SF to allow indoor places for smoking cannabis

San Francisco plans to allow cannabis businesses to let their customers smoke the drug onsite.

The decision Tuesday marks the latest development in San Francisco’s race to adopt recreational cannabis regulations by Jan. 1, when the drug becomes legal statewide under last year’s passage of Proposition 64.

Also Tuesday, it was decided cannabis business owners should have more leverage in negotiating leases by attaching permits issued by the Office of Cannabis to the operators themselves and not the site.

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The two proposals were adopted by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee.

The City currently allows smoking on site at eight existing medical cannabis dispensaries, but Department of Public Health officials had advised against allowing more indoor smoking, citing a history of fighting against tobacco smoke to ensure clean indoor air in homes and workplaces.

But Supervisor Jeff Sheehy last week sharply criticized The City’s health officials’ position, arguing people need places to consume cannabis and without them they would only end up on the sidewalks and in the parks.

Under the proposal, the eight existing medical cannabis dispensaries and an additional one planning to reopen after being shut down years ago by the federal government will be allowed to have smoking onsite with proper ventilation.

New businesses would need to confine the smoking to a special smoking room that would have to meet such requirements as having self-closing doors and a separate heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system to ensure none of the smoke from the room would enter the rest of the business.

Smoking on site in the smoking rooms would be allowed in cannabis retailers and cannabis microbusiness once they receive the proper permits from The City and state.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced the amendment to have the cannabis permit follow the cannabis operator. The operator would be able to hold on to a permit for 18 months after vacating a location to find another place to operate.

Safai said that in the past The City has seen cases where a landlord didn’t renew the lease of a city-permitted medical cannabis dispensary and “basically took the business away from the small proprietor” and other cases where rent was raised exorbitantly.

“It changes the balance of power back to somewhat even in terms of negotiation,” Safai said. “[The landlord] will be more reasonable in their negotiations.”

The Rules Committee is still debating one portion of San Francisco’s proposed recreational cannabis regulations, which was introduced by Mayor Ed Lee and Sheehy on Sept. 26 and focuses on rules around permits issued by the Office of Cannabis and an equity program. The program is meant to give those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs a foothold in the industry.

The Land Use Committee is debating the other portion of the regulations, and perhaps the most controversial, that dictates where cannabis outlets can open for business. That committee held a five hour hearing Monday and will meet again Nov. 13.

Among the most controversial decisions still unresolved is whether to keep the initially proposed buffer of 600 feet around schools or increase it to 1,000 feet, and even add the distance requirement to child care centers.

The prospect of tougher regulations has caused a backlash from recreational cannabis supporters like state Sen. Scott Wiener who will join David Campos, head of the San Francisco Democratic Party, former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and other local officials to denounce “several draconian proposals that will effectively ban new cannabis businesses in almost all of San Francisco” at a rally Wednesday outside of City Hall.

Despite the points of contention, San Francisco is expected to have some retail cannabis sales begin Jan.1.

The committee supported allowing existing medical cannabis dispensaries apply for temporary permits to begin selling retail cannabis at the start of next year and is expected at its next meeting to extend those temporary retail permits to the cannabis supply chain, which includes manufacturing, cultivating and testing.

The board may hold a joint Rules and Land Use Committee hearing Monday and the proposal could be sent to the full board for a vote Tuesday.

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