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The Good Cannabis Dispensaries Bring to Our Communities

The Good Cannabis Dispensaries Bring to Our Communities
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We are proud San Franciscans and community activists in the South of Market. We have had the privilege of watching San Francisco grow and change over time. And one area that has changed tremendously is cannabis policy, both medical and soon adult use.

In 1996, more than three quarters of San Francisco voters supported Proposition 215 to legalize medical cannabis. Twenty years later, 74 percent of San Francisco voters supported Proposition 64 to legalize adult cannabis. There is clearly long-term, overwhelming support in our city for regulated, legal cannabis.
Scientific studies and years of patient experiences have shown that medical cannabis is extremely beneficial for people, especially children who experience seizures, individuals battling cancer or AIDS and people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. We hope that San Francisco doesn’t go back to the “Reefer Madness” days of cannabis prohibition and lose out on all the benefits that the plant can offer.

We don’t want to see new medical cannabis dispensaries blocked, or current ones prevented from serving their patients. Cannabis dispensaries are good for the community, and, frankly, we could use more of them.

A UCLA study in Sacramento funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that neighborhoods with cannabis dispensaries have no more crime than other neighborhoods and that “measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship” of the area. A study published this summer in the Journal of Urban Economics went even further, showing that closing a dispensary causes a “significant increase in crime in the [surrounding] blocks.” Don’t believe the scare tactics. Cannabis dispensaries are good for public safety.

Dispensaries in The City consistently hire from the communities they serve, providing long-term, well-paying opportunities for folks in our neighborhoods. Legal cannabis is one of the fastest growing job creators in the country, with a report by New Frontier Data projecting it will create more than 250,000 jobs in the next three years. And the now-free City College of San Francisco can become a cannabis job training hub. Many cannabis products are already grown, packaged and sold in San Francisco by San Francisco workers. Not many other industries can say that.

Many dispensaries are also extremely generous to local organizations. The Apothecarium, subject of a recent tumultuous Planning Commission hearing, has given $350,000 to local nonprofits like the Larkin Street Youth Center and AIDS Emergency Fund, plus another $250,000 in donated time and products to support elderly patients, veterans and people living with HIV. The two dispensaries proposed in Visitacion Valley have each pledged $50,000 per year for direct services for the community. And a proposed dispensary in SoMa, scheduled for the Planning Commission today, is generously supporting both of our organizations. If other businesses gave half as much as cannabis dispensaries do, The City could do some amazing things.

We have worked hard to build strong relationships with medical dispensary operators in our neighborhood. Most have been eager and excited to be active members of the community. Many have offered ongoing regular support to our organizations. With the support of dispensaries, United Playaz has been able to host five privately-funded Gun Buy Backs, removing close to 1,000 guns from the streets. We have also been able to provide jobs for youth, support families of victims of gun violence and support college visits for youth.

Medical cannabis dispensaries can improve public safety and support local jobs and community nonprofits like ours. And, of course, access to legal cannabis at neighborhood dispensaries helps reduce drug arrests, ease patients’ pain, increase tax revenue and lower opioid abuse.

Other cities around the state, including Oakland, Santa Rosa and Los Angeles, have developed thorough, fair cannabis regulations. Those cities are moving forward with cannabis programs that serve patients and create equitable business opportunities.

San Francisco has always been a leader and innovator, priding ourselves on being at the forefront of issues like this. As legal medical and adult use cannabis progresses, we hope San Francisco will support medicine, support patients and provide new dispensaries the fair hearings they deserve.

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