but not shocking.

Yet by the mid-afternoon when the 137-page federal criminal complaint was unsealed and journalists started reading through what undercover FBI agents had discovered during their five-year criminal investigation, it read more like a sensational organized crime and espionage novel than a court document, a real page-turner that just got more wild and incredible as it went on.

timelineYeeWhat began with the FBI investigating a murder and leadership transition in the San Francisco branch of the ancient Chinese organized crime syndicate known as the Triad, led by an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the group, evolved into a widening investigation accusing Yee of arranging an illegal arms trafficking deal with a Muslim rebel group in the Philippines in exchange for $100,000 funneled into his campaign, on top of smaller favors that Yee allegedly did in exchange for envelopes with $10,000 in cash.

It was even worse for local political consultant Keith Jackson, a key Yee fundraiser who was also on contract with Lennar Urban for its Bayview-Hunters Point development projects, with the undercover FBI agents allegedly drawing Jackson into big cocaine deals, money laundering, bribery, and even a murder-for-hire plot. If the complaint is to be believed, Jackson seemed willing to do just about anything to enrich himself and raise money for Yee.

Meanwhile, the public image that Chow has been cultivating for himself since his 2003 release from federal prison — that of a reformed career gangster turned Chinatown civic leader, someone praised by local politicians for inspiring fellow ex-convicts to turn their lives around — was replaced the complaint’s description of a powerful “Dragonhead” overseeing a vast criminal enterprise involved in drugs, guns, prostitution, protection rackets, moving stolen booze and cigarettes, and money laundering.

“I think the whole city is in shock at the moment,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents Chinatown and ran against Yee in the 2011 mayor’s race, told the Guardian that afternoon. “Today’s widespread law enforcement actions are incredibly disturbing. The detail and scale of the criminal activities are shocking.”

In the days that followed, Yee withdrew his candidacy for Secretary of State and was suspended by his colleagues in the California Senate. But where this wild tale of crime and corruption goes next — and who else gets implicated as these powerful and well-connected defendants look to cut deals to avoid the lengthy prison sentences they all face — is anyone’s guess.



Chow, 54, was raised a criminal, telling the History Channel’s “Gangland” that he stabbed someone in Hong Kong at the age of nine before moving to San Francisco in 1977 and getting involved in the Hop Sing Boys gang and Chinatown’s criminal underworld.

He survived the Golden Dragon Massacre, a shooting between rival Chinatown gangs that left five dead, but he was arrested in 1978 for a robbery and sent to prison for the first time, released in 1985. The next year, he was sent back to prison for attempted murder and more gang mayhem, released in 1989.

“I did time with Charles Manson, a good friend of mine. Kimball, a serial killer. I did time with a bunch of amazing people. Each person you talk to you learn something from. Ain’t no stupid people inside the prison, you can say that,” Chow told Gangland.

In 1991, a gangster named Peter Chong was sent from Hong Kong to San Francisco to extend the reach of the Wo Hop To Triad. He enlisted Chow as his right-hand man, and together they extended the reach of the Wo Hop To across the Western United States, trying to create an all encompassing gang named the Tien HaWui, “The Whole Earth Association.”

Chow was arrested again in 1995 on a variety of racketeering and other criminal charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison. But he later testified against Chong and got his sentence reduced, and he was released from federal prison in 2003.

After his release, Chow publicly claimed to go legit, working on book and movie deals about his life, as well as building connections in the political world. Chow posed for photos with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and other local political figures.

But the latest criminal complaint said that even as Chow pretended to be moving on, he continued to make incriminating statements to the undercover agents “confirming his knowledge of and involvement in criminal activity.”



The criminal complaint alleges that “Chow is currently the Dragonhead, or leader, of the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization,” which it described as a criminal syndicate connected to Hung Mun, a criminal dynasty that began in 17th century China, “also referred to as a Chinese secret society and the Chinese Freemasons.”

It says Chow was sworn in as CKT head in August 2006, soon after the still-unsolved murder of CKT head Allen Leung. Chow’s swearing-in was reported in local Chinese media sources, so SFPD and FBI conducted surveillance there and launched an investigation.

The FBI says it began infiltrating CKT five years ago, including an undercover FBI agent dubbed UCE 4599, who in May 2010 was introduced to Chow, who “then introduced UCE 4599 to many of the target subjects.” UCE 4599 told Chow he was a member of La Cosa Nostra, the Italian mob.

In March 2012 he was inducted into CKT as a “Consultant,” the complaint alleges. It says that Jackson — a former San Francisco school board member and political consultant — had also be inducted into CKT as a “Consultant,” participating in various criminal conspiracies.

The gang members are accused of laundering money made from “illegal activities, specifically illegal gambling, bookmaking, sports betting, drugs, and outdoor marijuana grows.” They allegedly laundered $2.3 million between March 2011 and December 2013 for UCE 4599, with members collecting a 10 percent fee for doing so.

The complaint says Jackson “has a long-time relationship with Senator Yee,” and “has been involved in raising funds for” Yee’s run for mayor “and for Senator Yee’s current campaign in the California Secretary of State election.” And much of the complaint details deeds allegedly committed by Jackson and Yee.

In fact, the second person named in the complaint, right after Chow, is Yee, “aka California State Senator Leland Yee, aka Uncle Leland.”

As the complaint alleges, “Senator Yee and Keith Jackson were involved in a scheme to defraud the citizens of California of their rights to honest services, and Senator Yee, [Daly City resident Dr. Wilson] Lim, and Keith Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.”



Yee and Jackson met UCE 4599 through Chow, and then Jackson allegedly solicited him to make donations to Yee’s 2011 San Francisco mayoral campaign “in excess of the $500 individual donation limit. UCE 4599 declined to make any donations to Senator Yee, but introduced Keith Jackson and Senator Yee to a purported business associate, UCE 4773, another undercover FBI agent,” who made a $5,000 donation to Yee’s mayoral campaign.

Yee had $70,000 in debt after that mayor’s race and worked with Jackson on ways to pay off that debt. “This included soliciting UCE 4773 for additional donations and in the course of doing so, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that Senator Yee would perform certain official acts in exchange for donations from UCE 4773.”

Yee allegedly agreed to “make a telephone call to a manager with the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract under consideration with UCE 4773’s purported client, and would provide an official letter of support for the client, in exchange for a $10,000 donation.”

Meanwhile, it says Jackson and Yee continued raising money for his Secretary of State race by soliciting donations from UCE 4599 and UCE 4180, another undercover agent. “They agreed that in exchange for donations from UCE 4599 and UCE 4180, Senator Yee would perform certain officials acts requested by UCE 4599 and UCE 4180.”

That included Yee issuing an “official state Senate proclamation honoring the CKT in exchange for a $6,800 campaign donation, the maximum individual donation allowed by law.” Yee allegedly did so, and it was presented by one of his staff members at the CKT anniversary celebration on March 29, 2013.

Yee and Jackson are also accused of introducing a donor to unidentified state legislators working on pending medical marijuana legislation, the donor being another undercover agent who claimed to be a medical marijuana businessman from Arizona looking to expand into California, “and in payment for that introduction, UCE 4180 delivered $11,000 cash to Senator Yee and Keith Jackson on June 22, 2013.”

In September, after making another introduction, Yee and Jackson allegedly received another $10,000 cash donation for their services. Then Jackson allegedly had an idea for getting even more money.

“Jackson told UCE 4599 that Senator Yee, had a contact who deals in arms trafficking.” Jackson then allegedly requested UCE 4599 make another donation “to facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer with the intent of UCE 4599 to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey.”

That deal for up to $2.5 million in weapons involved automatic weapon and shoulder-fired missiles, the complaint said, and “Senator Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons UCE 4599 was interested in buying and importing.”

The complaint says that Yee expressed discomfort with how openly UCE 4180 discussed overt “pay to play” links between cash donations and official actions. “I’m just trying to run for Secretary of State. I hope I don’t get indicted,” Yee allegedly told two undercover FBI agents during a walk on June 20, 2013, urging them to be less explicit about connecting official favor with campaign donations.

“Despite complaining about UCE 4180’s tendency to speak frankly and tie payment to performance, and threatening to cut off contact with UCE 4180, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson continued to deal with UCE 4180 and never walked away from quid pro quo requests make by UCE 4180,” the complaint said. “In fact, Senator Yee provided the introductions sought by UCE 4180 and accepted cash payments which UCE 4180 expressly tied to the making of the introductions.”

Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, told reporters they will contest the charges: “We will always in every case enter not guilty pleas, then the case takes on a life of its own.”


Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.




Complaint against Yee includes firearms trafficking and envelopes full of cash


The federal criminal charges filed today against Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF), local political consultant Keith Jackson, reputed Chinatown organized crime boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, and 23 other defendants allege a vast criminal conspiracy that was penetrated by undercover FBI agents, who say they then gave Yee envelopes full of cash in exchange for official favors.

Among the many bizarre aspects of this blockbuster case, Yee stands accused of taking part in a conspiracy to illegally smuggle firearms into the country, and using those deals to help secure campaign contributions for his current campaign for Secretary of State, while he was sponsoring a trio of gun control bills that were signed into law last year.

Yee, who reportedly faces 16 years in prison for two felony counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, was arrested this morning during a series of early morning police raids, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment this afternoon, and was freed after posting a $500,000 unsecured bond.

Chow had a long criminal history as the admitted head of the Hop Sing gang in SF’s Chinatown, serving prison time. “Chow’s criminal history includes a guilty plea in federal court for racketeering, involving murder for hire, conspiracy to distribute heroin, arson, and conspiracy to collect extensions of credit,” the complaint notes. (You can read the full complaint here.)

