It’s been nearly four years since Alexis Bronson began his quest to open up a cannabis shop in San Francisco’s Union Square.
His dispensary was supposed to take the former home of a John Varvatos store at 152 Geary St. It was to be called Have a Heart and would have been part of a dispensary chain operating throughout California, Washington, and Iowa. But after Have a Heart was hoovered up by the Tempe-based Harvest Health and Recreation and the rights to the store were sold to the controversial bud brand High Times, the whole deal developed a severe case of couchlock.
And so, despite receiving approval from the Planning Commission last year, the storefront remains vacant.
Bronson is one of the city’s cannabis equity applicants. Like similar initiatives that cropped up across the state after California legalized recreational marijuana, San Francisco’s cannabis equity program sought to “lower barriers to cannabis licensing for those hardest hit by the War on Drugs.”
Equity applicants who meet a set of conditions don’t have to pay the hefty $5,000 initial permit fee. They also have the option to partner with cannabis incubator businesses — giving them access to a rent-free space and technical assistance.
Since the program launched in 2018, the Office of Cannabis has issued 32 permits to equity applicants. Director Marisa Rodriguez tells SF Weekly that the program has become a “force multiplier for social good.”
“Despite the impact of the pandemic on small businesses as a whole, we still saw 11 modern and compliant equity-owned cannabis businesses open, creating local job opportunities and generating sales tax revenue to fund other social services and initiatives in San Francisco,” she says. “The program’s success, even through a public health crisis and economic downtown, underscores the timeliness and