Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Will San Francisco's E-Cigarette Ban Extend To Marijuana Vaporizers?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 7:45 AM

click to enlarge Free Big Body's Vape Pen
  • Free Big Body's Vape Pen

With strict rules on cigarette smoking at ATMs and in front of bars, San Francisco is not a tobacco town -- but marijuana is getting special treatment at City Hall.

San Francisco lawmakers are taking care to protect the rights of cannabis consumers, so much so that new regulations cracking down on the use of e-cigarettes -- the portable vaporizers that provide a smokeless nicotine fix on the go -- are written as to specifically not crack down on the use of vapor pens, the virtually-identical mechanisms used for smokeless marijuana consumption.

Or will they? Marijuana advocates say that Supervisor Eric Mar's proposed rules on popular e-cigarettes would be applied to also-popular cannabis vaporizers. Add to that questions about why San Francisco would want to regulate and restrict harm reduction, and you have an unlikely union of weedheads and folks trying to kick a smoking habit ready to descend upon City Hall.

You might not believe it, judging by the pile of butt-ends on the pavement, but San Francisco has some strict rules on where and when someone can smoke. (San Francisco also applies a 5-cent-per-pack fee designed to cover the cost of picking up butts off of the ground).

Smoking is banned at bus stops, in the line at ATMs, in a certain zone front of bars, and in public parks.

Some of these laws, such as the one in the Parks Code, does not draw a distinction between what is smoked -- in other words, the smoking ban covers marijuana and banana peels as well as tobacco.

This is not going to be the case with the e-cigarette legislation, an aide from Mar's office tells us. The e-cigarette legislation specifically says that the law "shall not effect any laws or regulations regarding medical cannabis."

But it still seems unclear to some. An e-cigarette is defined as "any device with a heating element, a battery, or an electronic circuit that provides nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the user in a manner that simulates tobacco" (emphasis ours).

That could be construed to include the vape pens and other marijuana vaporizing devices, according to David Goldman, a Castro-based cannabis activist who plans on speaking out against the law on Thursday.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," he said (and he is not a tobacco smoker, we might add). "How are police going to know the difference? They're not -- they're just going to give you the ticket and have you figure it later out in court."

On top of that is the concept of harm reduction. The people puffing on e-cigarette or tobacco vaporizers are presumably doing so in lieu of smoking a cigarette. Therefore, why make it harder to do less harm to yourself?

Mar's people say that studies show that some toxins are emitted when an e-cigarette is puffed and the liquid inside the device is vaporized.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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