Six proposed marijuana shops, some warehouse-sized, could be headed to the Mission

At the Mission Police station Friday evening, Al Shawa, the owner of the Shambhala cannabis collective at 20th and Mission, told a group of 20 residents that his new proposed location at 18th and Mission Street — now the shuttered site of L’Emigrante wine bar — will not attract crime or worsen conditions on the seemingly blighted corner.

“I want to protect the Mission, keep it clean, and I want to stay in the Mission,” said Shawa, who has done business here for more than three decades.  

Still, the residents expressed their concerns that the shop would attract crime and worried, too, about smoke wafting up into their apartment windows. More than anything, they worried that Mission is turning into a “go-to” spot for weed business, just like it is now for bars.

“What if this becomes a known location for marijuana businesses?” said Joel Becker, a resident at an apartment building at the intersection. “What happens to the neighborhood’s character?”

To residents unaccustomed to having a pot shop close to them who thought it wasn’t the best use of space, Shawa said gently: “I’ve got news for you — marijuana is part of your society now.”

That is especially true for Mission residents.

The neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s so-called “green zones.” Together with SoMa, Downtown, and Bayview/Hunters Point, the Mission — particularly the northern end of the neighborhood — is fertile ground for cannabis businesses.

In fact, much of the northern half of the Mission is zoned for cannabis retail shops and if all the applicants are approved, some 30,000 additional square feet of commercial and warehouse space will be devoted to the sales and distribution of cannabis.  

The Mission sites, however, are dwarfed by those South of Market.

Meanwhile, more residential parts of the city — like the Sunset, Richmond, Twin Peaks, and the Marina — might be considered cannabis deserts, as only their commercial corridors allow for cannabis businesses, once those outfits have obtained a conditional use permit.

Already, six businesses, including Shambala, have applied to operate in the Mission. All of them are so-called “equity applicants,” meaning they have been unfairly treated by the War on Drugs and are allowed to apply in 2018 because they meet certain criteria. Edwin Galley, Shawa’s partner for example, qualified because of his income level, a prior eviction, and a prior marijuana-related arrest of one of his family members.

If approved, these new pot businesses would add to the existing three retail shops in the Mission, bringing the Mission’s total to nine, plus two medical dispensaries.  

On Mission Street, Joseph Hunt, the former owner of Mr. Nice Guy, a dispensary that shuttered in 2011 amid a federal crackdown, has applied to operate a retail business out of 2075 Mission St., near the corner of 16th and Mission. Formerly the San Francisco College of Cosmetology, it runs from Mission Street through to Capp Street.

Hunt is thinking about calling his place Union Station, and he hopes to include a smoking lounge and have a bilingual attendant and bilingual menus in his 4,200-square-foot space on Mission.

“We’re just happy to have an opportunity to do it again,” Hunt told Mission Local.

Kind Courier — a marijuana delivery service that covers San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, and Alameda counties — has applied to open a so-called “microbusiness” at 14th and Folsom, that will allow the business to cultivate, package, distribute, and sell their products from the 8,600-square-foot warehouse. McMorrow added he hopes to do on-site consumption at the location as well.

We want it to be an experience like going into a winery in Napa, or a brewery,” said Brian McMorrow, Kind Courier’s CEO. “We’d love to have people to taste our products and do flights, and stuff like that.”

McMorrow, whose Kind Courier is an equity incubator — an existing business that provides space and guidance to equity applicants — said he hopes to open sometime in 2019.

Another delivery service called Where’s Weed — applying as Gilbert Logistics — has applied to operate out of a 6,000-square-foot location at 19th and Bryant streets. It’s unclear what the business will be, as is it not specified as “delivery only” on the Office of Cannabis website. The company did not respond to Mission Local inquiries.

An applicant under the name “Brother Louie LLC” has applied to open at a storefront on 24th and Hampshire, and another — called “” — has applied for a location at Bryant and Cesar Chavez., according to the Office of Cannabis, is a “delivery only” business. Mission Local was not able to contact either of the owners.

For their part, Shawa and Galley are envisioning a stylish and straight-forward “sales stand” for the corner space that will sell Shambala’s standard products. Meanwhile, Shawa said, his current location on Mission Street will feature a smoking lounge with espresso drinks, which he hopes to complete by late September.

On Friday, Shawa, sitting next to Galley, insisted their new location would only activate the corner of 18th and Mission with foot traffic, extra security and lighting, and pointed to his current shop as evidence that cannabis businesses do not attract blight. He emphasized that he strictly enforces a rule that restricts smoking within 30 feet of the business.

Shawa is not worried about getting his license — “unless there is huge resistance from neighbors,” he said following the meeting. “I don’t see it in my case.”

Indeed, one woman, who didn’t give her name, said she would be on board as long as Shawa met certain conditions. “If there’s no smoke in front of your place, and there is a possibility of a coffee shop until 10 o’clock,” she said, she would be fine.

And others agreed. A man named Carl Connell came into Friday’s meeting highly skeptical of Shawa’s proposal. “I came in undeniably opposed to your project,” Connell told Shawa at the end of the meeting. “But if you get the drug dealers to move [off the corner], I’ll go with it.”

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