Interest is High in Ingleside Over Marijuana Initiative

Michael Pawluk

A proposal to legalize pot in California is sparking debate in the Ingleside District, which is home to two of San Francisco’s 26 medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

If approved, the proposal on the November ballot would allow the recreational use of marijuana by individuals over 21 while generating about $1.3 billion a year through a tax of $50 per ounce, according to Betty Yee, chairwoman of the state Board of Equalization.

A prior ballot initiative, Proposition 215, led to the opening of two dispensaries on Ocean Ave. near two high schools, City College and hundreds of residential homes. In 2005, there was public outcry against a proposal for a third dispensary. But five years later, some residents favor reform over abolition while the dispensary owners fear competition.

"If marijuana becomes legal for everyone, we may have to close down," said Kenn Koffer, an employee of the Nor Cal Herbal Relief Center on Ocean Ave.
"Otherwise we would have to adjust our business model because they would start selling it in coffee shops and gas stations and it would be hard to compete."

Reaction from residents is mixed.

"I was in support of (proposition) 215 when it was passed, but seeing how some of the clubs in the area have been managed, it seems like they left open a lot of loose ends," said Jeffery Taliaferro, owner of Ocean Cyclery. "I hope that with a fresh look at these laws they can remove some of the criminal element that came out of medical legalization and actually make it beneficial to the neighborhood."

There even disagreement among dispensary customers, with some admitting they circumvent current laws to get ahold of medical pot. “It’s really easy to get in and out of the doctors with your prescription in under an hour," said a City College student who would only identify himself as Lucky. "There are even websites that say what kind of symptoms you need to say you have, easy stuff that you can’t really test like insomnia.”

Real Benefits
For others, the medical benefits of smoking pot are very real.
“I use marijuana to treat chronic migraines that I’ve been having since I was 11 or 10 years old,” said Jackson Zennifer, a 26-year-old who also attend City College. “My doctors would give me Tylenol and stuff but it didn’t work. When I was in high school I tried smoking weed and my headaches went away every time I did it. They got so bad sometimes I had to stay out of school. But when I was prescribed marijuana it took the pain out the day.”

In February, a U.C. San Diego-based research team released results from a study financed by $9 million in state funds. It concluded “we now have reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment in selected pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system.”

Despite the fresh research about pot's medicinal benefits, some residents remain opposed to legalization.

“No matter how you look at it or what you call it, it’s still a drug,” said retired federal employee Walter Noordan. “This information doesn’t change anything because people will still see it as such.”
Ballot Language

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed the ballot measure during February. It would "remove marijuana and its derivatives from existing statutes defining and regulating controlled substances."

"There are polls that show 56 percent of Californians support marijuana reform. It's a widely accepted opinion,” said Quentin Mecke, Communication Director for Ammiano's office. "We're not trying to get people to use marijuana but the reality is that some people do. We want the state to tax and regulate it because the prohibition model has obviously failed."