Chow publicly claimed to go legit after being released from federal prison in 2006, and he has cultivated many high-profile business and political connections in San Francisco. But the 137-page criminal complaint that was unsealed today alleges that “Chow is currently the Dragonhead, or leader, of the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization,” which it describerd as a criminal syndicate connected to Hung Mun, a criminal dynasty that began in 17th century China, “also referred to as a Chinese secret society and the Chinese Freemasons.”

It says Chow was sworn in as CKT head in August 2006 after being released from federal prison, soon after the still-unsolved murder of CKT head Allen Ngai Leung. Chow’s swearing-in was reported in local Chinese media sources, so SFPD and FBI conducted surveillance there and launched an investigation.

CKT is allegedly part of Triad, an international Chinese organized crime group with ties to China and Hong Kong, and in San Francisco it is said to be comprised of Chow’s Hop Sing, a street gang with 200-300 members, and the Wah Ching gang headed by George Nieh, who was charged with a variety of crimes today.

“Nieh said he was in charge of the Wah Ching gang and Chow was in charge of the Hop Sing gang. Nieh said they used to be enemies, but banded together instead,” the complaint says, relating what they allegedly told FBI informants who had infiltrated the organization.

The FBI says it began infiltrating CKT five years ago, including an undercover FBI agent dubbed UCE 4599, who in May 2010 was introduced to Chow, who “then introduced UCE 4599 to many of the target subjects.”

Chow allegedly told UCE 4599 that he oversees all of CKT criminal enterprises, but doesn’t actively run them anymore, acting as a arbiter, or as a judge when one CKT member kills another. Nieh allegedly heads the criminal activities division and reports to Chow.

They are accused of laundering money made from “illegal activities, specifically illegal gambling, bookmaking, sports betting, drugs, and outdoor marijuana grows.” They allegedly laundered $2.3 million between March 2011 and December 2013 for UCE 4599, with members collecting a 10 percent fee for doing so.

UCE 4599 told Chow he was a member of La Cosa Nostra, an Italian mob, and in March 2012 he was inducted into CKT as a “Consultant,” the complaint alleges. It says that Jackson — a former San Francisco school board member and political consultant who has worked for Lennar Urban and Singer Associates — had also be inducted into CKT as a “Consultant,” participating in various criminal conspiracies.

The complaint says Jackson “has a long-time relationship with Senator Yee,” and “has been involved in raising funds for” Yee’s run for mayor “and for Senator Yee’s current campaign in the California Secretary of State election.” And much of the complaint details deeds allegedly committed by Jackson and Yee.

In fact, the second person named in the complaint, right after Chow, is Yee, “aka California State Senator Leland Yee, aka Uncle Leland.”

“Senator Yee and Keith Jackson were involved in a scheme to defraud the citizens of California of their rights to honest services, and Senator Yee, [Daly City resident Dr. Wilson] Lim, and Keith Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms,” the complaint alleges.

Yee and Jackson met UCE 4599 through Chow, and then Jackson allegedly solicited him to make donations to Yee’s 2011 San Francisco mayoral campaign “in excess of the $500 individual donation limit. UCE 4599 declined to make any donations to Senator Yee, but introduced Keith Jackson and Senator Yee to a purported business associate, UCE 4773, another undercover FBI agent,” who made a $5,000 donation to Yee’s mayoral campaign.

Yee had $70,000 in debt after that mayor’s race and worked with Jackson on ways to pay off that debt. “This included soliciting UCE 4773 for additional donations and in the course of doing so, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that Senator Yee would perform certain official acts in exchange for donations from UCE 4773.”

Yee allegedly agreed to “make a telephone call to a manager with the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract under consideration with UCE 4773’s purported client, and would provide an official letter of support for the client, in exchange for a $10,000 donation. Senator Yee made the call on October 18, 2012 and provided the letter on or about January 13, 2013,” and Jackson allegedly took the cash donation from the agent.

Meanwhile, it says Jackson and Yee continued raising money for his Secretary of State race by soliciting donations from UCE 4599 and UCE 4180, another undercover agent. “They agreed that in exchange for donations from UCE 4599 and UCE 4180, Senator Yee would perform certain officials acts requested by UCE 4599 and UCE 4180.”

That included Yee issuing an “official state Senate proclamation honoring the CKT in exchange for a $6,800 campaign donation, the maximum individual donation allowed by law.” Yee allegedly did so, and it was presented by one of his staff members at the CKT anniversary celebration on March 29, 2013.

Yee and Jackson are also accused of introducing a donor to state legislators working on pending medical marijuana legislation, the donor being another undercover agent who claimed to be a medical marijuana businessman from Arizona looking to expand into California, “and in payment for that introduction, UCE 4180 delivered $11,000 cash to Senator Yee and Keith Jackson on June 22, 2013.”

In September, after making another introduction, Yee and Jackson allegedly received another $10,000 cash donation for their services.

In August of last year, in an effort to raise more money, “Jackson told UCE 4599 that Senator Yee, had a contact who deals in arms trafficking.” Jackson then allegedly requested UCE 4599 make another donation “to facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer with the intent of UCE 4599 to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey…Senator Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons UCE 4599 was interested in buying and importing.”

The complaint, a declaration by FBI Agent Emmanuel Pascua, does indicate that both Chow and Yee sometimes tried to declare their legitimacy to the FBI agents.

“It should be noted that throughout this investigation, Chow has made several exculpatory statements about how he strives to become legitimate and no longer participates in criminal activity,” it says.

For example, Chow has been working on book and movie deals about his life, and he would regularly make statements attempting to distance himself from CKT’s alleged criminal activities, as well as building connections in the political world. Chow posed for photos with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and other local political figures.  

“Chow has also been portrayed in many Chinese newspapers as being involved in community affairs and has been photographed posing with local politicians and other community leaders. For example, in August of 2006, Chow was photographed hold a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for community service of the CKT,” it reads.

But the complaint also said that Chow continued to make incriminating statements to the undercover agents “confirming his knowledge of and involvement in criminal activity.”

The complaint says that Yee also made many exculpatory statements and expressed discomfort with how openly UCE 4180 discussed overt “pay to play” links between cash donations and official actions.

“Despite complaining about UCE 4180’s tendency to speak frankly and tie payment to performance, and threatening to cut off contact with UCE 4180, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson continued to deal with UCE 4180 and never walked away from quid pro quo requests make by UCE 4180. In fact, Senator Yee provided the introductions sought by UCE 4180 and accepted cash payments which UCE 4180 expressly tied to the making of the introductions.”

Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, told reporters they will contest the charges: “We will always in every case enter not guilty pleas, then the case takes on a life of its own.”

Officials in San Francisco and Sacramento are still reeling from the allegations. “I think the whole city is in shock at the moment,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents Chinatown and ran against Yee in the 2011 mayor’s race, told us. “Today’s widespread law enforcement actions are incredibly disturbing. The detail and scale of the criminal activities are shocking.”

California Senate President Darrell Steinberg told reporters today that he has asked for Yee’s resignation and that he plans to introduce a resolution Friday to suspend Yee and two other Democrats chargeed with political corruption, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-SF), who took part in that briefing, told the Guardian, “I’m frustrated and angered on behalf of my constituents that my Senate colleagues and I are there each day to create positive changes and all of these situations are distracting…It reflects badly on a great institution.”

Guardian reporter Joe Rodriguez Fitzgerald, who contributed to this report, has been covering this case from the federal courthouse today, and we’ll have more on this unfolding story in the coming days and the next issue of the Guardian. 

All together now


The latest attempt to legalize marijuana in California took one step forward last week when a group of advocates filed a ballot initiative with the office of the Secretary of State.

Titled California’s Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014 (MCLR), the new marijuana legalization proposal is being floated by Americans for Policy Reform (AFPR). For the past year, the organization has made the draft initiative open to the public as an editable Google Doc for anyone to read, comment on, and even modify.

The next step is for the Secretary of State to evaluate the initiative and compose a title and summary. Only after that process, which could take up to two months, will the AFPR be free to begin collecting the 500,000 signatures it must amass in order to get the marijuana legalization act on the 2014 ballot.

Such a task may sound daunting, but AFPR members have already done some of the heavy lifting, having spent the past year soliciting thousands of individual Californians’ input and support. The policy reform group even postponed an earlier submission target date to allow time for a statewide tour to gauge public opinion one last time before formally filing the proposed legislation. The initiative began as a grassroots, “open source” document to legalize cannabis for medical, industrial and adult social use.

“About a year ago, we held a cannabis conference in San Jose where we presented a document that was two paragraphs long and basically said, ‘Marijuana should be legal and nobody should be sent to jail,'” recounts AFPR member Dave Hodges. “Then we put that document into a Google Doc and just started promoting it, telling everybody, ‘If there’s anything in it that you don’t like, get in there — and change it yourself.'”

Hodges opened San Jose’s first medical cannabis club in 2009, but wasn’t drawn to the forefront in the fight for legalization until the death of a good friend a year and a half ago. His friend suffered from a condition caused by daily consumption of alcohol.

“About two weeks before he passed away, we were smoking a joint and the fucker had the balls to tell me: ‘If this shit were legal, I would have never drank alcohol.’ This is something I’ve believed in a lot, in general — but that was probably the thing that made me really get into it and not let go.”

The AFPR has gone to great lengths to garner broad support and lay the groundwork for a strong coalition once the signature gathering process begins. In the past year, the policy reform group has reached out to attorneys, activists, and other members of the community, trying to include as many Californians as possible in shaping the MCLR initiative. They’ve also issued press releases and blasted the word out on social media.

The editable Google Doc upon which the proposal is based has been circulated to thousands of people, via e-mail lists. When someone posted a link to the document on the popular website Boing Boing, more than 1,000 people logged into it within 48 hours.

Hodges has personally sat down to meet face-to-face with more than 100 different people. Over time, the two-paragraph long Google Doc grew to a length of 24 pages.

