Pot clubs in residential areas may get one more year

Medical marijuana clubs in residential areas could stay open for another year as a result of a proposed change to a six-month-old city law.

The law, adopted by the Board of Supervisors last year, banned clubs in residentially zoned areas.

Mirkarimi said that after speaking with community groups and city departments, he decided to amend the existing law. “We have some cleanup to do,” he said.

There are two clubs impacted by Mirkarimi’s proposal, the Vapor Room on Haight and Steiner streets, which is in Mirkarimi’s District 5, and the Re-Leaf Center at Folsom Street and 21st Avenue.

The law allows The City’s estimated 40 other pot clubs to continue operating but requires them to apply for a city permit by June 2007.

Mirkarimi’s proposal was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee. The full Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the amendments this Tuesday.

Residents living near the medical marijuana clubs complained of crime and said the proposal breaks a promise made last year by city officials.

“I don’t feel, given the law that passed and was offered as protection, that I should live in this fear,” said Sanjay Katyal, who lives across the street from the Vapor Room. “There’s a number of things that can happen between now and July.”

While Federal law prohibits the possession and use of medical marijuana, California allows the dispensing of pot to treat specific medical problems.

In 1996, San Francisco residents overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215. The law allows for the legalized use and sale of marijuana to those suffering illness, infirmity and chronic pain. The clubs in San Francisco serve about 14,000 people who carry special medical cards allowing them to use the dispensaries.

The new city law has only once been tested. Last month, the Planning Commission denied a permit to a pot club seeking to open near Fisherman’s Wharf.

The law prohibits clubs from opening up within 1,000 feet of a school or recreational center. Clubs that opened before April 2005 can remain where they are, but will not be able to have on-site smoking if they are within 1,000 feet of a school or recreational center.

Mirkarimi has also proposed an amendment narrowing the definition of a recreational center to a place that “primarily” serves children under the age of 18. This could result in more clubs opening up and more on-site smoking.

The existing definition could prohibit clubs from opening up within 1,000 feet of all community centers, gyms, yacht clubs and private gardens.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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