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Why SF Doesn’t Need Corporate Weed

Mike Murphy
Jun 26, 2018 · 4 min read

#PermitPatty is the poster child for corporate weed. Erasure of whole urban neighborhoods for the creation of touristic legalized marijuana zones is not a stretch. It’s happened. We don’t need #CorporateWeed in San Francisco.

Denver was the trial balloon in regard to how significant the reach of the invisible stony hand into urban areas could be. Longtime residents in Frisco have a right and reason for concern that a new disruptive influence from dispensaries might evolve. Regulatory capture by operators in the city’s political machine will drive out residents and resident businesses (#PermitPatty’s “others”). Taxes feed pet projects and friends of the politically connected and asset hoarding by their donor-owners determine land use policy in our city gone mad with greed. Greed is why I oppose corporate weed.

When I wrote up the SF Green Party’s endorsement position on Prop 64 for the 2016 Voter Guide, I did not give due consideration to how corporate marketing influences might affect land use in our urban environments in California. Due consideration was given to decriminalization and its obvious benefits as outweighing the potential corporate takeover of what was largely an industry dominated by small-scale growers and collectives dealing with medical marijuana dispensaries.

The simple fact is that we are in the midst of a class war. Should we allow it, corporate overlords will continue their conquest to hoard all of the City’s real estate assets. Victims of the war on drugs will be the victims of the ceasefire over weed. Neighborhoods will continue to be sold out by politicians and erstwhile politicos who’ve exited by the revolving door. Shuttered storefronts will wait for new tenants (with or without weed) who can pay the inflated rental rates shored up by speculation and buoyed by foreign investment capital.

Corporate landlords like Real Estate Investment Trusts control large chunks of the commercial properties in the city. Similarly, they control large numbers of multi-family homes. Their investors can wait for returns on their investments.

The real game is to maintain the multi-trillion dollar mask on real estate values that is composed of bailouts and emergency loans made after the 2008 subprime mortgage meltdown. With wealth consolidated in the .1% and more billionaires in the Bay Area minted and landed all the time in a city with a greater income disparity than Rwanda, it’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain value in the tarnished San Francisco brand. So, in comes a hipster with a bow tie and a beard to curate your psychedelic experience, whether you need him or not. And, in comes #PermitPatty to call the cops on what she sees in a Reefer Madness moment as the competition. As San Franciscans are displaced and evicted to “make room” for newcomers (and those who never arrive but want to invest) the Warren Zevon soundtrack plays “…there’s something you should know/Not everybody has a place to go/And home is just a place to hang your head/And dream up things to do in Denver (or Frisco) when you’re dead”.

The real goal of corporate weed is not to provide needed services to the communities they set up shop in. The real game is real estate maintenance and acquisition for corporate landlords. Real estate has always run local politics. That’s why it was unsurprising that former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan wanted a Sunset District dispensary for her own enrichment and to pay back her patrons. That’s why the backroom chatter in SF Supervisor/Mayor London Breed’s old office convinced her aide Conor Johnston to sort of jump ship and board the corporate weed luxury liner (though he probably should have taken it easy on the product). That’s why of all the Citizen’s Ballot Measure Initiatives whose aim was to Legalize It, the flawed law we have passed and was enacted after clearing the high bar.

Sean Parker understands how the tech/real estate cabal works. It’s not a big leap to substitute tech with weed — tech with tech 2.0 — tech 2.0 with biotech. The operators change but the dividend remains the same, real estate. That’s why we should prioritize local worker-owned cooperative distribution over free access to another corporate tool of destruction in the hands of the same elite interests who have long presided over those presiding over the city’s governance. We have the right as a Charter City to get this right, and we should — before corporate weed takes over and saturates our neighborhoods with unnecessary brick and mortar would-be apothecaries. We should prioritize distribution services that are not disruptive, that are co-owned by victims of the war on drugs, and that deliver product that is friendly to workers and the planet. There are working models of this type, and others are being worked on. We don’t need corporate weed. It shouldn’t be forced on us.

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