BY ED MURRIETA
SAN FRANCISCO — Originally named Yerba Buena (translation: good herb in the language of the Spanish settlers), San Francisco enjoys a relationship with cannabis that is as old as California history itself. Here are five moments in time when pot and San Francisco memorably collided.
1965: SOMETIMES A STONED NOTION
Following a pot raid on his La Honda farm, novelist and counterculture catalyst Ken Kesey was busted for smoking a joint on a San Francisco rooftop. He faked his suicide and flew the nest of his Acid Tests. Kesey led police on a high-speed car chase on the Bayshore Freeway and was captured attempting to flee on foot near Candlestick Park. Kesey served six months in the San Mateo County Jail for pot possession, clearing brush and participating in group therapy. Soon after, Kesey and his trippy troupe, The Merry Pranksters, decamped for Oregon.
1967: BUSTED ON ASHBURY STREET
The arrest famously mentioned in the Grateful Dead’s hit song “Truckin’” wouldn’t happen until 1970 in New Orleans’ French Quarter but the band’s long strange trip with drugs and the law began in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. The arrest of 11 people living at 710 Ashbury St. — band members Bob Weir and Pigpen, two managers and several women variously described as “friends,” “visitors” and “just girls’” — sparked social justice and plant therapy issues that defined pot politics in America for the next 50 years.
1865: TRIP THE TWAIN FANTASTIC
One hundred and fifty years ago in America, cannabis was legal and regulated. Pharmacies sold patented tinctures and hashish candies. Mark Twain, then a Bohemian newspaper reporter who would soon become the celebrated author, was a customer. As the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle reported the following on Sept. 18, 1865: “It appears that a ‘Hasheesh’ mania has broken out among our Bohemians. Yesterday, Mark Twain and the ‘Mouse-Trap’ man were seen walking up Clay street under the influence of the drug, followed by a ‘star,’ who was evidently laboring under a misapprehension as to what was the matter with them.”
1972: LEGALIZATION FAILS BUT …
San Francisco was one of the few legislative districts in California that voted to legalize cannabis in 1972. After the ballot initiative failed 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, state Sen. George Moscone championed the California Senate Select Committee on the Control of Marijuana. That group, often referred to as the Moscone Committee, organized the first major study of the fiscal and social impacts of cannabis prohibition.
1991: MEDICAL CANNABIS FIRST
San Francisco became the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance allowing people access to medical cannabis. The ordinance won 79 percent of the vote and galvanized California’s medical cannabis movement.