“The process of creating it was a little bit of a nightmare,” Hodges chuckles. “I’ve probably read that 24 pages a thousand times,” a feat he admits could not have been accomplished without copious amounts of marijuana.

Nonetheless, he agrees with fellow proponent Bob Bowerman, who said, “This is the best cannabis initiative ever put together for California. It follows federal guidelines and regulates cannabis in a way that makes sense.” Bowerman added, “It corrects the other legal mistakes.”

The open-source style in which MCLR was created might have been headache inducing, but its proponents believe it will prove to be the key to the initiative’s success on the 2014 ballot — in contrast with previous failed efforts at legalization.

As Hodges states, “In the case of Prop 19 in 2010, the message that was circulating — and the reason that it failed — was that everybody was saying, ‘It’s a bad law, but vote for it anyways,’ because everybody just wanted to see legalization happen. In 2012, we had nine different initiatives all competing to be on the ballot, because everybody had their own view of how this had to happen and nobody was really trying to get everybody to work together. And then none of them ended up on the ballot.”

These defeats in 2010 and 2012 led Hodges and his associates to the conclusion that the essential problem with legalization efforts was internal division across the movement, caused by respective groups disagreeing on language and prioritizing different aspects of the issue.

“When you do this process and combine so many perspectives, you see a lot of things that you wouldn’t otherwise,” Hodges explains. “And if there are any critics who come out and say this is a bad law, well, we’ve taken over a year to reach out to everybody. Anybody who hasn’t responded doesn’t really have an excuse at this point.”

While the original document put forth by the AFPR a year ago stated simply that Californians should be free to smoke marijuana, its final form is a detailed set of regulations on how the drug ought to be sold, provided, and regulated. It also outlines new protections against issues, such as federal regulation, still complicating the movement toward legalization. The need for such a precise, comprehensive initiative was underscored by a recent California Supreme Court ruling, determining that individual cities are allowed to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, despite provisions established by Prop 215 in 1996 and reinforced by SB-420 in 2003 clearing the way for their operation.

“There were a lot of lessons to be learned from that Supreme Court ruling,” Hodges says. “We learned that if we want this structured properly, we need to spell it out in very fine detail, to make sure that legally the courts can’t come back and do something like this again.”

He went on to explain the essence of the MCLR initiative. “The core of what we’ve done is create a bipartisan, independent cannabis commission that’s going to regulate this, set up further detailed regulations, and adjust for anything in the future,” he said. “Everything else is more basic structures around protections and limitations for businesses that could exist, and protections for the people who are currently using it.”

Some of those “basic structures” proved especially important to the co-collaborators. They include enforcing laws against driving under the influence by testing a driver’s impairment rather than testing the amount of THC in their bloodstream; prohibiting employers from firing employees simply for testing positive for marijuana; disregarding, in custody battles, whether one of the parents smokes; and establishing independent financial and insurance cooperatives for the cannabis and hemp industries, so that banking and insurance transactions may be done apart from the federal framework.

“Those are the little things that we would not have thought of, unless we’d been reaching out to individuals,” Hodges states. “So it really is a much stronger document because we’ve been so open about it.”

Once the document had been collaboratively shaped and vetted, AFPR took it to an attorney, who drafted it as legislation in preparation for submission to the Secretary of State.

As the final, amended version of the MCLR initiative undergoes evaluation by the office of the Secretary of State, the greatest obstacle now facing AFPR is the task of raising the $2 million needed to gather signatures for the petition. Without that funding, the measure won’t appear on the 2014 ballot, regardless of all the effort and collaboration already invested. The organization has been cultivating relationships with prospective sponsors, but collecting that large of a sum will not be easy.

Still, the initiative’s proponents remain confident. According to the most recent survey data released by AFPR, 64 percent of California voters want to legalize marijuana in 2014. This support follows a broader trend: Results of a recent Gallup poll show that for the first time since Americans were first polled on their attitudes toward marijuana in 1969, a clear majority of Americans — 58 percent — say it should be legalized.

“The time is now,” declared John Lee, another proponent. “The voters are ready, and we can get it done.”

What getting it done will ultimately mean, in practice, is anyone’s guess.

“We’re talking about a lot of saved money as far as people going to jail, better use of resources, and a new stream of revenue for the state,” Hodges predicts. “There’s obviously gonna be some sort of liquor-store type models. But I’ve heard of everything from marijuana-friendly bed and breakfasts, to high-end bars that will have girls going around like cigarette girls used to, but with different types of pre-rolled joints.”

Taking it all in, he concluded, “The possibilities are pretty endless. But if this initiative passes, we will set a standard for the rest of the country.”


Best of the Bay 2013: BEST FRESH FLOWERS


All over the news last year: Medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and other cities were being shut down by a spasm of overzealous and anachronistic enforcement by the federal government (see “Why?” 8/14/12). But a wave of young clubs were undaunted by the headlines. Indeed, many went through the entirely navigable local approval process for cannabis clubs and threw open their doors, come what may from Kamala Harris, Eric Holder, and the rest of the “drug warriors.” Among the best of the bunch? Bloom Room, an elegant establishment just a stone’s throw from hoity-toity Mint Plaza and the Chronicle Building in the heart of downtown. “Where medicine blooms wellness follows” is its somewhat logically fuzzy yet totally cromulent motto. Bloom Rooms got great weed — strains like Grape Romulan (I), Girl Scout Cookies, Chem Dawg, Pink Lemonade, and a special Bloom Blend — at decent prices, weighed out by super-nice and knowledgeable employees, in a classy, exposed brick interior. Here’s hoping Bloom’s given enough room to put down some roots.

471 Jessie, SF. (415) 543-7666,

Best of the Bay 2013 Editors Picks: Shopping




Editors picks are chosen by Guardian editors for special recognition for brightening the Bay Area experience.


Get that paper, paper, paper — printed. Holed up in a cozy garage with a cute dog and a hunky Vandercock proof press (a rare specimen last produced in the 1960s), the letterpress-loving ladies of Western Editions create and design paper goods for all occasions and situations, from badass business cards with handmade charm to colorful and direct wedding invites that may just get your flaky San Franciscan friends to actually attend the soirée. “Letterpress is magic,” is the motto of Western Addition residents Taylor Reid and Erin Fong, two friends turned business partners who are down to customize and open to suggestions, meaning you can make all the cute shit your ambitious heart desires, or purchase some one else’s great idea from their online store. Oh, hey, and they offer supercool DIY workshops, too — just in time for the holidays.

555 Rose, SF.


We’re constantly on the hunt for the perfect outfit that will make it through our daily transition from work serf to night owl. Reversible scarves, tear-away skirts, all black outfits — those work OK. But what about then shoes? What pair of hoofers can glide us from the workbound bike lane to the underground dance floor? Welp, a local company has the solution to our woes: DZR Shoes, an SF-based (though they manufacture overseas) outfit that creates sneakers that can clip to all manners of pedal types, but look fly as all getout. Whether you go for high or low top, fully vegan design or whole grain leather, knee-high lace-up or slip-in, chances are you can find the kicks to complete your Lycra-free lane look in style. Our current favorite? The sleek, all-black Minna, designed by artist-DJ Jeremiah Bal.



Her eyes scanning the abandoned lots and hillsides of the Stinson area and East Bay, Louesa Roebuck of Louesa Roebuck Flora isn’t afraid to snoop, sneak, or hustle in the name of foraging for flowers. Her mission: fetch that wild flora and arrange it in ways that exemplify the plant’s natural majesty. Gleaning armloads of budding branches, floppy magnolias, brilliant poppies, sweet mallow, bright berries, and sharp citrus from both public and secret locations, Louesa finds beauty in imperfection, a sublime bouquet in nature’s fantastic mistakes. She lets the blooms and leaves curl, crawl, and droop as they will, showcasing the fascinating juxtaposition between life and slow, dreamy decay. Visit her tiny Hayes Valley shop to see the day’s treasures and meet some of the gorgeous plants living right beside you.

597 Hayes, SF. (415) 686-5482,


Like a sweater for your insides, the names warm your gray matter: Broichladdich, Glayva, Mackillop’s, Benriach, Balvenie, Glenmorangie. Standing in the sweetly crammed back bottle room of downtown’s Whisky Shop can be a meditative experience for scotch lovers — the selection of malts and blends vies for the city’s best, with employees as helpful as their kilts are fetching. And should the Whisky Shop staff’s sartorial motif inspire, the front portion of the store is stocked with a rainbow of tartan, wool, and waxed fabric wardrobe. Score kilts and genuine, betasseled fur sporrans you’ll use to stash your new perfectly heart-shaped silver flask. And possibly a novelty gift or two — the Whisky Shop is also flush with crest-adorned coasters, canned haggis, and artisan lotions from the United Kingdom.

360 Sutter, SF. (415) 989-1030,



While there can be no debate that surf shops, in general, are selling a lifestyle, few are hawking a way of living as healthy as Mill Valley’s beloved Proof Lab. Need proof? The nine-year-old store (whose owners used reclaimed and reused materials wherever possible in its construction) stocks the best in sustainable men’s and women’s clothing, surfboard brands, and skateboard fixins, of course. But it also hosts a passel of community-minded offerings: sustainability workshops, toddler art classes, a native plant nursery, a biodiesel fuel station. On the lot next door you’ll find a teaching garden co-founded by Proof where one can take the occasional canning seminar, and buy fresh local produce. Plus: a new Equator coffee bar, to keep you up for those waves.

