Green Cross update - No new home for GC; Forced-out dispensary may have to close doors soon

Hi Kevin,

  I recently ran into Lawrence Badiner at the Elections Department (the guy with Planning who held the Green Cross hearings). I asked him what was going on with the Green Cross, and he said you were still open. But they will have to close, I replied. He mentioned the search for a new location, and I said I hope one is found but that where you are now is a great location, and it's too bad the NIMBY neighbor brigade is getting its way. He said there were "problems" (with the current location).

  See more comments below...

From:Kevin Reed [mailto:Kevinreed@…]
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 12:02 PM
To: kevinreed@thegreencross.org
Subject: URGENT NOTICE!
Importance: High

February 24, 2006

Dear Green Cross patients, allies, friends and extended family:

I have avoided writing this letter as long as I possibly could…I dread saying what I know must be said. However, time has come so close to running out, that I need to say what I never dreamed I would have to say: It looks like The Green Cross has been unable to secure a new home within the time period established by the Board of Appeals on September 22, 2005. Unless a miracle happens in the next couple of days, it looks like we may have to close our doors in mid-March.

  I'm truly sorry to hear that, Kevin.

We never imagined it would be so hard to find a new location for The Green Cross! In fact, when we started the search last September we fully expected to have options from which to choose. For three months Rachel Sierra and I pursued leads from a number of sources: ads, craigslist, patient/friends referrals, property managers and by driving around. We worked tirelessly hoping to find the perfect spot. In December we realized the task was a lot harder than we’d expected. By then, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi had shepherded a comprehensive piece of legislation through the Board of Supervisors, legislation that established the regulatory framework for medical cannabis dispensaries (MCDS) in San Francisco…while severely limiting where new MCDS can open.

  I'm glad you're letting others in the cannabis community know how negatively Ross Mirkarimi's legislation has affected the Green Cross. It would be nice to build a consensus around the fact that this legislation was a terrible step backward. Extra regulation, cost and controls in exchange for very little in the way of greater perceived or legal legitimacy or protection against the Feds.

We met with Supervisor Bevan Dufty who graciously helped us secure the assistance of a well-respected realty firm in the community. After a month of working hard to match available commercial spaces, with those located in acceptable areas, with willing landlords, the realtor and her staff team didn’t have any success finding us a new location either. In late January, Sammy Hastings, a loyal patient of The Green Cross that had just received a realtor’s license, added his energy and enthusiasm to our team by volunteering his services. Quickly he began identifying potential locations, contacting owners and other realtors he thought could be helpful. Through his persuasive efforts, we secured a meeting last week with the Senior Vice-President and the Vice-President of the Retail Group of Grubb-Ellis. And, it was tremendously helpful to have Supervisor Dufty’s staff person join us in the meeting.

  That's nice of Bevan, but then again he's one of the people most responsible for your predicament by getting the Planning Department to revoke your permits. What's he going to do to help if you can't find a new space?

  I just took out papers to run for Supervisor in District 8 this November. I hope I will have the support of yourself and other Green Cross folks. Certainly I intend to mention this issue in my campaign.

Grubb-Ellis had a property on Battery Street that seemed like the perfect location, and the landlord agreed to rent to an MCD! For a moment, it felt like our problems were solved: The Green Cross had a new home. Or, so we thought.

It broke our hearts to learn, upon closer inspection, that part of the building was in a “green area”, but the part of the building where The Green Cross would have been located was less than 1,000 ft from an elementary school. That meant we could not move forward. We had to keep looking.

  Are feet measured vertically as well as horizontally? Might opening on an upper floor of a tall building with an elevator be an option?

Over the weekend, several staff members, Sammy, Rachel and I combed the “green areas” of the city to identify all of the commercial spaces available for rent/lease. We made a couple of rounds of calls, having identified more than 40 possibilities. Three felt like strong possibilities on Wednesday, but by the end of the day we had heard the landlords were not interested in renting to an MCD. In short, we have been unable to come up with another real and viable option.

Please allow me a bit of a rant: I honestly think the members of the SF Board of Supervisors believed the legislation they adopted would be a good thing for the community----patients, MCDS and the community at-large. But, having spent hundreds of hours trying to find new space for The Green Cross, I now believe the legislation makes it virtually impossible to open a new MCD in San Francisco.

  So you're saying the Supervisors are not evil, just incompetent?

During the last six months, we have had brilliant realtors and property mangers trying to help us; more than a dozen individuals have worked with us. Rachel and Sammy have poured their hearts and guts and time into the search. And, despite all of our efforts, we have been unsuccessful.

  The Board of Education is in the process of closing several schools. Have you thought about how this could affect the "green areas"? Even if the Green Cross could not be opened in a space you secured right away until a school actually closed, securing the space seems to be the main hurdle.

So, I worry about the next year… I worry about the extraordinary, sensitive and competent staff which has been with me through thick and thin, and who will lose their jobs and community. I worry that all of the MCDS that need to relocate will be forced to close. I worry that some of the MCDS will close rather than apply for a permit. I worry that some of those MCDS that move through the application/permit process will give up before they get their permit. I worry that by the end of next year SF will be left with only a handful of clubs. Fewer clubs will surely mean higher prices. Most of all, I worry that without The Green Cross, patients will have less access to high quality, affordable medicine. It’s a step back for the movement. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I truly believe that with the closing of The Green Cross, San Francisco loses one of its model MCDS.

  You don't sound arrogant. The people who sound arrogant are the people who act like it's their god-given right to control what happens in their neighborhoods.

It is from the bottom of my heart that I offer my sincere appreciation for all of your support---letters, testimony, phone calls and petitions. We need to feel proud that we fought the good fight. I know in my heart that we have survived this long because our loyal patients spoke out on our behalf at hearing after hearing. After hearing. It’s so hard to accept the fact that in the end, the efforts of a small group of well-resourced neighbors, their corporate lawyers and their publicity firm prevailed. This is San Francisco. It never should have happened.

  If you do end up accepting being shut down, please name names! It would be a shame if members of the cannabis community inadvertently supported these people in other contexts out of ignorance of their roles in what happened.

Please trust that we plan to continue to offer the best and most affordable cannabis products until the day we close. And, to make sure we capture some of the thoughts and feelings of our patients, we’d like to invite you to help create “The Green Cross Memoirs Book”. Go to The Green Cross website (www.thegreencross.org) and click on the link on the contact page named: online feedback form. In there we hope to compile your responses under the following categories: The first time I came to The Green Cross I remember….What I will miss most about The Green…Wishes for the future. We will let you know how to get your copy once we have produced it.

Please provide us with your email address so that we can keep you informed after we are gone…..And, I am a firm believer in miracles. So, if you have one up your sleeve, please give me a call, day or night.

  I wonder if a vending booth regularly set up in a "green area" rather than a fixed permanent location might be an option? Combining with an existing permitted dispensary and expanding the physical space and/or hours of operation? Bringing a civil lawsuit against the city and/or against particular individuals?

Keep on keeping on,

Kevin D. Reed, President
The Green Cross

  Right on... you too.

Power to the people!
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