Jan. 5 Marijuana Sales Approved for San Francisco

A marathon Board of Supervisors debate ends with a veto-proof approval of recreational cannabis sales to begin January 5, 2018.

Existing San Francisco medical dispensaries can begin selling marijuana to anyone age 21 and over beginning Jan. 5, 2018, thanks to legislation passed Tuesday night by the Board of Supervisors. With a veto-proof 10-1 vote, the supervisors passed this legislation regulating how the marijuana market will operate in San Francisco now that California has approved recreational cannabis use.

Only Sup. Ahsha Safai dissented and voted no, and the 10-1 majority cannot be vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee. The legislation allows existing San Francisco dispensaries to apply for temporary permits so they can begin selling on Jan. 5, though they will have to reapply for permanent permits by April 1, 2018.

The board missed permitting Jan. 1 marijuana sales because of a debate over equity laws — that is, a set of guidelines promoting women, people of color, and drug war victims whom the board would prefer to see much more of in the ownership ranks of the local marijuana industry. To that end, the supervisors approved a 1-to-1 ratio of grandfathered-in current dispensaries with dispensaries owned by people meeting the equity criteria. The regulations also require that 30 percent of dispensaries’ new hires meet that equity criteria.

There are currently 46 cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco (that is, 30 brick-and mortar dispensaries and 16 delivery services), so the next 46 dispensaries approved would have to meet the equity-owned criteria. Whether San Francisco will ultimately have 92 dispensaries is a whole other question.

Dispensaries will additionally be required that no fewer than 50 percent of their employee hires be local residents, and — curiously — they’re required to keep their money in a fireproof safe.

The board also shot down previous regulations that dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school or day care center. That “buffer zone” was lowered to 600 feet.

Several supervisors have tried to push dispensaries out of their districts in recent months, and both Sup. Norman Yee and Sup. Katy Tang proposed limits in their own districts at Tuesday night’s meeting. Those amendments were both rejected.

Much of the board was concerned that this short timeline would prevent neighborhoods from being properly notified of the changes. But since these are temporary, 120-day permits for dispensaries, the supervisors felt that notification could be handled during the permanent application process.

There was no public comment prior to this vote, which took place just before 9 p.m. Tuesday night, since the public comments were allowed in the various board committees prior to this vote. And that’s a good thing, because if there had been public comment this vote wouldn’t have happened until about 3 a.m.

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