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SF supervisors push for cannabis limits in their own districts

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As recreational cannabis comes into focus in San Francisco, supervisors are beginning to establish boundaries for their respective districts. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TNS)
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As San Francisco drafts rules for recreational cannabis, members of the Board of Supervisors proposed on Thursday limits and bans in the neighborhoods they represent.

The restrictions for commercial corridors and neighborhoods come as the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee debated proposed regulations for recreational cannabis beginning statewide on Jan 1.

The committee also took a significant step in increasing citywide limits on where cannabis businesses can operate by voting Thursday to impose a 1,000-foot buffer between cannabis outlets and schools, increasing it from the proposed 600 feet. Supervisor Jeff Sheehy opposed the increase, but supervisors Mark Farrell and Katy Tang supported it.

SEE RELATED: Equity program proposed to ensure SF permits recreational cannabis sales come Jan. 1

The vote comes as a large contingent of Asian residents have routinely shown up at City Hill to oppose dispensaries and support the 1,000-foot requirement, while warning of cannabis’ impact on the community. Cannabis-backers call their position “reefer madness.”

Tang said she wants to require the same distance requirement from child care services, which the committee may vote on at its next meeting Monday.

Critics of the distance requirement say it defies the will of the voters. Last year, voters across the state — and 74 percent of San Francisco voters — approved Proposition 64, legalizing recreational cannabis throughout California and setting the buffer from schools at 600 feet.

The 1,000-foot restriction, which is current local law, is largely blamed for overly restricting where medical cannabis dispensaries can open, creating clusters.

As the committee meeting unfolded more and more supervisors discussed the limits they want to see in the neighborhoods they represent. Some were approved by the committee, others will be voted on next week.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s request of a cap on three cannabis outlets in the Excelsior-Outer Mission commercial corridor was approved.

The limit is “reflecting the voice of the neighborhoods” who feel the existing three dispensaries there now “is the right number,” Safai said.

Farrell wants the committee to adopt a cap of one cannabis outlet in each of the neighborhood commercial corridors in District 2, which he represents, specifically only one along Chestnut, Lombard, Union, Fillmore and Sacramento streets.

Tang wants to add limits as well in the Sunset District she represents, allowing only four cannabis outlets in the area west of Sunset Boulevard and south of Golden Gate Park.

Supervisor Norman Yee wants no cannabis outlets in the West Portal neighborhood commercial district — at least, none on the ground floor and only by a conditional use on the second floor. Yee also wants to cap the number of cannabis outlets along Ocean Avenue at two, which is the number there now.

Other limits to be voted on Monday include an outright ban on cannabis outlets in Chinatown and a limit of four cannabis outlets in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, both represented by Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Supervisor Jane Kim said she will propose a cap in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, which have the most cannabis outlets of any one district. “Access is not an issue at all in the district I represent,” Kim said.

As the restrictions increase, members of the board expressed concerns about landlords jacking up the rent to go to the highest bidder and want to somehow make sure the permit is tied to the operator and not the site itself.

The committee also voted to remove the initially proposed 300-foot buffer between cannabis outlets and instead created an “orbit” regulation. Once there are three medical cannabis dispensaries or cannabis retail within 1,000 feet, any new outlet in that area would have to obtain a conditional use permit to open, which requires more community outreach, and its approval could be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

But San Francisco still remains unclear on when it will actually allow the first recreational sales of cannabis.

An equity program introduced Wednesday by Supervisor Malia Cohen removed one obstacle in seeing that happen. The initial proposal said no adult use sales would be permitted until an equity program was adopted.

Sheehy will ask the committee to approve an amendment Monday to allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to be able to obtain a temporary permit to begin selling recreational cannabis on Jan. 1.

There are currently 46 permitted permitted medical cannabis dispensaries, of which 16 are delivery businesses.

The proposed regulations prioritize equity applicants for cannabis retail, those who were disproportionately impacted by the drug war. The City may allow these applicants to apply come Jan. 1 to open in new locations. It’s estimated it could take three to nine months to get through the approval processes to open for business.

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