Bong shop regulation on deck - too much toking up in the Excelsior

You know you want it - but is it good for poor people?

by Benjamin Wachs

Back in the 1960s, San Francisco introduced the world to the “Head Shop” – tie-die bong store that manages to stay jussssst this side of the law because its products could … technically, if you’re seriously going to … be used for tobacco.

Forty years later, legislation has been introduced to the Board of Supervisors that would regulate head shops, likely preventing new ones from opening without government approval.

Have we grown up or sold out?

Neither, according to Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who introduced the legislation. It’s not about pot, he told the Snitch (one of us might have been toking as he said it): it’s about zoning issues. Land use stuff. The kind of thing you have to be pretty high to sit through.

“There’s no social judgment going on here,” he said. “But in neighborhoods that are economically deprived it may be inappropriate to let (head shops) proliferate.”

Neighborhoods like the Excelsior, which Sandoval represents. Four new head shops have opened there in the past six months – one of them directly across from a school – and he’s decided that’s a sign.

“We’re seeing a proliferation and I think we need to stop and ask ourselves why. You don’t see a proliferation like that in Pacific Heights.”

Well, no, but I bet if you decorated them a little more tastefully and offered organic, fair trade bongs hand carved by Aborigines …

The legislation Sandoval introduced would put a moratorium on new head shops for 45 days while the city reviews what, if any, regulations it wants to introduce. While Sandoval said he’s not rushing to judgment, the city has a long history of regulatory tests that it uses to block new purveyors of fun. Booze, for example: liquor licenses are granted only if the new locations’ proximity to schools, parks, and high-crime areas meets the Supes' approval.

If Sandoval’s measure passes (it’s now going to spend at least 30 days before the Land Use committee) head shops would likely see the same treatment.

Sandoval’s expecting howls of outrage over this – it’s one thing to regulate big business, that’s progressive. But regulating pot? That’s so fascist! – but he’s unapologetic. Nor does he buy the argument that this is a cultural milestone … the forces of nanny-state liberalism unleashed in the 60s finally catching up with the forces of hedonism unleashed in the 60s.

For him, it’s just zoning.

“I wouldn’t have much of an argument if we had great parks, rec centers clean streets in the neighborhoods I’m looking at – then you could have a million head shops. But it’s not like the Summer of Love in the Bayview. These places have real problems.”

What a grown-up thing to say. Killjoy.

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