Pot-friendly SF fights over sales

Manteca Bulletin - - Local/State -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AP) — Fa­mously pro-cannabis San Fran­cisco, where the 4/20 mar­i­juana hol­i­day is cel­e­brated with a group smoke-out on Hip­pie Hill, is hav­ing a sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult time es­tab­lish­ing reg­u­la­tions for the broad le­gal pot mar­ket com­ing to Cal­i­for­nia in Jan­uary.

Writ­ing lo­cal rules in the weed­friendly city has taken a con­tentious turn as crit­ics, many of them older Chi­nese im­mi­grants who op­pose mar­i­juana use, try to re­strict where pot can be sold.

Di­vided San Fran­cisco su­per­vi­sors are sched­uled to take up the is­sue at a board meet­ing today, where they may vote on a stop-gap mea­sure to al­low the sale of recre­ational cannabis through ex­ist­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana out­lets on Jan. 1 as they con­tinue to fig­ure out where to al­low new stores.

The pos­si­bil­ity of overly strict reg­u­la­tions has busi­nesses fret­ting over ac­cess and some San Fran­cis­cans won­der­ing what hap­pened to the counter-cul­ture, anti-Pro­hi­bi­tion city they know and love. The smell of peo­ple smok­ing cannabis is not un­com­mon in cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods and parks.

“Let’s be hon­est: Cannabis is ef­fec­tively le­gal now and the sky hasn’t fallen. A lot of the in­for­ma­tion peo­ple have been given is com­pletely false,” said Su­per­vi­sor Jeff Sheehy, who uses med­i­cal mar­i­juana to mit­i­gate pain from older HIV med­i­ca­tions.

He and oth­ers are call­ing for keep­ing recre­ational re­tail pot stores 600 feet (183 me­ters) away from schools, com­pa­ra­ble to the ra­dius re­quired of stores that sell liquor or to­bacco. Med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries are re­quired to be at least 1,000 feet (305 me­ters) away from schools and re­cre­ation cen­ters that pri­mar­ily serve mi­nors.

But some Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can or­ga­ni­za­tions have pushed back, call­ing for an out­right pro­hi­bi­tion on re­tail stores in San Fran­cisco’s Chi­na­town. They want fu­ture re­tail stores to be at least 1,500 feet (460 me­ters) away from schools, child-care cen­ters and any other place mi­nors gather. Su­per­vi­sors are con­sid­er­ing a 1,000-foot (305-me­ter) buf­fer that cannabis ad­vo­cates say is too re­stric­tive for a city as com­pact as San Fran­cisco.

Ellen Lee, fam­ily so­cial worker at the non­profit San Fran­cisco Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment Cen­ter, which has helped lead the protests, said most of the peo­ple op­posed to recre­ational cannabis are el­derly and speak lit­tle to no English. She said chil­dren are im­pres­sion­able and must be pro­tected from a drug that re­mains il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law, and she is frus­trated by elected of­fi­cials.

“We have been meet­ing with them and talk­ing to them,” she said, “but they are not lis­ten­ing.”

Chi­nese-Amer­i­cans are an in­te­gral part of San Fran­cisco’s his­tory and they carry po­lit­i­cal clout in a city where one-third of its 850,000 res­i­dents are Asian and Chi­ne­seAmer­i­cans are the largest Asian sub-group. The mayor is Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can, as are other elected of­fi­cials from the city.

Su­per­vi­sor Aaron Pe­skin said Mon­day he has a holdover mea­sure that will al­low 46 ex­ist­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties to sell to adults while the board takes more time to hash out zon­ing reg­u­la­tions. He said that would al­low peo­ple plenty of places to buy cannabis come Jan. 1.

Pe­skin, who rep­re­sents the Chi­na­town district, said he ex­pects the board will come up with a res­o­lu­tion that sat­is­fies most peo­ple in the di­verse city.

“We’re not just leg­is­la­tors. We are group ther­a­pists for 850,000 peo­ple and un­der­stand­ing what their con­cerns are, whether we agree or dis­agree, and ad­dress­ing them re­spect­fully is very im­por­tant in the leg­isla­tive process,” he said.

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