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Mayor Lee expected to sign into law SF’s recreational cannabis regulations Wednesday

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A jar of cannabis sits on the counter inside The Apothecarium on Lombard Street in San Francisco. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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After weeks of political drama, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors gave final approval Tuesday to recreational cannabis regulations which Mayor Ed Lee plans to sign into law Wednesday.

“The mayor will sign the cannabis legislation when it lands on his desk,” mayoral spokesperson Deirdre Hussey said following the Board of Supervisors 10-1 vote approving the legislation.

SEE RELATED: SF will allow existing dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis beginning Jan. 5

The legislation is expected to arrive on his desk Wednesday afternoon.

The board last week gave initial approval of the regulations after hours of debate. The required second votes on legislation are largely perfunctory.

The timing of the mayor’s signature is important in ensuring San Francisco will officially legalize recreational sales of cannabis on Jan. 6, five days after the drug becomes legal for adults throughout California on Jan. 1 under Proposition 64.

Whether actual retail sales will commence on that day in San Francisco remains uncertain given the various required steps.

The mayor has 10 days to decide whether to sign legislation, and the law would go into effect 30 days later. Pro-cannabis leaders have called on San Francisco’s elected officials to pass regulations to ensure San Francisco ushers in recreational retail sales as soon as it becomes legal in order to remain a leader on the issue.

Among the most contentious issues was how many feet from schools cannabis outlets must be.

Prop. 64, which voters approved last year, advised 600 feet, but a group of anti-cannabis residents from the Chinese communities wanted a buffer of at least 1,000 feet and to include child care centers as well — even as they called for an outright ban.

But those restrictions would have stymied, if not outright killed, the growth of the cannabis industry, and pro-cannabis leaders ultimately convinced the Board of Supervisors to back off.

The board approved a 600-foot buffer between schools and where cannabis outlets can locate, and adopted a 600-foot distance requirement between cannabis outlets themselves.

Under the regulations, existing medicinal dispensaries, of which there are 45 — 30 brick and mortar shops and 15 delivery services — can transition to sell retail cannabis along with medical once they obtain a temporary 120-day state license and adhere to certain criteria.

If they have more than 10 employees, for example, they would need to ensure 30 percent of hours worked are by those who were impacted by the war on drugs, defined in an equity program also approved as part of the regulations Tuesday.

The dispensaries must also submit an equity plan to the Office of Cannabis with details on how they would support equity operators and equity employees.

The City will allow new cannabis operators to open if they are equity applicants, such as if they were arrested for cannabis-related crimes, once the Office of Cannabis provides applications for that purpose. Initially, The City will only grant permits to equity applicants for new cannabis outlets until there is an equal number of equity-owned cannabis outlets as there are dispensaries, which would be 45.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai opposed the regulations out of protest. He was critical of the board for lifting a cap on cannabis outlets in the Excelsior District he represents.

The board, however, decided not to allow unique limits or bans for specific neighborhoods. Others had been contemplated, including bans in Chinatown or West Portal, but ultimately those were rejected.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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