From left, Cannabis State Legislation Task Force members Barbara Fugate, Laura Thomas, Terrance Alan and Sarah Shradar attend the group's first meeting Wednesday. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

From left, Cannabis State Legislation Task Force members Barbara Fugate, Laura Thomas, Terrance Alan and Sarah Shradar attend the group's first meeting Wednesday. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Pot panel sets high ambitions, seeks to build broad political support

The architects behind the vision of San Francisco when marijuana is a legal recreational drug convened their first meeting Wednesday, selecting as chair nightlife industry representative Terrance Alan.

For the next year, the 22-member Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, which was established by the Board of Supervisors, will tackle every imaginable issue: data collection, taxation, cultivation and land use. Preliminary recommendations will be heard Nov. 9 and then forwarded to the board and mayor.

See task force meeting schedule here.

Alan called upon the task force to not shy away from groundbreaking ideas, calling the models used in the four other states that have legalized marijuana merely guidelines, certainly not limits.

“The states that have gone before us have given us an enormous laboratory,” Alan said. “But they are very limited as we all know.” Instead, Alan said the recommendations should “take the mantle of leadership for San Francisco on the cannabis issue not only for the state but the nation.”

Post legalization would bring new business and job opportunities and consumer options like pairings with wine, cheese and cannabis or pot edibles at concert venues. Among the toughest decisions will be how to regulate land use, such as where retail cannabis businesses with or without smoking on the premises could locate and what is the approval process.

There are questions about controls over edible potency, what fees and taxes to impose, and how the medical marijuana industry will coexist with the recreational marijuana industry.

Along the way, the task force will attempt to craft a strong coalition among patients, nightclub owners, businesses and neighborhood associations. Granted, it is a tall order for an issue Alan said was “fraught with all kinds of heated discussions and all kinds of disagreement and all kinds of argument.”

There are 28 medical marijuana dispensaries currently in San Francisco, which has tough restrictions on where such businesses can locate. Proposed additional locations are often met with opposition from nearby residents.

The task force, which was established through legislation introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, comes as several statewide ballot initiatives to legalize adult use of marijuana are slated to come before voters in November. The task force is using as a baseline one initiative called Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which has the backing of Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker.

California would join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in legalizing the drug, although it remains illegal under federal law.

The task force includes nonvoting city officials, including Sgt. Brian Philpott with the Narcotics Unit, Jocelyn Kane, director of the Entertainment Commission, and Public Health officials Mavis Asiedu-Frimpong and Colleen Chawla, who coordinate the task force.

The task force’s first meeting, which ran about three hours, was an introduction of members, a selection of chair and a broad review of the issue.

“The voters finally are going to get it right and legalize adult use of cannabis and we will start catching up with some other states that have leaped ahead of us,” Wiener predicted during his opening address of the task force. “We need to be smart about having a good system in place.”

The task force will next meet March 9, 1 p.m., at 25 Van Ness Ave. in Room 610.

Board of SupervisorsCity HalldispensariesErich PearsonJohn AvalosMalia CohenMarijuanaPoliticsPotSan FranciscoScott WienerSPARC

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