The real estate in San Francisco available to medical cannabis dispensaries could double under possible changes to The City’s rules on marijuana retail outlets.
Under The City’s 2005 Medical Cannabis Act, strict zoning rules on where marijuana outlets are prohibited — including a 1,000-foot buffer around schools and other places where youths congregate — mean as much as 95 percent of The City is off-limits to dispensaries, according to the Planning Department.
That’s led to clustering, a concentration of The City’s 29 dispensaries in the areas available that is called the Green Zone.
About three-quarters of San Francisco’s cannabis outlets are in The City’s densely populated northeast, with few in outlying residential and industrial neighborhoods.
Clustering has also led to frustration among some residents in those neighborhoods opposed to pot, as well as among medical cannabis advocates, both of whom point out that other areas have no cannabis dispensaries.
Relaxing the 1,000-foot barrier to 500 feet and opening up industrial areas and small commercial corridors to pot outlets could open as much as 10 percent of The City to dispensaries.
A recommendation to do just that, and to put tougher controls on dispensaries seeking to open up near existing pot outlets, was sent to the Board of Supervisors by the Planning Commission on Thursday.
“We want to open up the Green Zone,” said Planning Commission President Cindy Wu.
Most of the new real estate that could be available to marijuana dispensaries is in The City’s eastern industrial neighborhoods.
Cannabis dispensaries are supposed to pay state sales tax and an annual permit fee to the Department of Public Health, which issues permits.
Putting more dispensaries closer to schools may be a tough sell. It’s opposed by the San Francisco Unified School District, and could also pose a serious risk to the dispensaries themselves.
Some of the seven dispensaries shut down by the U.S. Justice Department in recent years were targeted for closure because they were too close to schools.
Any change to zoning rules around marijuana would need approval from the Board of Supervisors.
For others, the current and proposed rules aren’t strict enough, and critics say there are still concerns around issues including the reselling of dispensary-bought marijuana on the black market.
The medical cannibals clubs in San Francisco, for instance, are likely used by people from San Mateo County, where there are no dispensaries.
Residents in Outer Mission, which has two dispensaries on the same block of Mission Street and a third filing an application for a permit, say that their neighborhood serves out-of-county demand for marijuana.
“We are not serving San Francisco,” said Joelle Kenealey, who serves as president of the Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association. “We are serving San Mateo County.”