San Francisco medical marijuana licensing program resumes

San Francisco's medical cannabis dispensary program resumed licensing and inspecting medical marijuana collectives, Department of Public Health officials announced Monday. The move comes after the agency said last week that the application process was suspended.

Under clarified rules, existing dispensaries must sign a statement swearing that all medical marijuana sold on-site is cultivated in California and comes from a grower who is a member of the dispensary's nonprofit collective.

The health department is responsible for inspecting and permitting The City's 21 existing medical marijuana businesses and accepting applications for new clubs. New applications stopped being processed in December following a ruling in a state appeals court. In that case, Pack vs. the City of Long Beach, the court ruled that California cities violated federal law by regulating and permitting medical marijuana.

That ruling was vacated when the California Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal, and San Francisco’s city attorney gave the health department the green light to resume its program Jan. 20, but the department had announced last week that all applications were still on hold indefinitely.

Despite reviving the licensing and inspection program, some changes were made.

Several types of medical marijuana-laced food produced by companies outside San Francisco and sold at many dispensaries throughout the Bay Area are now banned at city dispensaries, according to a memo issued by Larry Kessler, a senior inspector at the health department who runs the dispensary program.

Dispensaries also “may not sell or distribute medical cannabis or medical cannabis products produced by commercial enterprises or by another collective/cooperative,” Kessler wrote.

San Francisco became the first city in California to license dispensaries when the Board of Supervisors passed the Medical Cannabis Act in 2005.

The city currently has 21 such businesses, down from 26 a year ago. Sine November, five have closed after receiving warning letters from Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California.

The City’s Planning Department is expected to hear two applications for new dispensaries in the Excelsior district at its Feb. 16 meeting, including one that submitted its application more than a year ago.

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