Castro pot club sends funds to LGBT charities
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A medical pot club in San Francisco's Castro area has distributed funds to charities just months after opening.
The Apothecarium, 2095 Market Street, recently distributed $1,000 apiece to Maitri and Larkin Street Youth Services, and $500 to Pets Are Wonderful Support.
Co-owner Ryan Hudson said they hadn't expected to make any donations in their first few months, "but in the spirit of the holidays," they wanted to distribute funds and fulfill their commitment. He said the charities are all "wonderful" organizations that offer something "near and dear to our hearts."
Laws governing medical cannabis dispensaries restrict the businesses from turning a profit, so before the shop opened, Hudson pledged to funnel any profits back into the community.
Hudson said they're still paying down construction and other start-up costs for the dispensary, which opened June 21. Those expenses came to "something in the low six figures," and about two-thirds of the costs remain to be paid, he said. He expects to have the expenses paid off this year.
The shop, which sells everything from flowers to baked goods, will become a mutual benefit corporation this month, Hudson said. That means it will be a nonprofit that pays taxes. Also beginning this month, Hudson's taking a salary, but he wouldn't disclose the amount.
"I'm thrilled they actually already have some funds available," said Alan Beach-Nelson, who's HIV-positive and chairs the dispensary's philanthropic advisory committee.
He said checks were distributed December 15-16.
Beach-Nelson, who's the president of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and isn't involved in managing the pot club, said he's "very optimistic" about the effort's growth.
He said the committee hasn't yet decided whether other agencies would be selected the next time or when subsequent distributions would be made.
The Apothecarium's checks may seem small compared to the beneficiaries' budgets, but the agencies receiving funds all expressed appreciation.
Larkin Street Youth Services, which works with homeless youth, is one of the agencies that received money from the pot club.
Kathie Lowry, Larkin Street's chief development officer, said the $1,000 it received is "a meaningful gift" that would be used for general operating support. Its budget is $14 million.
The hospice Maitri, which serves men and women living with HIV and AIDS, also received $1,000.
"We're thrilled to receive the support, and will put it directly toward caring for our 15 residents," said Executive Director Michael Smithwick. Maitri has a budget of about $2.5 million.
Smithwick said the gift is "certainly welcome" as his agency works on diversifying funding beyond government contracts toward more private resources.
Pets Are Wonderful Support, which helps the companion animals of low-income people with disabling HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, received $500 from the Apothecarium.
Executive Director Kevin Kosik said, "All gifts are incredibly important."
"We're 100-percent funded by philanthropic support," Kosik added. "We don't have any earned revenue, and we don't take any government funds. We have to raise every dollar from scratch every year from individuals, foundations, and corporations." This year's budget is $1.6 million.
So far, at least one Apothecarium patient is pleased with the dispensary, too.
David Goldman, who also sits on the club's philanthropic committee, uses marijuana for glaucoma and chronic pain. He said the shop is "one of our top dispensaries in the city."
"I just think they give very excellent personal service, and the quality of their medicine is really good," said Goldman, who is gay.
Besides Goldman, Beach-Nelson, and Hudson, the committee also includes Apothecarium co-owner Michael Thompson and Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association President Dennis Richards.