Chronic City: Here's Progress -- S.F. Firefighters Rescue Marijuana Grow-Op

Fireman teddy bear.jpg
Save the medical Marijuana, fire teddy!
Sometimes the biggest signs of epochal change in society are those that are casually mentioned, five paragraphs down in a story. Such was the case with Sunday's four-alarm warehouse fire in Bayview, where fire crews remained yesterday monitoring for flare-ups.

"Marijuana was found growing in one of the buildings," CBS5 reported, "but police Sergeant Wilfred Williams said this morning that the narcotics unit investigation found that the Marijuana is being grown legally, 'for medicinal purposes'."

Now, of course, that's a completely normal sentiment to youthful San Franciscans. But for a child of the 1960s, it is nonetheless a big, happy deal. Youngsters, I lived in a time when such an incident could not have ended happily for the growers, who would have likely faced a prison term.

Sadly, that's still the case back in the heartland. In May, fire crews in Bloomfield, Iowa, found 1,200 Marijuana plants growing in a Davis County home after someone reported a blaze. The plants were found in pots in the attic; authorities got a search warrant, seized the weed, and arrested the couple who owned the home -- as well as an unfortunate tenant living on their property in a mobile home, for good measure.

Even in supposedly cultured places like Brooklyn (incredibly, New York still has no medical Marijuana law), the same sad story plays out. A fireman responding to a Bushwick warehouse blaze last year spotted a pot-growing operation next door and called the cops. Eighty to 100 plants were hauled out in trash bags; the growers got away.


We all know our city purports to be on the cutting edge. Has Marijuana enlightenment come to the rest of California? Not all of it, of course, as the dispensary bans and growers busts continue apace in less enlightened sectors of the state.

But the change is coming, or rather has already come, in the form of 1996's Proposition 215 (legalizing medical Marijuana with a doctor's recommendation) and 2005's SB 420 (with the legislature amplifying and clarifying the original voter initiative, including clearing the way for continued existence of storefront dispensaries).

Are some counties and municipalities recalcitrant when it comes to medical Marijuana, forcing themselves to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century? Yes, of course. That's what happens when 72 years of propaganda has a head-on collision with the facts. But what you're truly seeing in places like San Diego and Sacramento are the death throes of the old guard.

As much as I hate to say it, some of my drug policy reform friends and associates are bloody defeatists, forever moaning how The System is so totally corrupt, top to bottom, that real change when it comes to drug enforcement is forever elusive and just beyond our grasp, at least without some cataclysmic paradigm shift.

To these people, I say: The paradigm has already shifted. Shift with it, surf on it, and let's share a smile.

In the fair City by the Bay, heroic firefighters are saving Marijuana plants.

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