SF supervisors consider loosening dispensary location restrictions

cindy chew/2005 S.F. Examiner file photoA medical marijuana dispensary looking to add a location in the Excelsior was put on hold due to concerns from the neighbhorhood about the types of people the businesses attract.

San Francisco will consider loosening its 9-year-old regulations dictating where medical marijuana dispensaries can open after a grouping of the businesses in the Excelsior district drove one supervisor to create tougher restrictions for a portion of Mission Street.

After standing by as three dispensaries opened last year in the Excelsior, Supervisor John Avalos faced increased political pressure from his constituents to stymie the growth as more businesses started looking to open, including the Lucky Dragon at 4130 Mission St. Avalos responded with legislation implementing a tougher approval process for any clubs opening within 500 feet of one another on the Mission corridor between Alemany Boulevard and the Daly City border. The ordinance was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The narrow anti-clustering proposal, slammed by medical marijuana advocates, came after the landmark 2005 dispensary zoning controls, which have created so-called green zones impacting only certain areas of The City. Adding to the tension is the federal government’s continued crackdown on the businesses. In California, medical marijuana is legal but it remains illegal federally.

“I think the green zones have created a harmful effect on The City overall,” Avalos said.

To that end, the board also passed a separate piece of legislation from Avalos that calls on the Planning Commission to recommend to the board changes to the 2005 zoning laws.

“We need to have a plan that works citywide to make sure that people all over The City can have access that is not disproportionately impacting neighborhoods like the Excelsior or Leland Avenue in Visitacion Valley or parts of the Mission district or the South of Market, the Tenderloin,” Avalos said.

The study was originally set to be due Jan. 1, but Supervisor David Campos amended it to establish a May 1 deadline to allow for more input.

“Nothing is simple when it comes to the medical cannabis community,” he said. “The most simple and basic thing has complexities behind it.”

The effort will be closely watched. Supervisor Malia Cohen said there were recently two medical marijuana dispensaries looking to open up along her district’s Leland Avenue.

“I’m really curious to see what this commission will find,” Cohen said.

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