244 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley. (415) 380-8900,



We bow down to the business acumen and sharp eye for trends possessed by Floss Gloss duo Aretha Sack and Janine Lee. These two California College of the Arts grads eschewed inward-looking artistic exploration, instead embarking on a mission to paint the world with the sizzling neons and kick-ass, vintage-inspired shades that haunt their minds eye. Their canvas? The fingernails of the Bay Area’s young, hip, and gifted. How did they take their line of animal cruelty-free nail polishes from late-night study sessions to indie and corporate retailers around the globe? (All while remaining 100 percent free of DBPs, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals — these colors may scream “heavy metal,” but contain none.) Let us count the ways: perfect nacho cheese orange and bikini coral lacquers; irresistibly chic tones like Party Bruise, Dimepiece, Black Holy, Faded, Pony, and Blood, Suede, and Tears; endless pop-up nail salons, hard work … and the knowledge that you can do anything when you’ve got a perfect 10 to point the way.



It is a satisfying, luxurious — if fundamental — satisfaction, settling in to make dinner with a hiss-sharp passel of well-honed knives. Fans of cutting-edge pleasures will want to slip into Nob Hill’s Town Cutler, a well-hewn, immaculately organized shop of blades both wildly fabulous (a $1,050 Wilburn Forge Japanese chef knife, its silver nickel sharp marbled and lovely) and craftily utilitarian (a $100 handleless Takeda Kogotana meant for woodworking). Owner Galen Garretson will sell you these, sharpen the utensils you already own, teach you to work your own knives in a sharpening tutorial or informative class, and even help you get a handle on blunter culinary objects — the back of Town Cutlery is an elegantly hung array of those most-unsharp kitchen friends: spoons.

1005 Bush, SF. (415) 359-1519,



These are the facts: Reading is cool, books are rad, free books are even radder, and the best combo of all of these is the Bay Area Free Book Exchange. At any given moment, the space — run cooperatively by a cadre of indie booksellers and printed-page junkies — houses some 10,000 books, all free for the taking. (“It’s like an ever-changing treasure hunt among thousands of books,” its website declares, and we have to agree.) Since opening in May 2009, the Exchange has given away over 350,000 books during its weekend hours, with an ultimate goal of handing out a million, and beyond! Since it survives on donations, consider adding your own previously-read tomes to the stacks proudly bearing this stamp: “Not for Resale, This is a Free Book.”

10520 San Pablo, El Cerrito. (510) 705-1200,



A compellingly curated combination of artwork by some of San Francisco’s eye-catching countercultural artists — with noteworthy post-industrial tinge courtesy of the Burning Man diaspora — and intriguing flea market finds by diligent shoppers with an eye for the urban aesthetic, Carousel Consignment SF is an oasis of great pre-found finds. This welcoming and decidedly funky Mission whirl, set in motion by co-owners Kelley Wehman and Illy McMahan (who bonded over their passion for all things circus and vintage), can turn a quick fly-by into an afternoon-long exploration. Furniture, toys, lighting, textiles … Its quirky assemblage of wares preserves its surroundings’ penchant for the wacky and weird.

2391 Mission, SF. (415) 821-9848,



You know how it goes: surfing the www.aves of one’s sleek laptop, a stray image distracts. Suddenly, you’re no longer typing that return email — your mind has fixed on a different kind of click entirely. For you, sweets, SoMa brand Crave‘s line of tech-happy sex toys. Designed and produced by Ti Chang and Michael Topolovac, and assembled in the land of SF startup, each of the company’s gorgeous, whisper-quiet specimens have all the design and functionality of your favorite Apple toy. Our favorite is the Duet, a vibe with a double-pronged, silicone clitoral approach available in gold plating and with the option of eight or 16 GB of data storage thanks to a USB charging battery. That’s right: there is a USB port up in this vibrator. Adventurous souls can wear their pleasure out in public: Crave’s “Droplet” lariat necklace doubles as discreet nipple vibrators.


To some, a house full of Alex Pardee visual art would reap naught but disturbed sleep and missed meals. A living dream catcher made of exposed sinew and dripping eyeballs dangling from tendons, ready to snatch a soul; a roaring “Sharkasus” with razor teeth, four legs, and wings; an endless parade of your favorite horror icons rendered somehow even more terrifying by his spindly, precise strokes. But given the fact there are now two Bay Area shops stocked primarily with his prints, originals, and tees — in addition to the unnerving yet painterly work of other artists like Dave Correia — plenty of us are digging it. While shopping for the creep-craver in your life, you’ll do no better than the Oakland or Lower Haight location of Zero Friends, which has become a ground zero of sorts for the street art marketing scene.

419 Haight, SF. (415) 418-9912; 489A 25th St., Oakl. (510) 735-9405 (open first Fridays of the month or by appointment only);



Should you need a custom cabinet, a staircase rehab, perhaps a new cupola on your clock tower, you can turn to Clipper Construction’s Mathieu Palmer. But 501 Waller, the storefront Palmer owned and used as storage space — as he told local blog Haighteration — wasn’t the best use of a neighborhood-facing corner shop. Enter Palmer’s friend Dan Daniel, who created Clipper Repair from this clutter, a friendly place for fixing up, designing, or refurbishing anything you could imagine: lamps, cabinets, antique furniture, electrical things. The interior is a gorgeously organized wonderland of screws, nails, tools, gears, and random curiosities. And then! Garret Peters turned Clipper’s back storage room into a bike shop called Wiggle Bikes, conveniently located off the Wiggle, our crosstown thoroughfare for the two-wheeled. Could there be a more useful stop-off for lovers of sustainable transportation and reuse than the Clipper Repair-Wiggle Bikes complex?

501 Waller, SF. (415) 621-4733,



You could find no better brand rep than Swagger Cosmetics‘ Blake Karamazov. The tiny club kid (who came to us a few years ago fresh from the female drag-friendly land of Seattle) rarely leaves the house without her face immaculately, fantastically done — think ruby red 4mm glitter lips, sherbet orange eyebrows, or an exaggerated, smoky cat eye. The woman lives for everyday drag queen. But as a vegan, Karamazov bridled at many heavily pigmented makeup lines. Lucky us, because the Sanrio-obsessed entrepreneur started designing her own one-woman line of glitters, lipsticks, eye shadows — and most recently, fake eyelashes — manufactured 100 percent sans animal cruelty. Having recently made up one of her genderbending idols James St. James, there’s no question this babe’s got swag. Check her wares online, and don’t miss her wildly popular, glam inspiring Instagram game.


You don’t care if they work from home or not — the neighbors are taking too much pleasure from your lax approach to towels on the post-shower strut from the bathroom, and you sense an overeager, extra pair of peepers when you and your sweet are snuggled up watching Jessica Lange chew the scenery on American Horror Story: Coven. Thank goodness for Christine and Jeff Vidall, whose Art Shade Shop has been keeping neighborly boundaries firm in a densely-packed city since 1934. Wood slats, pleated blinds, sunbrellas, fabric coverings — this Castro couple has it all, perfect for the moment you need more privacy than those gorgeous bay windows will afford on their own. The basement shop (nook, really) also offers bead and reel clutch mechanisms, bottom-up lock pulleys, and Hauser roller shades. If you don’t know what any of that is, they’ll gladly install it all for you anyway.

698 14th St., SF. (415) 431-5074,



And then there are times when you just need a retreat from harsh illumination. Perhaps the fluorescent bars at the office seared your retinas too deeply today, or maybe you wish to give your date a softly lit, haloed-in-shadow version of ever-romantical you. These are the moments in which you’ll be grateful for Lamp Shades SF and its colorfully appointed showroom, ready to shield you from the ever-burning light. A leopard topper for that candlestick fixture? Modern puce shades for the chandelier in the foyer? A pair of matching onyx horse head bedside numbers? You will find them all here. Bring the base or bulb for which you need a topper, ring the doorbell to be allowed entrance, and let the decidedly unshady staff help you select the level of lighting best suited for your look.

199 Potrero, SF. (415) 431-6720



If you’re looking for a vintage instrument with a personal touch, Panhandle Guitar hits all the right chords. Rock fiends will swoon for the intimate, nicely overstuffed shop’s collection of prime and shiny vintage guitars, basses, amps, and effects. Panhandle buys old instruments too — on consignment, or trade-in — and offers on-site repairs. Owner Robert Williams is known for his encyclopedic knowledge, and there’s a laid-back and welcoming vibe we dig, charmed by store windows cluttered with neon signs and a child mannequin in an oversized Panhandle Guitar T-shirt. Guitar Center this is not; the stated store hours seem more like vague suggestions of when it might be open, and Mondays are simply listed as “some times” open with a smiley face. This kind of store is sadly uncommon these days — a unique, owner-run vendor of rare instrumental goods, tuned into the needs of fellow artists.

1221 Fell, SF. (415) 552-1302,



When Cable Car Clothiers — venerable haberdasher to dashing gents since 1946 — announced it was vacating its Sansome and Bush location in 2012, our hearts sank. Was this incredible emporium of all things Mad Men-Rat Pack-Nautical Chic-Dressy Preppy about to vanish, like so many other San Francisco institutions? Where, oh where, would we get our crushable Trilby fedoras, handsomely polka-dotted navy blue ascots, and elaborate cherry-handled horsehair brush sets? Never fear: the relocation a few blocks away signaled a snazzy revamp. Jonathan Levin, grandson of original Clothier Charles Pivnick, had returned to the family business, determined to pump some classy 21st Century zazz into the joint. The large, handsome new showroom retains all the charm of the former space — but decks it out in voluminous racks and shelves of exquisite menswear treasures. Another reason to spend your entire afternoon here: the in-store barbershop with master barber Nicky and associates providing hot lather and straight razor shaves, hot toweling, scissor hair cuts, and more. You want full-service swank? This is the place, my man.

110 Sutter, SF. (415) 397-4740,


Wiggle your bike down to this sweet little corner shop near Duboce Park for lessons in fine and lovely things. Aline’s Closet is the three-year-old queendom of a one Aline Dazogbo, a seamstress whose French-inflected takes on dresses, skirts, and blouses may just lead you to the customized wardrobe item of your dream. Dazogbo designs and creates nearly everything in the shop: yoga pants, handbags, column skirt-tube top combos, and more. Though many items are ready-to-wear, a rack along one wall of the sunny store showcases the garments she can tailor-make just for you: a lace-paneled velvet slip, a clingy, cap-sleeved onesie. Should her sweet, sassy patterns stray even one iota from your fantasy outfit, don’t fret: Dazogbo loves to help customers concoct one-of-a-kind wearables based out of nothing more than their own visions.

