SF Passes Indoor Smoking Ban; Cannabis Still OK

Pot wins an exemption from San Francisco's new regulation.

San Francisco just became the largest city in the United States to ban smoking inside apartments and condominiums with three or more units, as a proposed indoor smoking ban from Supervisor Norman Yee was approved at Tuesday’s meeting. But thanks to an exemption from Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the law will not apply to cannabis smoking, and pot smokers can still fire up inside their units.

Cannabis users were particularly opposed to the ban because smoking cannabis in public is illegal, and they would have been left with no legal place to burn one. Mandelman’s broad exemption for all cannabis smokers was approved by the board by an 8-3 vote, and with the amendment in place, Yee’s indoor smoking ban then passed with a 10-1 vote.   

“Cigarette smokers or tobacco smokers and cannabis smokers are fundamentally in a different position under state law,” Mandelman said, explaining why he introduced the amendment. “Tobacco smokers unable to smoke in their apartment building can go out to the curb or find other public space where they are allowed to smoke. Cannabis smokers don’t have that alternative. So I think it is important that we fully exempt cannabis from this legislation.” 

The board largely agreed, though with supervisors Ahsha Safai, Gordon Mar, and Norman Yee voted against the cannabis exemption.

“While there are great benefits to cannabis, there are still health risks and exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke,” Yee said at the meeting. “Secondhand cannabis smoke contains carcinogens like cadmium, chromium, benzene, and more than 33 identified toxins that were identified by research.

“Children exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke have detectable levels of THC in their bloodstream and make more visits to emergency rooms for breathing issues, ear infections, and asthma,” Yee added.  

Smoking indoors will not be a legal grounds for eviction, but cigarette smokers could be fined up to $1,000 a day for each infraction. Similar indoor smoking bans are the law in Berkeley, Daly City, and more than 60 other California cities. 

If Mayor Breed signs the legislation, the indoor cigarette smoking ban would take effect sometime in early to mid-January.

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