S.F. supes delay decision on pot rules
Recreational sales almost certainly won’t start Jan. 1
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to kick its big cannabis debate down the road two weeks, making it almost certain that recreational sales won’t start in the city on Jan. 1.
The point of contention was a proposal by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jeff Sheehy to grant temporary permits to existing medical cannabis dispensaries, cultivators and manufacturers, so that they could enter the recreational market in January.
Supervisor Malia Cohen balked at the idea, saying it would provide a boost to people who already own cannabis businesses, leaving behind the low-income residents, people of color and victims of the country’s war on drugs that the supervisors say they want to help.
“It would be responsible for us to continue this and ensure that the final legislation that is passed is thoughtful, culturally sensitive, and allows us to be up and running by the first week of January,” Cohen said, suggesting that her colleagues could
push the recreational start date to Jan. 5.
This month Cohen introduced an equity permit program that would prioritize permits for people with prior drug arrests and convictions, along with people displaced from their San Francisco homes and residents who earn 80 percent, or less, of the city’s median income. The program seems to have backing from the rest of the board.
Sheehy lamented that the delay could “take what we already have and turn it into chaos,” but he ultimately supported the continuance.
The board’s cannabis debate has reached a standstill, with several supervisors asking for caps or outright bans on the number of stores in their neighborhoods, buffers around schools and child care centers, and other zoning rules that, when added together, would prevent new businesses from opening in most of San Francisco.
Cohen, along with former Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, have raised concerns that if the city issued permits to its existing 46 cannabis businesses and then tightened zoning rules, the market would be closed to new shops.
Although the board has held six committee meetings over the past two weeks to discuss those issues, the supervisors still appear to be stuck. Mark Farrell said at the beginning of the meeting that continuing the item just before a long holiday break might cause it to drag on for months.
“If you prick a balloon, the air deflates,” he said. “We’re not going to pick up this topic for a long time.”
Nonetheless, he and eight other supervisors voted to support the delay. Cohen left before the vote, and Peskin was the only supervisor who dissented.
Before voting to continue the debate, the board defeated an amendment by Supervisor Ahsha Safai to require dispensaries to develop a “good neighbor policy” with help from police captains and district supervisors.