San Fran­cisco un­der pres­sure to pass cannabis-friendly rules

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - BUSINESS - By Janie Har

SAN FRAN­CISCO » Su­per­vi­sors in fa­mously pot-friendly San Fran­cisco are un­der pres­sure from cannabis ad­vo­cates to pass reg­u­la­tions that would al­low the in­dus­try to flour­ish once recre­ational sales be­come le­gal through­out California in Jan­uary.

The San Fran­cisco Board of Su­per­vi­sors is sched­uled to take up pro­posed reg­u­la­tions Tues­day, when they may vote on a stop-gap mea­sure to al­low the sale of recre­ational cannabis through ex­ist­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana out­lets on Jan. 1. That would give them time to fig­ure out where to al­low new stores.

But California state sen­a­tor Scott Wiener, a Demo­crat and former su­per­vi­sor from San Fran­cisco, urged against the mea­sure, say­ing it would sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion.

He is­sued a sting­ing state­ment with former su­per­vi­sor David Cam­pos, who is now chair of the city’s Demo­cratic Party, Tues­day say­ing the board is bow­ing to anti-cannabis pres­sure and “get­ting dan­ger­ously close to de­stroy­ing” an in­dus­try em­braced by most of the city.

It’s been sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult to write lo­cal cannabis rules as crit­ics, many of them older Chi­nese im­mi­grants who op­pose mar­i­juana use, try to re­strict where pot can be sold in a city that cel­e­brates the 4/20 mar­i­juana hol­i­day with a group smoke-out on Hip­pie Hill.

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 cannabis be­ing smoked 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.

Cannabis ad­vo­cates pre­fer a 600-foot (183-me­ter) buf­fer from schools, com­pa­ra­ble to the ra­dius re­quired of stores that sell liquor or tobacco.

But some Chi­nese-Amer­i­can 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, child­care cen­ters and any other place mi­nors gather.

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 Chi­nese-Amer­i­cans are the largest Asian sub-group. The mayor is Chi­nese-Amer­i­can, as are other elected of­fi­cials in the city.

ERIC RIS­BERG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

San Fran­cisco su­per­vi­sors planned to take up recre­ational pot reg­u­la­tions Tues­day, a process that has taken a sur­pris­ingly con­tentious turn in the weed-friendly city as crit­ics, who are largely Chi­nese Amer­i­can and im­mi­grant, have lob­bied against plac­ing retail shops too close to chil­dren.

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