101 Pierce, SF. (415) 312-3468,



Powerful chrome and polished enamel parts, operated by hand, executing a series of swift cuts and swooping motions. Classic design masterfully crafted, all building to — gasp! — the perfect slice of salami. Welcome to the world of Emilio Mitidieri, the man who brings the Bay Area’s venerable Emiliomiti “culinary toys” to life. Though his company is playfully named, Mitidieri’s creations mean business — wood fire and gas brick ovens that yield perfectly cooked pizza pies, pasta machines that extrude dreamy strands of fettuccini, and specimens like the Slicer Mito 300, an elegantly crafted meat slicer that mimics the classic designs of the deli of yesteryear. Mitidieri has been supplying restaurants and dedicated chefs with the tools needed for success for decades now, so chances are you’ve already sampled some of his playful perfection topped with marinara or nestled in a hoagie roll.



Bolivian-born David Forte’s SoMa workshop has one mission: to light up your life, and colorfully at that. Opened in 1971, Forte’s San Francisco Stained Glass Works is the place to go for those who would have blooming lilies twinkling above a front door, or an Art Deco Emerald City to enliven the upper strata of one’s workspace. The shop turns out devotional works for pane-minded churches and synagogues and extravagantly lovely flatware sets. Others flock to learn the craft themselves. A course on glass fusing and a stained glass 101 are both offered by Forte’s staff, not to mention monthly space rentals for artists in need of a communal glass grinder, firing kiln, and place to indulge a penchant for transcendent translucents.

1246 Howard, SF. (415) 626-3592,



Local artist Amos Goldbaum hand-draws and hand-prints some of the most recognizable, SF-centric t-shirts (and hoodies, tanks, and baby onesies) available on the streets — literally, on the streets, since he also hand-sells his wares from wire racks on Valencia, near the Ferry Building, at street fairs like the recent Castro Street Fair, and other open-air spots. Goldbaum’s complete repertoire goes far beyond the familiar tourist-friendly landscapes he’s known for: his web portfolio is packed with psychological, fantastical illustrated scenes you’d spot immediately in a gallery — but probably never witness out a Muni window. When it comes to uniquely Bay gifts, though, you won’t want to miss his quirky, amazingly detailed and vibrant line-drawing takes on local landmarks like Dolores Park, with old-school playground intact, and Bernal Hill — or his illo of the old-timey Sutro Baths, complete with Cliff House aflame in the background.



Inside the massive American Steel building, a relic of Oakland’s industrial past repurposed and managed mostly for the Burning Man art world, there’s a beautifully intricate two-story Western saloon made from recycled materials, originally built as the Dustfish Bordello for Black Rock City in 2009. In the intervening years, the structure has matured into what is now known as American Steel’s Oaktown Hall, an art gallery and event space that became a hub this year for a variety of ventures within what its organizers call the salvage and reuse arts. Skate ramps! Haitian art tours! Crazy, old-timey auctions! The hall is a gathering place and focal point for those who would find creative reuses for so-called junk, and build relationships among West Oakland’s diverse communities.

1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakl. (415) 794-1827,



It has been remarked that West Portal is quite the happy village in the middle of this teeming city. We concur. Tucked into the side of a hill topped by a Twin Peak, slung happily along a leafy central promenade, the neighborhood is not the worst model for Main Street, USA. Tip and Top Vacuum & Shoe Service, particularly seen in this light, is an all-American gem. Bring in your dirt sucker for a fix-me-up and the capable staff will get it back to dirt bunny-busting in two shakes of a dusty rug. And like any good member of a small community, Tip and Top is a multitasker, as evident from the boots in the window. The shop also repairs shoes, and will even custom-cobble you a boot or slipper. To recap: Tip and Top fixes vacuums and shoes, it’s cute as a button, and you kind of need to check it out.

173 W Portal, SF. (415) 664-9320



All over the news last year: Medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and other cities were being shut down by a spasm of overzealous and anachronistic enforcement by the federal government (see “Why?” 8/14/12). But a wave of young clubs were undaunted by the headlines. Indeed, many went through the entirely navigable local approval process for cannabis clubs and threw open their doors, come what may from Kamala Harris, Eric Holder, and the rest of the “drug warriors.” Among the best of the bunch? Bloom Room, an elegant establishment just a stone’s throw from hoity-toity Mint Plaza and the Chronicle Building in the heart of downtown. “Where medicine blooms wellness follows” is its somewhat logically fuzzy yet totally cromulent motto. Bloom Rooms got great weed — strains like Grape Romulan (I), Girl Scout Cookies, Chem Dawg, Pink Lemonade, and a special Bloom Blend — at decent prices, weighed out by super-nice and knowledgeable employees, in a classy, exposed brick interior. Here’s hoping Bloom’s given enough room to put down some roots.

471 Jessie, SF. (415) 543-7666,



“I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book,” SF literary legend Kenneth Rexroth once supposedly said. Many share his sentiment when it comes to music — especially as our city rapidly empties itself of neighborhood record stores (and book stores, too, for that matter). Rexroth himself used to live above Jack’s Record Cellar, one of our longest-operating vinyl concerns — since 1951! — and also one of the most poetic spots in the city. Packed with the rarest of 33s, 45s, and, miraculously, stacks of so-desirable-we-can’t-stand-it 78s, Jack’s has all the jazz you want — plus soul, opera, country, doo-wop, standards, and classic pop. Memorabilia papers the walls, and piles of records spill out onto the aisles. Like many spots in the area, it’s more of a relaxed hangout than a capitalist venture. Conversation is prized over cash receipts. Open hours are spare and unpredictable. Saturday afternoons are a good bet, proprietor Wade Wright might be there to let you in. Unlike Rexroth, he values the love over the sale.

254 Scott, (415) 431-3047



After a 25-year stint on 16th Street in the now-teeming Valencia Corridor, and years of rumors of impending closure, a steep rent increase nearly caused literary, cultural, and artistic hub Adobe Books to shut its doors for good. But supporters launched a fundraising campaign using crowd-funding platform Indiegogo and succeeded in raising $60,000, enough to secure a new home on 24th Street — which, along with the re-situated Modern Times Bookstore, has become somewhat of a haven for gentrification-fleeing libraries. “Adobe has been such an important part of our lives as artists, writers, book lovers, and Mission dwellers,” the bookstore and gallery’s boosters wrote, in what turned out to be a wildly successful pitch. “We couldn’t see the Mission without it.”

3130 24th St, SF. (415) 864-3936,


Feds force pot clubs to deal in cash, then ban use of armored cars


In the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest attempt to smoke out medical marijuana dispensaries in the United States, the federal government agency made the decision to ban the use of armored cars by marijuana providers. Compounding that problem, over the last year banking companies, under pressure from the feds, have been refusing to do business with dispensaries, forcing them conduct all-cash transactions.

Dispensaries and their employees all around the Bay Area are being needlessly endangered by this decision. Businesses such as Oakland’s Harborside Health Center — which brings in about $30 million a year, according to co-founder and executive director Steve DeAngelo — stand to take a big hit.

“This decision puts my staff and I at risk,” DeAngelo told us. “People have been known to stake out the property, and having unarmored transport without a secured professional to the US Treasury makes the job even more dangerous.”

DeAngelo declined to comment on how his dispensary will transport money without armored cars. Others, such as Diane Goldstein, a retired lieutenant commander of the Redondo Beach police department and member of the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, finds the decision to be downright unethical.

“It’s unethical in the sense that the DEA made the decision without considering the collateral damage that could be caused,” Goldstein said. “It endangers the people that have to transport large sums of money unprotected, law enforcement, and the community at large.”

But there is a glimmer of hope: the Department of Justice issued a memo last week that was a step forward in support of the federal government respecting states like Washington and Colorado where even recreational use of marijuana has been made legal by state ballot initiatives. The DOJ memo outlines enforcement policies such as not selling to minors or having revenue from dispensaries go to gangs or drug cartels.

“There is hope with the new memorandum released,” Dan Goldman, community liaison for the Green Cross in San Francisco said. “Though it does not directly apply to states where marijuana has not been legalized, it is a step forward.”

DeAngelo and others decried the memo as vague, but ultimately counted it as progress that may support a “large increase in momentum” in the plight for further legitimacy in the medical marijuana business.

But this clearly isn’t the first or last time DeAngelo and many other dispensaries have had the legality of their business questioned. Harborside has been locked in court battles since U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag made the move for a forfeiture proceeding for the businesses’ Oakland and San Jose properties last July. Last month federal magistrate Judge Maria Elena James granted a temporary halt to the forfeiture proceedings.

Is DeAngelo worried? “We’re in a holding pattern for the next two to two-and-a-half years,” DeAngelo said. “I’m positive that our business will continue to thrive just as it always does.”

In the meantime,  US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has invited Attorney General Eric Holder to testify at a Sept. 10 hearing regarding whether the feds should be respecting state marijuana laws. 





Some wins, some losses in Sacto


The state Assembly and Senate passed the usual flurry of bills on May 31, the last day for initial-house approval, with some unusual drama that temporarily sidelined a medical-marijuana bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

By the time it was all over, several other Ammiano bills passed, a measure by Assemblymember Phil Ting to ease the way for a Warriors arena on the waterfront won approval, and state Sen. Mark Leno got most of his major legislation through.

The pot bill, AB 473, would have established a state regulatory framework for medical cannabis, something that most advocates and providers support. Still, because the subject is marijuana, it was no easy sell and at first, a lot of members, both Republicans and Democrats, expressed concern that the measure might restrict the ability of local government to ban or limit dispensaries.

