City To Miss Legalization Deadline After Supervisors Postpone Cannabis Vote

The Board of Supervisors delayed another vote yesterday on new regulations for recreational cannabis. As a result, the city likely won’t have a legal framework in place when marijuana becomes legal statewide on January 1.

The Board was set to consider changes to city regulations for zoning, planning, health, taxes, law enforcement and other issues that were sponsored by District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy and Mayor Ed Lee, but the vote was postponed to November 28.

The measures would have made sweeping changes to the city’s marijuana industry, but zoning and land use issues appeared to be the primary issues that prevented supervisors from reaching a consensus.

Photo: The Green Cross/Yelp

In a Monday meeting of the Board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee, Supervisor Aaron Peskin (D3) proposed allowing the city’s 30 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) to conduct recreational sales by granting temporary permits. Good for a full year, licenses could also be extended to San Francisco’s 16 registered delivery services, The Examiner reported.

Although Peskin and Supervisor Katy Tang (D4) both oppose recreational marijuana sales in their districts, Sheehy has said citywide rules are needed to support dispensaries that want to grow, manufacture and test products in San Francisco.

[Update:] Tang's office contacted Hoodline to state she "does not oppose adult use marijuana in her district and in fact she has opened the 'Green Zone' in District 4" that would permit retail sales with a Conditional Use authorization "in the NC-1 Districts South of Golden Gate Park and West of Sunset Boulevard."

Although Peskin told The Examiner that he supports a ban on new dispensaries in Chinatown, Tang's office noted that his district currently "has the second most operating MCDs" after District 6.

Before the Board can enact a new ordinance, it must vote on it twice in separate sessions at least five days apart. After that, the mayor has 10 days to sign it into law. Ordinances that have a major impact on city policy take effect 30 days after mayoral approval.

To meet the January 1 statewide deadline, "the Board must adopt the ordinance and the mayor must sign the ordinance on December 1,” said a representative from the City Attorney's office—a timeline that requires supervisors to meet the same week as Thanksgiving.

Photo: Barbary Coast/Yelp

Supervisor Malia Cohen (D10) supported postponing so members can “roll up our sleeves and do due diligence.” Given San Francisco’s place at the vanguard of medical cannabis and decriminalization, “the entire city is watching us, and I would venture the entire country is watching us,” she said.

Cohen said a lack of equity programs that help low-income residents and communities excessively impacted by marijuana prohibition enter the cannabis industry was a valid reason to slow things down.

In May, Oakland passed a measure that reserved 50 percent of new MCD permits for applicants who earn 80 percent or less of the city’s median income. Cohen’s equity proposal would use the same benchmark and would extend to entrepreneurs with nonviolent criminal convictions.

In a joint statement released before yesterday’s meeting, State Senator Scott Wiener and local Democratic Party Chair David Campos—both former supervisors—attributed the lack of progress to “1930s-style ‘Reefer Madness,’” a reference to a film that depicted cannabis use as a gateway to depravity.

Photo: Barbary Coast/Yelp

Weiner and Campos decried moves to extend a buffer between schools and dispensaries from the state-recommended 600 feet to 1,000 feet, along with other “harsh limits on new cannabis businesses at a neighborhood level.”

The pair said “a small but vocal group of anti-cannabis protesters is putting extreme pressure on Supervisors.”

Noting that 74 percent of San Franciscans voted to legalize adult cannabis use, Campos and Wiener said they’ll support a local ballot measure that lets voters decide how to proceed with recreational marijuana if the Board.

Peskin, the lone vote against postponement, said he was upset by members of the public who have been overtly racist and described the Campos-Wiener press release as divisive.

“We are getting close to destroying the first new blue-collar industry we’ve had in decades,” said Sheehy at yesterday’s hearing. “Not having something available by January 1 makes us look bad.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safai (D11) took a more philosophical view. “A difference of two or three days doesn’t seem like a crippling blow to this industry,” he said.

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