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Select cannabis businesses to get a second shot at retail permits

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A planned medical cannabis dispensary at 2161-2165 Irving St.m in the Sunset District is among those that would get another chance at permits to sell recreational cannabis under legislation set to come before the Board of Supervisors, despite its having missed a requirement to complete construction in 2018. (Daniel Kim/ 2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco may bend the rules for a dozen medical marijuana sites after they failed to hit deadlines or meet other requirements to sell recreational cannabis.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday approved legislation from the Office of Cannabis that would grandfather in 12 sites and allow them to apply to sell recreational cannabis.

Some of the cannabis businesses had missed deadlines to obtain a temporary permit to sell recreational cannabis, while others run afoul of a rule prohibiting operation within 600 feet of one another, according to a Planning Commission report on the proposal.

Five of the impacted sites were approved by the Planning Commission in 2017 as medical marijuana dispensaries before The City halted such approvals and ushered in the new regulatory scheme for recreational cannabis sales, which began in 2018. But these sites had to complete site construction by the end of 2018 to be able to convert to sell recreational cannabis.

The new legislation waives that requirement, giving them more time. These sites include the Sunset’s first ever cannabis business at 2165 Irving St., along with two in District 6 at 761 Bryant St. and 1276 Market St. and one in District 11, at 3015 San Bruno Ave.

SEE RELATED: SF approves first ever medical cannabis dispensary in the Sunset

Sunset District Supervisor Katy Tang, who attended her final meeting Monday before being termed out of office Tuesday, noted the “community opposition” to sites like 2165 Irving St. and emphasized that for them to start selling recreational cannabis they would need to notify residents in the area as part of the permit process.

“It’s not an automatic approval,” Tang said.

City planner Michael Christensen said the legislation “provides a pathway for some of them to convert to cannabis retail.”

“It’s just allowing the applications to be received,” he said.

Another five sites failed to meet March 2018 deadline to file a permit application with the Department of Building Inspection.

They include one site in District 5, at 1328 Grove Street, two sites in District 6, including 79 9th Street and 122 10111 Street, one in District 9 at 3139 Mission St. and one in District 10 at 5258 Mission St.

The legislation would still require the application filed with DBI to obtain a permit to sell recreational cannabis, but waives the deadline.

The 79 9th St. site is where the Vapor Room has re-opened after it was shut down by 2012 U.S. Department of Justice raids on a number of cannabis businesses. The Vapor Room was founded in 2004 as medical marijuana dispensary.

“I’ve waited and worked pretty hard for the past six and a half years to reopen,” said Vapor Room president Martin Olive.

Not allowing sites like the Vapor Room a chance to sell recreational cannabis “will cause these businesses to be less competitive with other cannabis businesses that can sell adult use cannabis, likely causing them to go out of business,” the Planning Commission report said.

And there are three sites that had pending permit approvals when the board prohibited cannabis sites from operating within 600 feet of each other as part of the recreational cannabis regulations that went into effect in 2018.

The legislation would grandfather those three sites into the old rules, when there was no such distance requirement.

The three sites include 443 Folsom St. in District 6, which is 599 feet from the nearest cannabis business at 527 Howard St., 2057 Market St. in District 8, which is 78 feet from the nearest cannabis business at 2029 Market St., and 5 Leland Ave. in District 10, which is 68 feet from the nearest cannabis business at 2442 Bayshore Blvd.

The Planning Commission supported the legislation in November. There are currently 37 storefront cannabis locations in operation and additional locations in the Haight and Tenderloin could come before the commission for approval as early as February, city officials said during the November hearing.

These would be the first applicants to come through The City’s equity cannabis program, the only way for any additional cannabis storefronts to open in San Francisco in the near future. Equity applicants must meet certain criteria, such as having been arrested for selling cannabis between 1971 and 2016.

The full board will vote on the legislation next week.

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