S.F. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Generate Only 11 Complaints in Five Years

Categories: Marijuana
That all you got?
Pot clubs. They're boring. You go in, you buy some pot, you leave. For all the clamor a new medical cannabis dispensary's opening receives from jumpy John Q. Public, with a few notable exceptions, most we see these days resemble dentists' offices, not dens of iniquity (and, we suspect, the drugs in dentists' offices are more fun, if you're into that kind of thing).

Know what's even more boring? Reading the list of citizen complaints San Francisco's medical cannabis dispensaries have generated over the past few years.

SF Weekly recently asked the Department of Public Health, which oversees the city's dispensary program, for a compendium of recent problems with the city's cannabis collectives. And we received it: A grand total of 11 complaints on file over a five-year period, according to the documents we received from our public records request.

Want some bedtime reading? Then click on, dear reader.  2006: A neighbor upstairs from HopeNet on Ninth Street writes to say that the stench from the dispensary is exacerbating his emphysema. A DPH inspector visits and smells pot; can't reach the complainant after a few tries. Result: resolved.

2007: Canna Med Care on Sutter Street -- since closed -- was using a scale that was off by .4 grams. In a separate complaint filed that year, a neighbor on Dore Alley says that HopeNet's customers were blocking the sidewalk. HopeNet asked not to block the sidewalk. Also, workers at 1525 Howard Street complain that the smell from Emmalyn's is too much. DPH visits but can't detect a scent.

2008: The bathroom at HopeNet wasn't working. It was working when DPH visited. Another complaint said that outside of 442 Haight Street (now a shoe store) the presence of a "known drug dealer" alarmed a neighbor who later sees people smoking pot outside the establishment on two separate occasions. That matter was referred to SFPD.

2009 was the dirty year: Green Goddess at 940 Geary Street was selling pot without a permit. Also, 194 Church Street was doing the same thing. Both operations were shut down.

2010: Grassroots on Post Street was selling more than an ounce per visit, in violation of city rules. Told not to do it anymore. Another complaint said that a man on Palm Avenue in Laurel Heights upset his neighbors by making cannabis lollipops in his kitchen. He said he'll stop.

2011: A man who claims to have top-security clearance from the United States government says he was assaulted outside of SPARC, and that he received harassing e-mails and phone calls following "a traumatic brain injury."

Had enough? So have we. Suffice to say that San Francisco medical cannabis dispensaries are hardly the most threatening entities in town. In fact, we believe that the local Pet Food Express has generated more contention.

But this comes as no surprise to cannabis advocates -- it's what they've been saying for years, in fact.

"How many other businesses have had that few complaints against them?" asks David Goldman with the S.F. chapter of Americans for Safe Access. "How many bars, how many drugstores -- how many banks? I'd say the medical cannabis dispensary industry is amazingly complaint-free compared to other industries."

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Samuel Shmuter
Samuel Shmuter

Did you pull complaints from the other city depts and other state agencies? I cant believe DPH handles the criminal complaints, or Planning Dept complaints, and how about complaints to the Board of Equalization about paying taxes? Interesting topic, thanks.

Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts

Hi Samuel --

Two of the above complaints came from the Planning Department. BOE records are not made public. SFPD is supposed to share any complaints regarding a registered dispensary with DPH -- and no registered dispensaries have been the subject of any SFPD action as far as I know -- so as far as the public records process is concerned, this is it. 

Thanks for reading,Chris

wiseold snail
wiseold snail

so, samuel, why don't you go ahead and look into the taxes?  do you really think a dispensary trying to stay alive and open in this environment would blow it by not paying taxes?  maybe you should be alot more concerned about your bank paying it's taxes, or, for instance, your gas and electricity provider...


On June 17, 1971, President Nixon told Congress that "if we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely destroy us." After forty years of trying to destroy "the drug menace in America" we still *haven't* been able to destroy it and it still *hasn't* destroyed us. Four decades is long enough to realize that on this important issue, President Nixon was wrong! All actions taken as a result of his invalid and paranoid assumptions (e.g. the federal marijuana prohibition) should be ended immediately!

It makes no sense for taxpayers to fund the federal marijuana prohibition when it *doesn't* prevent people from using marijuana and it *does* make criminals incredibly wealthy and incite the Mexican drug cartels to murder thousands of people every year.

We need legal adult marijuana sales in supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies for exactly the same reason that we need legal alcohol and tobacco sales - to keep unscrupulous black-market criminals out of our neighborhoods and away from our children. Marijuana must be made legal to sell to adults everywhere that alcohol and tobacco are sold.

"There's something extraordinarily perverse when we're so concerned about preventing addicts from having access to drugs that we destroy the lives of many times more people, either through untreated pain or other drug war damage".

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