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Cookie D’oh

In February, the San Francisco Planning Commission said the Upper Haight would finally get a dispensary, giving the infamous illegal pot deals hotspot its first whiff of legal marijuana sales.

hoodline reported in July that the as-yet-unnamed Upper Haight facility was exploring a partnership with Cookies, the popular pharmacy chain, clothing brand and pioneering breeder that invented the strain Girl Scout Cookies.

But its partnership with Cookies crumbled after review by the San Francisco Office of Cannabis. That agency was concerned that the settlement violated the city’s cannabis-stocking program that prioritizes business owners who were victims of the War on Drugs. The Upper Haight pharmacy was the first stock store to be approved under the stock guidelines that came into effect in early 2018.

The Cookies collaboration may still take place under a different iteration. A representative of Cookies says: SF Weekly the teams are about to regroup all of this internally.

Cookies is a well-known California cannabis brand, founded by San Francisco-born Gilbert Milam Jr. – better known as rapper and marijuana magnate Berner. The company operates two pharmacies under the Cookies name in Los Angeles, a clothing brand where virtually every item bears the Cookies “cursive C” logo, and of course the famous line of cannabis flowers whose name borrows letters borrowed from the Girl Scouts of America.

The yet-to-be-opened Upper Haight dispensary will now be near Cole Street at the site partially occupied by comic book store Silver Sprocket. The main owner is Shawn Richard, founder of Brothers Against Guns, with co-owners John Delaplane, a partner in the new dispensary Project Cannabis SoMa, and Conor Johnston, who served as London Breed’s chief of staff when she was District 5 supervisor.

When the partnership was announced, Johnston said Cookies would be the new pharmacy’s “operational and management partner”, and media reports said “the store’s name is still uncertain, but it would likely be an indirect nod to the Cookies brand.”

A tweet the following day from the cannabis advocacy group San Francisco Social Club said: “Last night it was announced by the Cole Ashbury Group on their Community Forum that they are in negotiations with @berner415 and his @CookiesSF group to manage the Haight Ashbury Dispensary which is now being built at 1685 Haight St. Ownership would remain the same.”

Berner himself endorsed that description of the arrangement, retweeting that post, adding, “It would be an honor and the city deserves a real cookie club.”

But the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, the regulatory agency that oversees local marijuana businesses, had trouble allowing changes to a pharmacy’s governance structure after another structure had already been approved by the city’s planning department.

Although the Office of Cannabis (OOC) does not comment on pending applications, director Marisa Rodriguez has broadly explained the local licensing process.

“The licensing process is relatively new and is still being refined,” she says SF Weekly. “Additional changes to an application or unforeseen developments may require additional evaluation.

“This is the first time a substantive change has been proposed after the schedule,” she adds. “This is an organic process and we want it to be thought through. We want to protect our equity program.”

The sudden change in management may not have been the only problem; there may also be issues with the name “Cookies”. The city’s 2018 cannabis rules state that “applicants cannot name their business anything that specifically appeals to young people. A youth-friendly cannabis business name (e.g. The Candy Corner) is inconsistent with the mission of the OOC.”

“I’m not interested in names” [cannabis] companies that are looking for things that appeal to young people,” says Rodriguez.

You may remember there was once a Cookies SF dispensary on Mission Street near Geneva avenue. That pharmacy has since been renamed Connected Cannabis Co., but still uses a very similar ‘italic C’ logo and powder blue color scheme associated with cookies. Curiously, Connected Cannabis continues to bill itself as “Cookies SF” on their Yelp page and uses the account name @Cookies_SF on Twitter.

Meanwhile, yet another Mission District pharmacy named Cookie Co 415 also mimics Cookies name and cursive script logo.

The irony of Cookies’ situation is delightful: They’re trying to get into San Francisco’s legal pharmacy game, while existing licensed dispensaries try to impersonate Cookies with similar logos and branding. We’ll see if the proposed Haight Street package allows Cookies to once again get their hands on the local cannabis industry’s cookie jar.

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