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Puff, Puff, Pause: Supervisors Pass Moratorium On New Dispensaries

Inside The Apothecarium's Castro location. | Photo: Walter Thompson/Hoodline
By Bay City News - Published on September 12, 2017.

San Francisco supervisors today put the approval of most new medical cannabis dispensaries (MCDs) on hold while the city rushes to develop new policies for medical and recreational cannabis sales before full legalization kicks in next year.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 in favor of the 45-day moratorium, which was introduced by Supervisor Malia Cohen, with Supervisors Jeff Sheehy and Mark Farrell dissenting.

Cohen said the moratorium was not an anti-medical marijuana measure, but was rather intended to allow the city to develop a set of regulations before adult use of cannabis becomes legal in California on January 1st.

The board is expected to consider regulations for recreational sales this fall.

"I'm not an anti-cannabis person or have any hard feelings for MCDs, and as a matter of fact I have supported them in my own district," Cohen said. "This is not about banning MCDs or putting MCDs out of business, this is about taking a short-term pause."

Cohen argued that the moratorium was particularly important because the city's existing 35 medical cannabis dispensaries could be among the first in line to apply for permits to sell recreational marijuana.

The proposal drew strong opposition from dispensaries and cannabis users and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, among others. Sheehy said the moratorium targeted the wrong people by "conflating medical cannabis with adult use."

He noted that medical cannabis had helped many HIV patients stay alive and healthy and said it was important to give patients access to their medicine.

In addition, he said the moratorium would hurt smaller operators and set back efforts to encourage racial and economic equity in the industry.

"Those operators with deep pockets can wait it out, and those that have less resources will not necessarily be able to continue because they won't be able to keep it in the pipeline," Sheehy said.

The Planning Commission called for a citywide moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries in July while voting on a smaller moratorium targeting only District 11, which has a number of dispensaries in close proximity.

Commission members have said they need clearer guidelines from the city in how to vote on dispensary applications.

The moratorium will exempt four dispensaries that already have hearings scheduled before the Planning Commission, but not seven others that had applications in the works but no hearing date, according to Cohen.

—Sara Gaiser

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