San Francisco Strikes Deal on Where Recreational Pot Can Be Sold

San Franciscans are not known for their patience, although we have been waiting decades for the city to live up to its hype and reputation, so perhaps we are. Regardless, when San Francisco voters flocked to the California ballots in November of last year they made one thing clear: Recreational Marijuana was a want the city was willing to acquire and, Bernie or Bust (hint: we busted).

And while city voters overwhelmingly supported adult cannabis use in the 2016 election, the question of where the weed is to be sold set off a maelstrom at the Board of Supervisors. Currently, most Bay Area cities have not completed or even acquired the necessary paperwork and licensure to open and operate a recreational pot dispensary. San Francisco has been perhaps the most lagging, with a hodgepodge of medical and recreational marijuana laws that need to be wadded through, amended and disseminated to local dispensaries before they can operate within the cities borders.

This may all soon change, however, after a new deal, struck earlier this week may temporarily break the impasse over where and how pot will be sold.

Under this new measure, San Francisco would allow the existing 30 cannabis dispensaries and possibly the 16 delivery services to sell the drug for recreational use beginning Jan. 1, initially with an expedited process and later through a temporary permit good for the year.

“We may have a pathway to an agreement,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has proposed the idea of granting permission for the city’s existing 46 medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services to additionally sell for adult recreational use.

“Then we can hash out the details for how to go forward from there” as far as licensing goes, Peskin said.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, during a Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall last year, says he might have a solution to the city’s squabbles over sales of recreational marijuana. Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle–Supervisor Aaron Peskin, during a Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall last year, says he might have a solution to the city’s squabbles over sales of recreational marijuana.

This newest proposal doesn’t come without its share of pushback, as there are two contentious issues at play: zoning regulations and the cities increasingly vocal and growing Asian community.

Current zoning regulations from Mayor Ed Lee and the Planning Commission calls for a 1,000-foot pot-free zone. Some supervisors want even stricter measures, with pot retailers kept 1,000 feet from daycare centers or any agency that provides childcare.

This has led some to contend that the city is effectively zoning pot dispensaries out of the city, a view surprisingly held by some of SF’s lawmakers.

“When you put it all together, it means cannabis businesses will be prohibited in almost every part of San Francisco,” state Sen. Scott Wiener told a recent pro-pot rally at City Hall, also attended by Supervisors Hillary RonenMalia Cohen and Sheehy.

Another issue that will become more contentious as the cities demographic increasingly becomes more Asian is the pushback against pot stores opening in the many Asian communities located in the Bay Area. Most older Asian-Americans oppose recreational or medical marijuana in any capacity.

“What I’m hearing from constituents is that they just don’t want kids to walk around these dispensaries,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the heavily Asian Sunset District.

Given the notoriously slow nature of the Board of Supervisors ability to pass significant measures, it is highly unlikely that the city will have a comprehensive set of rules and regulations allowing current pot clubs to apply for recreational marijuana licenses. However, this new, temporary measure would give those businesses a much-needed head start over the competition.

If the wait for San Francisco to open its recreational pot doors seems to long, you can always head over to Berkeley, who should be opening recreational pot dispensaries by January 2018.