San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night, but only after exempting cannabis in response to a backlash from marijuana advocates.
The Board of Supervisors voted 10-to-1 to approve legislation intended to protect renters from the harms of secondhand smoke in buildings with three or more units.
“The problem is smoke easily moves between units and there is no way to contain it,” said Board President Norman Yee, who introduced the proposal.
Yee had wanted to ban cannabis smoke as well, but couldn’t get the votes. The legislation prompted an outpouring of opposition from cannabis advocates.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman succeeded in amending the proposal in an 8-to-3 vote to provide a blanket exemption for cannabis smoke, before ultimately voting for the proposal.
He said that state law treats tobacco smokers and cannabis smokers differently and without the exemption there would be no legal place for people to smoke cannabis. There are handful of consumption lounges in The City but they are closed during the pandemic.
“Tobacco smokers unable to smoke in their apartment building can go out to the curb or find other public space,” Mandelman said. “There are other public spaces where they are allowed to smoke. Cannabis smokers don’t have that alternative and so I think it is important that we fully exempt cannabis from this legislation.”
Yee had previously amended the initial proposal to exempt those who use cannabis for medicinal reasons with proof of a doctor’s recommendation but opposed the full exemption along with Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Gordon Mar.
He said that while there are benefits from using cannabis “there are still health risks in exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke” and it would be “harmful for young kids and people that have respiration issues.”
Supervisor Dean Preston, the only nay vote, said the board should take more time to work out the issues raised by tenant groups, including concerns over how the ban would largely impact long-term tenants who signed leases before it became the standard for landlords to put no-smoking provisions into the agreements. His motion to postpone the vote, however, was defeated in a 5-to-6 vote.
The Department of Public Health is charged with enforcing the ban. Violators could face fines of up to $1,000 per day. A violation can not be grounds for an eviction under the terms of the legislation.
Dozens of other cities and counties in California already have in place similar no-smoking bans in apartments including San Mateo, Daly City, Berkeley and Santa Clara County.
The board will take a second and final vote on the proposal next week.