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Planning Commission to test SF’s tolerance for pot moratorium

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The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a temporary dispensary moratorium next month. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A city supervisor is trying to delay hearings today for two proposed medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco, just months before California begins to permit pot shops to sell weed for recreational use.

Supervisor Malia Cohen asked the Planning Commission to postpone voting on plans to open two dispensaries in South of Market until after the Board of Supervisors considers a 45-day moratorium she proposed on new pot shops.

The moratorium is meant to give city officials time to craft and approve new rules for cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco under Proposition 64, which legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use beginning in January 2017.

Cohen said in a letter that delays would “honor the proposed moratorium as The City and relevant stakeholders work to develop fair and consistent guidelines and standards for all MCD applications.”

Planning Commission President Rich Hillis said he opposed the delays.

“The voters of San Francisco have overwhelmingly approved adult use and medical marijuana,” Hillis said in an email. “I think the commission should be hearing and acting on these applications.”

Cohen’s moratorium and request drew criticism from state Sen. Scott Wiener, who said in a letter on Tuesday that adopting the moratorium and “shutting down” the applications would “send a terrible message statewide and undermine our efforts in the legislature.”

“San Francisco has long been a leader on medical cannabis, and enactment of a San Francisco moratorium on cannabis dispensaries would be an abdication of this leadership,” Wiener wrote.

The delays would likely cause problems for the Vapor Room and Access SF, the proposed dispensaries scheduled to be heard today.

The Vapor Room declined to comment for this story, but previously told the San Francisco Examiner about concerns that the moratorium could interfere with the timeline for state permitting.

Dispensaries need local approval before applying for a state permit to sell marijuana for adult use. The Vapor Room is concerned that priority will be given to dispensaries in good standing with local governments before the permits are issued in January.

The state may begin to accept applications as early as November.

Delays also mean additional costs for dispensaries locked into leases without revenue.

“A few months’ delay may not seem like much but it would be devastating to us,” Quentin Platt, a partner in Access SF, said in a statement. “We’re paying rent on a space we can’t use, writing checks every day. We’re not a big corporation.”

Vapor Room and Access SF are just two of the 11 proposed dispensaries in the planning pipeline as of earlier this month. Three other dispensaries are scheduled to be heard by October.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the moratorium Sept. 12.

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