Ammiano, in presenting the bill, made it clear that it had no impact on local control, and that was enough to get 38 votes. Typically, when a bill is that close to passage, the chair asks the sponsor if he or she wants to “hold the call” that is, freeze the vote for a few minutes so supporters can make sure all of their allies are actually on the floor and voting and to try, if necessary, to round up a couple of wobblers.

In this case, though, Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos, of San Jose, simply gaveled the vote to a close while Ammiano was scrambling to get her to hold it. “That’s very unusual, not good behavior,” one Sacramento insider told me.

Ammiano was more respectful toward Campos, simply calling it a “procedural mistake.” He told us he would be looking for other ways to move the bill. “The door is never fully closed up here,” he said.

However that turns out, the veteran Assemblymember, now in his final term, won a resounding victory with the passage of his Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 241. The bill would give domestic workers some of the same labor rights as other employees, including the right to overtime pay and breaks. “These workers, who are mostly women, keep our households running smoothly, care for our children, and enable people with disabilities to live at home and remain engaged in our communities,” Ammiano said. “Why shouldn’t they have overtime protections like the average barista or gas station attendant?”

An Ammiano bill restricting the ability of prosecutors to use condom possession as evidence in prostitution cases also cleared, as did a bill tightening safety rules on firearms.

Ting’s bill, AB 1273, would allow the state Legislature, not the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, to make a key finding on whether the new area is appropriate for the shoreline. Mayor Ed Lee and the Warriors strongly backed the measure, clearly believing it would make the path to development easier. Ammiano voted against it showing that the San Francisco delegation is by no means unanimous on this issue.

Leno had a string of significant victories. A bill called the Disclose Act, which would mandate that all campaign ads reveal, in large, readable type, who is actually paying for them, cleared with the precise two-thirds majority needed and it was a straight party-line vote. Every single Republican was in opposition. “They know that if their ads say “paid for by Chevron and PG&E, the won’t work as well,” Leno told us.

He also won approval for a bill that would ease the way for people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit to receive the modest $100 a day payment the state theoretically owes them. There are 132 people cleared of crimes and released from prison, but the process of applying for the payment is currently so onerous that only 11 have actually gotten a penny. “We victimized these people, and we shouldn’t make them prove their innocence twice,” Leno said.

Bills to better monitor price manipulation by oil companies and to expand the trauma recovery program pioneered by San Francisco General Hospital also cleared the Senate floor.

But Leno had a disappointing loss, too: A bill that would have helped tenants collect on security deposits that landlords wrongfully withheld died with only 12 vote a sign of how powerful the real-estate industry remains in Sacramento.


Pot, domestic worker bills win approval


Two bills that we’ve been following, one to regulate medical marijuana and the other to give domestic workers some basic rights, won approval from a key state Assembly committee and are headed for the Assembly floor.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 473, which would create a division under the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to write statewide regs for dispensaries, cleared the Appropriations Committee (where many good bills go to die) May 24. It’s a big step: For years, most of official Sacramento was afraid even to talk about the devil weed, much less take action on something that might look like a sign of approval. Now that the biggest problem with medical marijuana is zoning (and federal crackdowns) — and frankly, California is only a couple of years away from following Colorado and legalizing pot anyway — it makes sense to have a framework in place to ensure quality control, register dispensaries … and maybe convince the feds to back down.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 241, would require people to treat household workers with the same respect and the same types of benefits as most other workers. It would mandate work breaks, sleep breaks, overtime … pretty basic stuff. But the guv, for reasons known only to him, vetoed it last time around. Perhaps he’ll come to his senses.

The bills will probably make it to the Assembly floor next week.


Can’t a guy even smoke crack in peace any more?


Okay: Yes, it’s really funny that the mayor of Toronto, who is an odd guy at best, was apparently caught on a cell-phone video sucking on a crack pipe. Insert jokes here. Go ahead.

It reminds me, since I’m very old, of the last crack-pipe mayor, Marion Barry, who in 1990 fell into an FBI sting when a former girlfriend invited him to her hotel room to have sex. Turns out she was an FBI informant, and when she suggested they get high before getting into bed, the fibbies caught Barry on a secret camera. Didn’t do much to harm his career — he served six months in jail and was soon re-elected mayor.

In Ford’s case, it’s hard to see how he’d even get arrested. I don’t know Canadian law, but a videotape of someone smoking out of a glass pipe isn’t legal evidence of cocaine posession (hey, it could have been medical marijuana). At this point, there really isn’t a crime. But already, there are calls for him to resign, and it’s going to be hard to put this behind him.

The interesting twist, though, is that the person who filmed him wasn’t a cop at all; it was someone else in the room, quite possibly a dealer, who was looking for a big cash score. Which could be coming — Gawker is trying to raise $200,000 to pay for the clip. (Yes, you can chip in and help crowd-fund the further embarassment of a politician!)

Now, it’s pretty likely that the person with the camera wasn’t a good-government crusader or an anti-drug type. What happened here, it appears, is someone who is either selling crack or smoking it with Hizzoner then gets into not-quite extortion or blackmail (though he might have called Ford before putting it out on the open market) but certainly a setup of another kind.

I’m not advocating that the mayor of Toronto (or anyone else) smoke crack. It’s nasty shit. But isn’t it just a tiny bit creepy that you can’t even sit in a crack den without worrying that you’re going to star in a Gawker video?

What if instead of smoking crack he’d been fucking a woman (or a guy) he wasn’t married to? Would Gawker raise $200,000 to see a mayor having consensual sex outside of Holy Matrimony? (Eeew, I don’t want to see Rob Ford having sex, but you get the point.)

I’m sorry, trolls, but I have to admit that (like pretty much everyone I know) I have done things in my life, in the privacy of my own or someone else’s home, that I don’t think should be public (crack smoking, for better or worse, not being one of them). Never hurt anyone, so it’s my fucking business. And it’s kind of creepy to think that anyone in the room could be filming me now, for all of posterity. 

From now on, folks, hide the crack pipe.



A boost for Ammiano’s pot bill


Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s bill to create state regulations for pot clubs just got a boost: Although I disagree with the Supreme Court decision allowing towns to ban the dispensaries, it’s kicked local governments into gear. Now mayors from around the state are asking the Legislature to weigh in and craft “sensible marijuana policies.”

It’s tricky: The Department of Consumer Affairs, which might be the logical place for the regs, doesn’t want anything to do with pot, and Gov. Jerry Brown thinks we’re all too stoned to compete with China, so Ammiano’s looking to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to create a new marijuana division. Logically, that makes sense, and it’s what Colorado is doing. Practically, a lot of people don’t like the ABC, but that’s a factor of bad agency leadership and poor priorities. It’s not a structural problem. If we’re ultimately going to legalize pot altogether, and we are at some point soon, then it makes sense to have regs in place — or at least a system for regs in place — that can give cities and counties direction.

And it might help a little with the Reigning Asshole of Prohibition, Melinda Haag.

I suspect this will make it to the governor’s desk. I hope he comprehends that we aren’t going to compete with China if we can’t even solve a simple regulatory problem.

Also: Ammiano’s bill to protect transgender students made it off the Assembly floor.

Why are the feds cracking down on pot again?


President Obama keeps saying that marijuana isn’t a big priority for his administration, and his rogue nutcase of a US Attorney in Northern California keeps making it a priority. Now the Drug Enforcement Administration, which also reports to the White House, is joining the action, going after licensed dispensaries in San Francisco and San Jose.

Maybe the feds are just trying to make sure everyone’s following the rules — except that the DEA has no jurisdiction over California law, and California laws says the dispensaries are just fine. So it’s hard to imagine that this is anything other than a heavy-handed attempt to drive more pot clubs out of business.

For what? For why? And why are our US Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, not making a stink about this?

Newsom calls for marijuana legalization


For all his flaws, Gavin Newsom has never shied away from taking a stand or showing leadership on emerging issues, particularly when the politicians are lagging behind public opinion. As mayor, he did it on same-sex marriage, temporary public art, and taking street some space from cars. And today, as the state’s lieutenant governor, he is calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.

“It is time for California to decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana and decide who sells it, who can buy it legally, and for how much. When California became the first state to approve medical marijuana, we led the nation on progressive drug policies, and now it is time to lead again,” Newsom wrote in a Huffington Post column that was posted last night.

Newsom recites a case for legalization that the public has long supported, particularly here in California, citing how damaging and expensive it is to wage “war” on a substance that most Californians know is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, peppering his column with compelling stats like this: “The U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its citizens, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population but almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.”

The Drug Policy Alliance amplified Newsom’s column with a press release today, calling for other politicians to follow his lead and finally remove marijuana from its federal listing as a Schedule One narcotic, “where is current sits alongside heroin,” as Newsom noted. He closes by writing: “There is no reason why California cannot set the example for the nation in responding to drugs in a rational and sensible way. It is time to be bold enough to consider the science and the examples set forth by other states and nations. The time has come to decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana — anything less is not enough.”

Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann praised the stand, writing, “What I find remarkable is that not one sitting governor or U.S. senator has spoken out in favor of legalizing marijuana notwithstanding the fact that a majority of Americans now support that approach. But I am confident that it’s only a matter of time until elected officials follow in Gavin Newsom’s bold footsteps as they did with marriage equality.”

Indeed, when Newsom unilaterally began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, it was opposed by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, US Senator Dianne Feinstein (in fact, all but two US Senators), and the official platforms of both major parties. Today, after a rapid upwelling of political support, it is supported by President Obama and half of the US Senate and it may be on the verge of being legalized by the US Supreme Court (we find out next month). Newsom showed foresight on that issue, and he’s doing so again with marijuana.

