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SF retail cannabis delays concern marijuana advocates

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Once San Francisco begins issuing permits for sales of recreational cannabis, there will be a process for medical cannabis dispensaries to convert to retail. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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As San Francisco races to pass regulations for commercial cannabis sales, marijuana advocates are concerned that retailers are not expected to be able to sell recreational cannabis when it becomes legal to Jan. 1.

It’s unclear when San Francisco will issue permits for recreational cannabis sales under legislation Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced Tuesday. The proposal prevents The City from issuing permits until an equity program is created.

But cannabis activist Terrance Alan said Thursday at the Planning Commission that people are already coming to San Francisco for recreational cannabis.

SEE RELATED: SF’s proposed cannabis regulations make hazy when recreational sales could begin

“I would suggest that we think about how we can use this extraordinary resource of existing medical cannabis dispensaries in some provisional way to provide access for adults and especially for our tourists,” said
Alan, who is chairman of the Cannabis State Legalization Task Force but was speaking on his own behalf.

Under the proposed legislation, there will be a process for medical cannabis dispensaries to convert from MCDs to cannabis retail once The City begins issuing permits for recreational use.

The MCDs will not need a stricter conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission to convert.
Aaron Starr, manager of legislative affairs for the Planning Department, said neighbors could still appeal the conversion permits, file a CEQA appeal or request a discretionary review before the Planning Commission “if you are a bad operator and the neighbors don’t like you.”

Alan raised concerns about the legislation not addressing the consumption of cannabis as well.
“If we fail to address consumption, people will consume everywhere,” he said.

The proposed legislation would also expand the green zone in San Francisco where dispensaries are allowed to open up. The green zone would be extended to parts of the South of Market and to the second floor of buildings in Chinatown where dispensaries are currently prohibited.

The proposal faced criticism from the Planning Commission for how it handles the clustering of dispensaries, which has become a problem for neighbors in the Excelsior, for instance.

The legislation would not allow cannabis retail within 300 feet of another cannabis use.

Planning Commission President Rich Hillis said the measurement won’t work to prevent clustering. The restriction would prevent multiple retail cannabis shops on one block, but not multiple shops spread across several blocks of a street.

“The 300 feet doesn’t do it, we’ve got to get a little more into the details on it,” Hillis said.
Commissioner Christine Johnson agreed.

“Having two next door to each other, or having one on one corner and one on the other corner is the same,” Johnson said. “That might be the wrong measure and the wrong way to control what you want.”

But Planning Director John Rahaim said he’s “very concerned that … it’s going to get really complicated.”

“We’ll look at some options, but I would caution us, it might be pretty messy,” Rahaim said.

The legislation would also prevent cannabis retail from opening within 600 feet of schools.

The Board of Supervisors has asked the Office of Cannabis for an equity report by by Nov. 1 to help San Francisco craft the equity program.

Office of Cannabis Director Nicole Elliott and Starr are scheduled to present the proposed legislation to the Small Business Commission Monday and Health Commission on Tuesday.

The Planning Commission will vote on formal recommendations for the legislation Oct. 19.

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