Longtime San Francisco pot club shuts down

January 9, 2012 8:35:44 PM PST
One of the oldest medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco closed Monday evening, the target of a crackdown by the U.S. Attorney's office.

The storefront operation closed at 7 p.m. after the U.S. Attorney sent the landlord a letter that the Market Street Cooperative is engaged in illegal activity.

"Persecution of medical cannabis patients, growers and dispensaries throughout the state of California and nationwide needs to stop," Market Street Cooperative Co-Director Tate Swindell said.

That was the message supporters of the Market Street Cooperative took to the federal building where the U.S. Attorney is located.

Last November, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to the landlord of the building on Market Street, where the cooperative has operated for over a decade. The landlord was warned of criminal prosecution unless the tenant stops selling marijuana within 45 days. So, on closing day, the coop sold off its inventory at a 15 percent discount.

However, medical marijuana customers are incensed.

Michael Petrelis says he needs pot to offset the side effects of his AIDS drugs.

"Why is the federal government saying I can't have this, but I can have a bagful of this overpriced pharmaceutical drugs? I want both the AIDS drugs and my medical marijuana," Petrelis said.

"Taking medical cannabis from sick people kills people; it's a matter of life or death," Mira Ingeram said.

Haag told ABC7 News in a statement, "My office has received many phone calls, letters and emails from people who are deeply troubled by the tremendous growth of the marijuana industry and its influence on their communities."

The U.S. Attorney also said the Market Street Cooperative is located too close to two schools -- Chinese American International School and the San Francisco Friends School.

"This is kind of sending a signal in many ways, but it also is a forewarning, it's a notice to all landlords they'd better be more scrupulous in considering who their tenants are," former U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said.

The operators of the cooperative said they didn't want to put their landlord in legal trouble, so they're reluctantly shutting down. At this point, there are no plans to relocate where they might run into the same problem.