Washington and Colorado voters legalized recreational uses of marijuana last year, and they are well on their way to reviving their economies promoting what is already California’s top cash crop, despite its strained legal status. In fact, we also got a press release today from Gaynell Rogers, who handles public relations for Harborside Health Center, the Oakland medical marijuana dispensary that is currently waging an expensive fight for its life after a federal raid.

“Investors Gather to Fund the Most Promising Marijuana Companies in Seattle,” was the headline of a press release about an April 29 event where 40 wealthy investors will “hear pitches from the top entrepreneurs in the hot, new legal cannabis industry,” an event hosted by ArcView Investor Network, which includes many tech entrepreneurs and investors.

“Cannabis is the next great American industry,” said ArcView co-founder and CEO Troy Dayton. “Now that a majority support legalization, a geyser is about to go off. The question is: which companies will be seated on top of it? That is what’s being decided at this investor event.”

Similarly, as California wrestles with tight budgets and a overcrowded prison system, can we really afford to continue wasting money and lives criminalizing such an industry that already is already an important part of the state’s economy? Newsom says no, and so do we.

Willie Brown and Ammiano’s pot bill


Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s new medical marijuana bill seems pretty straightforward. Almost everyone in the medpot biz thinks there ought to be some sort of statewide regulations for a growing industry that operates in a mish-mash of local jurisdictions with no overall rules. If nothing else, consumer-protection policies ought to be in place. And, of course, the more the dispensaries accept, and follow, reasonable regs, the easier it is to win the mainstream political support necessary to get the feds off all of our backs and ultimately follow Colorado and Washington.

All good, right?

So Ammiano, who has been on this issue for years, is proposing that the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — which for all its problems has experience regulating mind-altering substances — draft and oversee medpot rules.

But the industry that makes a lot of money off the legalization of medicinal weed is famously fractured — and the politics of Sacramento are often nasty. Add in former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown — who has his fingers in all sorts of business opportunities these days — and the story turns downright weird.
Ammiano’s been talking about Califonria and pot for years. He proposed legalization before the other states did, but frankly, this current state Legislature’s never going to have that kind of courage.

But he continues on with the effort. Last year, he tried to put pot under the Department of Consumer Affairs, which clearly didn’t want it; his bill died in the state Senate.

Normally, when new regulations are proposed for an industry, the Legislature holds what’s called a Sunrise Hearing, to bring all the stakeholders into a room and talk about what issues ought to be addressed. So Ammiano a few months back asked for a hearing in the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee. No problem, said the chair, Curren Price, a Los Angeles Democrat.

But in February, five days before the hearing was set, Curran called the whole thing off. Turns out that the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office wanted no part of it, so it was hard to round up the essential players. Also, Curran was running for an open LA City Council seat and probably didn’t want the publicity. As Ammiano said at the time, “What’s up with marijuana? You can’t even have a hearing?”

Even without a hearing, he’s moving a new bill, AB 473, which would create under ABC a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement. The bill is modeled on a successful effort in Colorado that has kept the feds at bay. Washington is also putting marijuana regulation under its liquor control authority.
“We’ve had not one federal intervention,” in Colorado, Matt Cook, a consultant who help write the rules in that state, said.

But just as Ammiano was preparing to line up support for his measure, another bill mysteriously appeared, in the state Senate. A “spot bill” with no actual content, the measure was set as a medical marijuana regulation placeholder. The authors: Senate President Darrell Steinberg and San Francisco’s Mark Leno.

Now: Leno’s been a big supporter of medical pot for years — but the bill wasn’t his idea. “Darrell told me he was going to do something about marijuana regulations, and he asked me if I would join him,” Leno told us.

What Leno didn’t know: Steinberg had been approached and asked to carry a bill by Willie Brown. Brown contacted the Senate president, sources tell us, and said that Ammiano was the wrong person to carry pot legislation.

Why? Who knows. Brown wouldn’t return my calls. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that Brown has been looking for ways to discredit Ammiano since 1999, when the then-supervisor challenged the mayor’s re-election in a legendary write-in campaign that galvanized the city’s left and created the momentum for the complete rejection of Brown’s politics and endorsed candidates a year later, in the first district elections.

And yes: Willie Brown carries a grudge. So it’s possible that he would go out of his way to make sure that Ammiano didn’t get credit for leading the way on what will evenutally be a huge sea chance in how California handles pot.

Now: This sort of thing isn’t viewed very highly in the hallowed halls of the state Leg, where people take their bills — and their history on issues — very seriously. Ammiano was furious, and talked to Steinberg, who (properly) apologized for stepping on his toes. Leno told us he had no intention of undermining his San Francisco colleague, that he had immense respect for Ammiano and all of his efforts, and that he wouldn’t move forward with any bill that didn’t have Ammiano’s input and support.

But it raises the question: Why is Brown even involved in medical marijuana? The only answer I can come up with is that he’s making money off it. Not as a dispensary owner or a grower, but as, in effect, a lobbyist.

When I heard Brown was messing around with the industry, I called Steve DeAngelo, who runs Harborside Health Center, the $22 million a year dispensary in Oakland. DeAngelo’s a promient leader on medical marijuana issues, and has built a respected business that pays taxes to Oakland, provides quality product, and is in many ways a model for what a dispensary should look like.

We talked for a while about Ammiano’s bill, and DeAngelo said he wants to be sure there’s community consensus. “The most important thing is that whatever passes addresses the issues and has broad supoprt in the industry,” he said. He agreed that regulation is needed, but stopped short of endorsing Ammiano’s bill, saying “there still needs to be further discussion.”

Then I asked him if he knew why Brown was talking to the state Senate president, and he told me:

“Willie Brown has been a political advisor to Harborside.”

I asked him if Harborside was paying Brown for his advice. He refused to say.

Okay then. But Brown doesn’t have much of a history of working on this issue pro bono, and is not known for serving as a “political advisor” (or doing much of anything else in the way of work) for free.

What does Brown think about the Ammiano bill? “He thinks,” DeAngelo said, “that it’s important it have a broad base of support.”

Willie Brown is not popular with the voters of California. His history of questionable (at best) ethics was among the reasons the voters approved terms limits for the Legislature. Hardly anyone on the left trusts him. A medical marijuana regulatory bill that has his fingerprints isn’t going to do much for “consensus” or “broad-based support.”

So maybe the best thing Brown could do for his client is stay the hell out of Sacramento.

On the Cheap listings


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RayKo’s sixth annual plastic camera show RayKo Photo Center, 428 Third St., SF. Through April 22. Opening reception: 6-8pm, free. You’d never these cameras’ non-pro status by the breathtaking images they are capable of creating. Highlighted in this year’s RayKo show is LA-based artist Thomas Alleman, who began using a Holga camera in 2001 to document the aftermath of 9/11. His dreamy, dramatic prints perfectly pinpoint the dysfunctional beauty of these toy cameras.

“Beyond THC: Cannabidiol and the future of medical marijuana” Commonwealth Club of California, 595 Market, SF. 5:30pm, $12 members, $7 students, $20 nonmembers. Martin A. Lee, author of Smoke Signals — which focuses on the social history of cannabis — will be speaking about the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that lacks the “high” effect of THC and contains key medicinal benefits. Lee will discuss how the medical marijuana industry has responded to the discovery of CBD and sign copies of his book afterward.


Robot NightLife California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF. 6-10pm, $12. This beloved weekly museum soiree delves into sci-fi this evening with a focus on robots. Managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics will speak to the local innovation and commercialization of robots and Academy curator Gary Williams will show off footage of deep-sea corals from Pillar Point Harbor. A robotic performance by art group Survival Research Labs and exceptional designs by robot design studio BeatBots are also on tonight’s schedule.

“Art Star” Otis Lounge, 25 Maiden Lane, SF. 10pm-2am, free. If you’re looking to submerge yourself into the city’s art community, head over to Otis Lounge to meet and network with artsy individuals at this monthly first Thursday event. Whether you make, buy, sell, or just love art, all creatives are welcome.

Community dinner St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk, SF. 7pm, free. Hungry, cash-strapped health nuts listen up. This free dinner created from USF’s garden and local farmers markets is open to everyone and anyone interested. The event lacks any motivation beyond a heartfelt effort to bring the community together through wholesome food.

Writerscorps Live with Tamim Ansary Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF. 6:30-7:30pm, free. Award-winning youth writing program WritersCorps has partnered with the CJM for a multi-generational live reading. Author Tamim Ansary will read from his memoir West of Kabul, East of New York, based on his family’s immigration from Afghanistan to San Francisco. The reading will also showcase WritersCorps teaching artist Minna Dubin and students from Downtown High School, Aptos Middle School, Mission High School, and more.

First Thursday with OM Cocktails Hang Street Gallery, 567 Sutter, SF. 6-8pm, free. Organic mixology — premixed in the bottle? Will wonders never cease. Check out this brand’s coconut-lychee cocktails and more at Hang Street’s First Thursday reception.


East Bay Bike Party, location TBA. 7:30, free. It’s time to go green, literally. The theme of this month’s East Bay group rideout is the favored color of enviro-fans and Kermit the Frog alike. Whether you want to channel your inner leprechaun or bike around as giant pot leaf, the possibilities are endless. If you’re a Bike Party virgin make sure to also look over the code of conduct to help keep the event as community-friendly as possible.


White Walls gallery 10th anniversary show White Walls, 886 Geary, SF. Through April 6. Opening reception 7-11pm, free. Town’s best-known “urban art” gallery hosts this retrospective of a decade of boundary-breaking work within its wall (kind of — the gallery recently moved to a larger space on Geary Street). Check out works from Shepard Fairey, ROA, Apex, Ferris Plock, and of the best who have plied works there.

“Doctors on Board” Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakl. 6am-6:30pm, free to students. Application required. The Physicians Medical Forum is hosting a day of workshops and skills training session helping African American students to attend medical school and residency programs. Prominent physicians will provide information about medical school preparation, medical specialties, and life as a physician.

