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Creation of Cannabis Commission among growing number of SF measures proposed for June ballot

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Supervisor Sandra Fewer has proposed a measure for the June 2018 ballot that would create a Department of Cannabis to replace the Office of Cannabis that was formed this year. The measure would also establish a nine-member Cannabis Commission. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis could be short-lived.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer has introduced a charter amendment for the June 2018 ballot that would create a Department of Cannabis and a nine-member Cannabis Commission.

Fewer, who is out of the country and unavailable for comment, said in a statement provided by her office that “it is critical that key communities and stakeholders be represented on an oversight body” as the cannabis business sector grows.

San Francisco’s legal cannabis consumption could triple to 30 million grams annually in the new era of recreational pot and total sales could hit $240 million, according a draft City Controller’s report, which was previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

The commission, like others, would have the power to recommend to the mayor three candidates to serve as the department’s director, but Fewer’s intent is for the current director of the Office of Cannabis, Nicole Elliott, to transition to serve as that department’s director.

The June ballot is shaping out to be a crowded one. Fewer’s measure is among seven charter amendments introduced by board members for June, which take six votes to go on the ballot, along with a tax measure.

There’s also now the unexpected mayor’s race following the sudden death last week of Mayor Ed Lee.

There are nine signature-gathering ballot initiatives that can end up on the June ballot as well, including outfitting police officers with stun guns and the funding for them, prohibiting members of the Board of Supervisors from serving more than two four-year terms (eight years total) and requiring the distribution of hotel tax revenue to benefit artists and homeless families.

Under Fewer’s charter amendment, the Office of Cannabis — which is overseen by City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who appoints the director — would be replaced by a Department of Cannabis. The City would create a nine-member Cannabis Commission to oversee that department.

Five seats would be appointed by the Board of Supervisors, with each seat held by a member meeting certain criteria, such as someone who was impacted by the war on drugs and someone in organized labor.

The mayor would appoint four commissioners.

“Many important city agencies, such as the Health and Planning departments, have commissions to ensure that there is transparency and ongoing input from the communities most impacted by their decisions,” Fewer said in the statement.

The Office of Cannabis would get to operate for about one year, ushering in recreational cannabis use and permitting, which begins in January. Initial commission appointments would have to be made by September 2018 with the commission’s first meeting Nov. 1, under the measure. The Department of Cannabis would be established Dec. 15, 2018.

The six other charter amendments pending placement on the June ballot include Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s charter amendment introduced with Supervisor Aaron Peskin to split up the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency into two agencies and give the board more power over traffic-related decisions.

Peskin introduced a charter amendment to require appointed members of boards and commissions to forfeit their offices upon filing to run for state or local elective office. The measure is co-sponsored by supervisors Jane Kim, Ahsha Safai and Norman Yee.

Peskin also introduced a charter amendment to reduce mayoral appointment power on the seven-member Retirement Board, which oversees the investment of billions of dollars in the employee pension fund. It comes as there is mounting pressure for fossil fuel divestment, which the retirement board has yet to vote to do. The measure would reduce mayoral appointees from three to two, and give one appointment to the city attorney. Mayoral appointees would also require board approval.

A tax measure to impose a 2 percent gross receipts tax hike on rents collected by landlords from their office tenants to fund $100 million of transit needs annually is also being proposed by Peskin.

While the proposed total number of local measures may seem like a lot, 24 measures appeared on the ballot in November 2016. 

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