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Editorial: Re-imagining Castro Street Fair

by BAR Editorial Board

Long Wu, left, Lizzi Dierken, and Coco Flannel shopped for handmade face masks at the 2015 Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Long Wu, left, Lizzi Dierken, and Coco Flannel shopped for handmade face masks at the 2015 Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

We encourage interested community members to attend a meeting this weekend to reinvigorate the long-running Castro Street Fair. Gay activist Cleve Jones wrote in last week's Guest Opinion that the fair, which was started by Harvey Milk in 1974, is a neighborhood treasure. It raises money for local nonprofits, but more importantly, as Jones noted, it maintains the character of the Castro, which has changed over the years, especially with the recent exodus of LGBTs and other former residents due to the housing affordability crisis.

We met with Jones several weeks ago, and he expressed gratitude for the all-volunteer fair board and the work its members do. But it seems that the board needs new ideas. Members deserve credit for welcoming changes and public input. In general terms, it would be great if creative young people are part of the planning process. There are also logistical issues, such as booth placement, that could benefit merchants and gain their support; after all, it's a great opportunity to increase foot traffic for local businesses.

These are just some of the suggestions we are hearing. We have noticed an enthusiasm gap and lower attendance in the last couple of years. Now is the time to make positive changes that will boost participation and make the Castro Street Fair "the place to be" that first Sunday in October.

This is a historic milestone as well - it's the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Milk and then-mayor George Moscone. Perhaps this year's street fair could pay tribute to the two men, one gay and one straight, whose progressive values ushered in a new era for the city.

Other large events in the Castro - Pink Saturday and Halloween - ended after violence occurred. The Castro Street Fair is the last street party hanging on, but it will only be successful if people step up to help. The meeting is Saturday, April 21, from 3 to 5 p.m, at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood Street. If you have a couple of hours and are interested in giving back to the LGBTQ community, you should stop by.

The Trump administration's 4/20 gift
In advance of 4/20, the unofficial celebration of cannabis, President Donald Trump did an about-face, announcing that his administration was abandoning a Justice Department threat to crack down on recreational marijuana in states where it is legal. The Los Angeles Times reported that the move "could enable cannabis businesses in California and other states that have legalized pot to operate without fear of federal raids and prosecution." We'll emphasize "could," since you never know if Trump will change his mind again. The Times reported that the president "personally" directed the retreat at the behest of Colorado Senator Cory Gardener (R), and that makes sense, since the Centennial State was one of the first to legalize recreational cannabis for adults. And the paper noted that Trump, in a typical move, did not give embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions advanced notice.

Recall last year, after voters approved California's adult recreational marijuana law, but before it went into effect, that Sessions had said he did not think pot should be legal. As recently as last November - just as California was gearing up for the January 1 start date for legal weed sales - Sessions hinted that a marijuana crackdown was imminent. The raids did not happen, however, and now appear even less likely with the administration's latest decision.

Gardener, the Times reported, was angry that the administration threatened to rescind an Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors not to target marijuana businesses that operate legally under state law. "The senator had blocked Justice Department nominees in retaliation," the paper noted. That seemed to get the attention of the administration, which has had a difficult time filling numerous vacant positions, and Gardener has lifted his remaining holds on nominations in response.

Sessions' threat was concerning to cannabis businesses in the Golden State, though it did not stop legal sales once they went into effect.

Additional evidence that the cannabis industry has entered the mainstream: former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, a wine and cigar aficionado - and former anti-pot advocate - joined the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis corporation that operates in 11 states. Boehner said his thinking on marijuana has "evolved." Former Massachusetts governor William Weld, a longtime marijuana backer, also joined the Acreage Holdings advisory board, saying in a statement that "the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy."

That's right. With the administration's current stance, advocates and corporations can now address other issues, like being able to open bank accounts, which are a problem under current federal law. That's because the federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug (like LSD). Going forward, we'd like the feds to relax the marijuana classification and expand cannabis research more broadly than the one university that is authorized now. The medical benefits could help patients addicted to opioids or sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, including veterans. Boehner seems to be on board, sending a tweet that de-scheduling the drug would allow such research to proceed.

We're not entirely convinced that Trump will keep his word, but lawmakers should work with the Drug Enforcement Administration now, while the president has abandoned Sessions' hardcore stance on cannabis.

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