“Quilt San Francisco” Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. Also Sun/10. 10am-4pm, $10 for two-day pass. This two-day exhibit, organized by the San Francisco Quilters Guild, vividly showcases the revitalization of the traditional art form. 400 quilts and special exhibits will shown the many artistic dimensions of wearable art and modern stitching. There will also be a children’s corner, where kids can get marching orders for a treasure hunt that will lead them to special quilts in the show.

Irish-American children’s hour of music, song and dance San Francisco Public Library, Fisher Children’s Center, 100 Larkin, SF. 11am, free. Crossroads, an annual Irish-American festival timing to open up St. Patrick’s Day season, invites the kiddos to learn traditional Irish dance taught by instructors from the Brosnan School of Irish Dance.

Fourth annual World Naked Bike Ride Meet at Justin Herman Plaza, Market and Embarcadero, SF. 11am-4pm, free. Protest global dependency on oil and find out what its like to pedal through Fisherman’s Wharf in the buff. All are welcome to take part — even clothed riders — but those in the buff earn extra badass points, given the uncertain status of the ride under the city’s new anti-public nudity ordinance.

“Permutation Unfolding” Root Division, 3175 17th St., SF. Opening reception 7-10pm, free. Bring the kids to the opening of this group exhibition exploring the biomorphic formations that can spring from the artistic process (we’re not sure what that means either.) There will be an all-ages creativity station, a perfect place to craft while Markus Hawkins spins an auditory web in an 8pm performance.


Exploratorium’s On the Move Fest Mission District location: Buena Vista Horace Mann School, 3351 23rd St., SF. 11am-4pm, free; Bayview location: Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre, 4705 Third St., SF. 11am-4pm; Embarcadero location: Pier 15, 11am-10pm. All locations offer free admission. Everyone’s favorite on-hiatus science museum is sending 10 trucks tricked out with the kind of wacky, hands-on exhibits its know for to the Mission, Bayview, and the Embarcadero for a day of science, music, and food. In both Bayview and the Mission, enjoy itinerant filmmaking, projects that encourage attendees to sport costumes and act out a special script which will then be chopped, screwed, and shown to the public.


“Stars of Stand-up Comedy” Neck of the Woods, 406 Clement, SF. 8pm, $10. Comedian and pencil musician (exactly what that means we are not quite sure, please report back if you go) Danny Delchi is hosting tonight’s show. Long-time Niners field announcer Bob Sarlatte and the quirky Mr. Mystic will be performing alongside a number of other top Bay Area comedians.

Persian New Year Festival Persian Center, 2029 Durant, Berk. What better way to welcome spring than to jump over a bonfire? Head over to the Persian Center to take part in this ritual that has been passed down since Zoroastrian times. Accompanying the fiery activity will be Persian food, music, and dancing.

Staff of shut-down Mission dispensary opens SoMa’s newest cannabis club


Today was the grand opening for a new dispensary just steps from the front door of Mezzanine and right down the block from a rapidly-changing Sixth Street. Long-time medical marijuana patients may recognize some familiar faces — Bloom Room employs many of the staff and management from Medithrive, the Mission Street dispensary was was forced to close “for the children” back in November of 2011.

“I was the manager of a store, and then I was the manager of a delivery service,” Bloom Room manager Stephen Rechit tells me, sitting in the dispensary vaporizing lounge area. When federal government agencies informed the cannabis club that it was too close to Marshall Elementary School, Medithrive switched to a $50-minimum, delivery-only service that owners continue to operate. 

The Bloom Room’s open for business, with space for on-site vaporizing steps from the cash register

Did Rechit — who says he became Medithrive’s first employee as a new University of San Francisco graduate — consider a career change in the face of unyielding federal agents? Not for a second. 

“I know this is definitely what I want to do,” he reflects. “I just really — I don’t want to get cheesy, but I believe in the plant.”


Bloom Room’s downtown design, with its exposed brick walls and translucent glass marijuana leaf panels reappropriated from the defunct Medithrive storefront, may be the perfect fit for a Sixth Street neighborhood that’s on a definite upward economic swing. Rechit points out the window to the corporate offices of Burning Man, perched atop a skyscraper alongside the rest of the Mid-Market buildings that tech tenants are filling up. Burning Man’s been an earlier contributor to Bloom Room’s “Community Corner,” a space for neighborhood fliers, business cards. 

Bloom Room plans to stock six to 10 strains each of indicas and sativa, and sells blackberry chocolate bars from Kiva, Auntie Dolores caramel corn, and oen of Rechit’s favorites, TerpX concentrates. 

Sticky: TerpX concentrate

“TerpX is like the Girl Scout Cookies of last year,” Rechit comments, unrolling a piece of waxed paper so I can check out the golden goo. 

As we chatted, Tenderloin resident Jim Murray (who, happily, bore a striking resemblance to Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic in his navy beanie) pulled up in the narrow, tall table to inquire about the availability of the clould of OG Kush pumping into the vaporizer bag between Rechit and I. 

I’d seen Murray complaining about the quality of Bloom Room bud he’d picked up previously, and now he was interested in the “toast,” the spent flower already used in the vaporizer that was sitting on a piece of paper in the ashtray. 

“The reason why I’m sensitive to this is because I am a senior living on a VA pension,” he informed me. “What compassionate care programs do you have here?” he asked Rechit. 

FYI, Rechit says the dispensary gives away free product to patient on holidays and keeps prices low in general. Back when Medithrive’s doors were open at its Mission Street location it made monthly donations to the school around the corner that was eventually used as the excuse by the federal government to shut it down. Let’s hope Bloom Room has more luck in its new SoMa spot. 

Bloom Room, 471 Jessie, SF. (415) 543-7666,

Pot hearing cancelled — but why?


The state Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee was slated to hold a hearing Feb. 11 on Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s efforts to create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana. That’s a fairly common practice when a new set of professional regulations is proposed; it’s called a “sunrise” hearing, and the idea is to get all the players in the room and see what kinds of concerns they have. A bill Ammiano introduced last year, AB 2312, would have put the authority to set state regs under the Department of Consumer Affairs; it died in the state Senate, but it will come back in some form or another.

So the committee chair, Sen. Curren D. Price, a Los Angeles Democrat, set the hearing, and committee staff went about rounding up witnesses — and then five days before the gavel dropped, the whole thing was called off.

What happened? Couple of things.

For starters, the office of Gov. Jerry Brown officially doesn’t like marijuana. And the DCA is part of the governor’s office. And the attorney general, Kamala Harris, has been awfully careful about getting into the medical marijuana fray. And the feds — or at least, the US attorney for Northern California — officially hates anything to do with the devil weed.

And all of those people should have been part of the regulatory discussion, except that somehow, they couldn’t quite make it to the hearing. “We had difficulty getting representatives of the administration and the attorney general to come,” Committee Consultant G. V. Ayers told me.

Then there’s the fact that Price is running for Los Angeles City Council (funny — in San Francisco, the supervisors want to be in the state Legislature. In LA, the state legislators want to be on the City Council. Possibly because there are no term limits, and there’s a huge city budget). And the election is in March. And anything Price (who has supported medical marijuana in the past) said or did that suggested he loves loco weed might get slung at him in the waning days of a long, expensive campaign.

So in 2013, everyone’s still afraid of pot. “What’s up with marijuana?” Ammiano asked me. “You can’t even have a hearing?”

Apparently not.

Feds continue war on California’s medical marijuana industry


San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries may be bouncing back from last year’s crackdown by the federal government, but the industry statewide continues to be besieged by the federal authorities, winning some battles but losing others.

Oakland-based Harborside Health Center, the nation’s largest not-for-profit model medical cannabis dispensary, experienced a big victory last month when a judge refused a federal motion for injunctive relief that would have shut down the club and enforce a forfeiture action and a 30-day notice to evacuate that the feds filed in July 2012.  

The City of Oakland decided to file its own motion against the U.S. attorneys, banks, and landlords that were all trying to evict Harborside, one of the top two tax-payers in Oakland, a first for city to officially back one of its clubs against the feds. But the judge also denied a city motion to dismiss the case, so it continues to work its way toward trial.

Hopes that the November votes in Washington and Colorado to legalize even recreational weed smoking would cause the feds to back off in California haven’t materialized. Aaron Sandusky, a dispensary operator from Southern California, was sentenced to 10 years of federal prison last month for conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. The feds claim the charges were so high because he had upwards of 1,000 plants.

Stockton resident Matthew Davies owned various dispensaries (, but they were shuttered after the feds, which charged him with two counts of manufacturing marijuana. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner is offering Davies a plea bargain for a minimum of five years, and threatening 10 years in prison if he doesn’t comply. A recent Politco article makes the point that this case probably won’t be the one to turn over federal law, as it is unclear whether Davies was in compliance with California state law on marijuana.

These harsh examples are just a couple of dozens of dispensaries being shut down across the state. Just last month, in a case filed by Americans for Safe Access, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington DC ruled that marijuana has no proven medical value and should still classified as a Schedule I substance. ASA plans to appeal the ruling, hoping the US Supreme Court will take up the issue.

People across the country are signing online petitions and vocalizing their opposition to the contradictory stance on the legality of pot. Joining in on this public debate, Morgan Spurlock, director and star of Supersize Me, is the host of a new CNN documentary series, “Inside Man”, in which Spurlock investigates various issues in American life. In one episode, Spurlock focuses on the state of medical marijuana in California, and the ongoing struggle between federal and state lawmakers. He will feature both the Harborside and the Davies case.

For now, marijuana advocates are waiting on the court decisions on these various cases and if they will affect changes regarding the federal law. The City of Oakland had a hearing last week but no ruling was made. Harborside will continue to remain open and serving patients until its case goes to trial, a date that is uncertain at the moment.