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Every single one of the 20,000 people who march through Golden Gate Park during the annual AIDS Walk on Sunday will be exposed to marijuana.
There will be no choice — the cannabis industry has sponsored one of the checkpoints. The water, the tents, the DJ booth, that’s all paid for with volunteered cannabis cash.
“We’re trying to have a presence here,” says Christopher Esposito, a former board member of the SF AIDS Foundation who’s now running the “Team Cannabis” fundraising cadre at the walk. “It’s the Gap, it’s Chevron — and it’s Team Cannabis.”
And in some instances, cannabis’s activist streak is winning, handily.
A brief look at the list of fundraisers for Sunday’s walk reveals all of the usual suspects in San Francisco business, including some gigantic, multi-billion dollar corporations that are lagging far, far behind the cannabis people.
AIDS and cannabis go way back, recall. The legendary “Brownie” Mary Rathbun passed out cannabis-laced brownies to AIDS patients wasting away at San Francisco General Hospital during the worst days of the crisis in the 1980s.
Those brownies led to 1996’s medical marijuana law, Prop. 215, which led to today’s multi-billion dollar cannabis industry… with a few stops along the way.
“We are here because of the people before us,” Esposito says.
Efforts such as Team Cannabis’s pay tribute to that legacy. Most of the major dispensaries in the Bay Area, including Oakland’s Harborside Health Center and Berkeley Patients’ Group, are on board. And they’re raising more money than Wall Street’s treasured technology IPO darlings.
As of Thursday evening, Team Cannabis had raised a little over $13,000 for the effort. That’s more than Google ($10,716), Salesforce ($3,455), or Twitter ($2,225).
More cash is raised on Sunday during the walk, when Team Cannabis hopes to outdo the 35 walkers who raised $36,000 to about 100 and 65 walkers.
In the meantime, weed is winning. Or maybe tech is losing. In fact, the Homeless Youth Alliance ($3,455) has managed to out-raise the latter two darlings of San Francisco’s new tech-fueled Gilded Age, with dollar amounts we imagine Google could find inside its couch cushions.
Competition isn’t the point, though. Esposito, who now works at Oakland cannabis plant emporium Dark Heart Nursery, says that efforts like this re-affirm the cannabis industry’s social justice and activism roots.
And to “come out,” he says, simply. “We’re coming out this year… this is showing everyone else that we’re here.”