There are about 25 pot clubs in San Francisco -- and very few them are located far from the gritty South of Market area. There are exactly none in the foggy Sunset, tony Pacific Heights, or historic North Beach.
“They’re either in SOMA because everyone supports them or because there’s no one complaining – I tend to think it’s the latter,” said Derek St. Pierre, a lawyer for a "potrepenreur" named Greg Schoepp.
Schoepp tried to open a storefront in the conservative Sunset District and was chased away by neighbors and city officials last summer, who said they were afraid that the pot shop would bring crime and give kids access to weed.
Now Schoepp is getting in on the action at one of two pot clubs that are located in Ingleside, far from the rest of the city's dispensaries. He’s taking over as manager at the notorious Nor-Cal Herbal Relief Center. The dispensary is the subject of a criminal investigation and has been shuttered for three months following a suspicious fire.
Schoepp, who owns a hardware store and is wheelchair-bound, said in an interview this week that he plans to reopen the dispensary under the name Waterfall Wellness at the end of the month
Nor-Cal has been under scrutiny since a fire broke out on December 26, 2010. Crews arrived on the scene to find an illegal marijuana-growing operation on the second floor of the apartment, a messy wiring job designed to steal electricity from PG&E, and a handgun.
San Francisco police opened an investigation, and the city’s department of building inspection leveled fines against the dispensary.
At the time, a building department official told the Bay Citizen that the faulty wiring – designed to steal electricity from PG&E – likely caused the blaze. However, an investigation by the fire department has since found that a heater that was too close to an upholstered sofa caused the blaze.
In a telephone interview, Schoepp, who answered questions curtly before hanging up, said that Waterfall Wellness would be cleaning up all the problems and assuming all of Nor-Cal's liabilities. “That was part of the deal,” he said, adding that the previous operator Daniel Mendez is no longer running the club.
The site has a colorful history. The building is owned by the family of Ed Jew, a former San Francisco Supervisor who was busted by the feds for accepting cash bribes from the owners of a bubble tea establishment.
Even before Mendez took over, there was trouble. In 2005, federal agents raided the club as part of “Operation Urban Harvest.” At the time, the DEA claimed the dispensary was a front for illegal drug trafficking.
Schoepp’s lawyer said he’s going to do everything by the book and help resurrect the pot shop’s reputation. The health department, which regulates medical pot in San Francisco, will be holding a hearing on the change of control at the dispensary, which is located on Ocean Avenue.