On Marijuana, Obama Is The New Divider


All photos by Jack Rikess for Toke of the Town

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
By the time our drug-addled President landed in San Francisco around 3 p.m., he’d already scored one bust for the day when some wrong-way Cessna had the bad misfortune to be within 10 miles of Air Force One’s air space that the Feds already had dibs on. Two F-16’s intercepted the myopic business person, forcing the ganja express to land. Officials claim that large amounts of marijuana were found.
Welcome to California, Mr. President. Now try to pretend that there isn’t an economy here that is based on the cultivation of cannabis.
I’m sure after sneaking a few smokes he entered his $35,000 a plate fundraiser at a downtown five-star hotel for the purpose of filling up his campaign war chest and reassure us that the country is getting back on track.

​Speaking at this major hotel South of Market Street, the whole area was cordoned off, limiting hardly any traffic. Protesters were confined behind barricades with most of San Francisco’s police force present.
This is the same area where the Zoning Commission — the governing force made up of dentists, real estate agents and City Hall’s buddies, that licenses dispensaries — stuck three or four shops, hoping this location wouldn’t be profitable for them.
Funny visual: The police and SWAT members are lining the street around the hotel for security reasons where Obama is shilling for the big bucks. They have in essence closed down access to the dispensaries nearby that they are blocking.   
As these conscientious law enforcement officers are preoccupied directing traffic and keep riff-raff at bay, every so often a medical marijuana patient approaches the officers, shows their medical marijuana card, and a sea of barricades and cops part like the card holder is Charlton Heston and Mission Street is the Red Sea.

​It’s kind of crazy. It’s just absurd that during these emotional protests, Life still goes on.
Then after months of delays, later that day three perspective owners are set to appear before that all-powerful Zoning Commission to hear about confirmation for the opening of three dispensaries, two brand new ones and giving the opportunity for the delivery service only, Green Cross, to have a bricks and mortar presence out near the ocean, where few pot shops dwell. 
More about that later.
After dipping large in the deep financial wells of Frissy at his big-bucked infomercial, Mr. Obama, had his limo drive around the City, closing down every major driving artery while he sneak a few drags, discombobulating one of the busiest cities on the West Coast for hours.
As the sun was dropping in the sky, the protesters and the entire San Francisco police force moved up to Nob Hill where the President was due to speak to those who shelled out a hundred bucks to see the smile at a cheaper venue.

​On that side of the street, the line snaked around three of the biggest city blocks there are. I estimated there were roughly at least 3,000 people braving the chilly night air to see our 44th executive in chief.
Now, on the other side of the streets, behind a wall of barricades, stood the throngs of the angry and pissed protesters who had something to say. There were the pipeline people; those arguing for an anti-circumcision ban, the Occupy people did their hand signals confusing the unoccupied. There had to be five or six other splinter groups demonstrating for their beliefs.
I could smell my people before I found them. A few had been taunting the police by lighting up behind the barricades. Because this is San Francisco, I don’t think it pissed off the cops as much as some of the younger cops looked longingly like maybe a hit might warm them up on this chilly evening.
The demonstrators were in fine form with the bullhorns and chants, mostly directing their vociferous concerns to the Obama supporters waiting in the cold to get in to the theater across the street.

​After probably 30 minutes of the medical marijuana advocates rally with “DEA, GO AWAY” and “OUR MEDICINE, OUR STATE,” the Obama attendees struck back with the cries of “FOUR MORE YEARS!”  Then the Obama protesters replied with, “ONE TERM ONLY.”
For about 10 minutes there was a sing-off between the two factions on who could yell the loudest.
It would have been pretty funny if it wasn’t so sad.
I was standing there in the cool night air noting the absurdity of the situation. Why were we antagonistic to the Obama supporters on the other side?
My question is who are we trying to reach with our message?

​If we can’t get San Franciscan Democrats to hear our cause: then what are we trying to do?
If we can’t get the likes of Keith Obermann or some of the cats at MSNBC to do a five-minute segment on the federal crackdown in California and the war on medical marijuana in general, who are we shouting at?
I understand bringing attention to our cause, but arguing with San Franciscan voters on why Mitt Romney is the same as Obama as far as we’re concerned, that a one-term Obama can’t do any more harm than the rest have done… I don’t know if that’s going to have any resonance with the majority of voters who already believe that cannabis is legal in SF.
I bumped into a budtender who lost his job when the pot shop he worked at was closed because of the federal pogrom a
gainst medical marijuana.
“It’s a really drag. My boss is barely hanging on. They had to let me go.”
I asked the young man in his late 20s if he was bummed. “Hell, no. I’m living on unemployment. Obama’s paying me not to work and I still can get some bud. Pretty sweet, huh?”

​Ain’t that America?
Then the news came down that the police are going to start busting people for smoking pot in Golden Gate Park. I first thought this must be a rumor or a ploy; misinformation to rile the protesters. I smoked a joint with Jerry Garcia in the early 80s around Speedway Meadows.
No cannabis smoking in Golden Gate Park?  That would be like outlawing French wine in Paris. It’s just not done in respectable circles.
So now people are agitated and have more fire in their protest. Good thing because it was getting cold with the ocean air peeling down avenues.
About an hour or so of the Obama supporters waiting in line, it began to move. Once the folks were in, some of the looky-loos, tourists and those interested in what a protest looks like began to leave. Some of the faithful continued with their late-night belief that they still could overcome.

​I left to see about those dispensaries, and if they were awarded a location. I was unable to gain entrance into the Federal Building because they lock the doors after-hours, even when hearings are being conducted. Luckily I ran into another stoner friend who over the course of some wild Dragon’s Breath, he gave me the blow-by-blow and said it looked good for the three dispensaries to get approved.
But that doesn’t include another 12 apothecaries that might be shut down because they are providing services and medicine to humans who are supposed to fall through the cracks and not be seen or helped.
Funny note: U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the woman behind all these closures and attempts to stop patients from getting the relief they need? Our nicotine-stained president is considering her for the Supreme Court.
This is the same U.S. Attorney who took cannabis dollars from her ganja friends for her reelection committee. Boy, did we get fooled.

​At least President Obama didn’t flip us the presidential bird like he did last time when he came to San Francisco on April 20 of last year to let us know how he doesn’t mind flip-flopping on his commitment to let medical marijuana be a low priority for his Justice Department. 
This trip was all about reelection money. There wasn’t hardly any policy or political motives to be seen. This was about the selling of a President.
And for those of us across the street, we were just not buying it.
So yesterday:
• Obama catches a smuggler.
• He holds a $35,000 fundraiser.
• 12 dispensaries are under review by the Department of Justice.
• 3 dispensaries are approved.
• 3,000 people spend $100 to gaze at the president.
Starting with a tradition that began with the Summer of Love in ’67, it will be a crime now to smoke pot in Golden Gate Park.
The Feds say that medical marijuana is a “sham.” I say the whole thing is absurd. One plane got caught. We know another 40 made it through. Mexican cartels have power and force because they have prohibition on their side. 
We have progressives arguing with each other over teeny, tiny issues that on most days wouldn’t upset us.
If you ask me, yesterday was another crazy example of our War On Drugs. This time we had a Commander-in-Chief that didn’t have a clue what was happening around him and what it meant.
Welcome to your own private oblivion, Mr. President.

Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.
Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.
His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.
He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.