People smoke at 4:20 p.m. Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during the annual 4/20 celebration. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SF may override local no-smoking laws to allow cannabis consumption at events

San Francisco plans to grant waivers to its no-smoking laws when permitting cannabis events.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman had previously introduced legislation to implement a state law allowing cities in California to permit cannabis events where the drug is sold and consumed.

But there was a problem. State law prohibits cannabis consumption wherever smoking is prohibited by state or local law. San Francisco has some of the toughest anti-smoking laws, which include no smoking in public parks.

Noting this conflict, Mandelman amended his legislation Wednesday at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing to allow for The City to waive the anti-smoking laws on a temporary basis for the duration of the permitted events.

“In working with city departments on this ordinance, it became clear that permitting consumption would violate some of our health, park and other municipal codes restricting or prohibiting smoking,” Mandelman said. “The amendment before you is one that we have worked on with the Rec and Park [Department] and the Department of Public Health to allow permitting agencies to temporarily waive these laws in connection with a temporary event.”

Recreation and Park Department spokesperson Sarah Madland said in a statement that “we are supportive of the concept of legal sales and consumption at temporary events as it likely to make events safer, however, there are many details that still need to be worked out to ensure safe, thoughtful implementation that includes community feedback.”

Since the amendment was considered substantive, the proposal needed to remain in committee for a week. The committee will vote March 6 on whether to send it to the full board for approval.

The expectation is to approve the legislation in time to use the new permit to regulate the annual April 420 Hippie Hill event in Golden Gate Park.

Under the legislation, the Office of Cannabis would issue the Cannabis Event Permits. Until January 2020, permits would only go to those events that were previously permitted by The City on a regular basis and have experienced unregulated cannabis sales and consumption. Afterwards, The City would open it up to other events. State permits are also needed.

Departments impacted by the events like Rec and Park would also have to consent.

Mandelman said that initially limiting who can obtain the permits “will allow The City to ramp up cannabis events’ activities slowly and thoughtfully.”

Cannabis event promoters, retailers and festival organizers turned out to speak in support of the proposal.

Patrick Finger, executive director of Folsom Street Events,which produces the annual Folsom Street Fair, said the cannabis can help a lot of struggling festivals.

“This will open up an incredibly valuable stream of revenue that so many of us desperately need right now,” Finger said. “We have seen our city expenses go up and up.”

He added that they have already started to think of plans to incorporate cannabis in the event.

Conor Johnston, one of the owners of a pot club soon to open in the Haight, said that the state has done a good job legalizing sales and cultivation, but needs improvement around consumption.

“You can walk into a store in San Francisco and buy cannabis but you can’t use it on the bus, you can’t use in a park, you can’t use it at your apartment in most lease,” Johnston said. “You can’t use it in your car and if you’re a tourist you can’t use it in your hotel.”

He said that “there are very significant obstacles to the normalization of consumption” but that Mandelman’s proposal was a “an important step” in that direction.

State law AB2020 went into effect Jan.1 allowing the local permitting of cannabis events. San Francisco may become the first city to implement it.

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