Supes mull moratorium on new dispensaries

With the full legalization of recreational marijuana approaching, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is set to consider a 45-day moratorium on new medical cannabis dispensary permits.

Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced legislation calling for the moratorium Tueday, saying it was needed to give the city time to consider how dispensaries will fit into cannabis regulations now being developed both locally and at the state level.

“The existing framework is frankly dated, and while it has been more successful than other jurisdictions in California it has outlived its usefulness,” Cohen said.

Following the passage of the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” in November, recreational marijuana use is set to be fully legalized statewide on Jan. 1, 2018. State and local officials are now working to develop plans for permits and regulations for the budding cannabis industry.

Cohen said that among other issues it was unclear how many of the city’s dispensaries would seek to convert to adult use and whether the city should give them special consideration for such permits.

Cohen’s legislation follows a recommendation by the Planning Commission last week for a citywide moratorium on dispensaries.

The commission had been asked to consider legislation by Supervisor Ahsha Safai seeking a permanent cap on dispensaries in District 11, but instead agreed that a citywide moratorium made more sense.

Safai sought the moratorium due to ongoing complaints from residents about some of the five dispensaries located in or near his district’s borders. He argued that his district’s medical cannabis patients were already well served and that economic revitalization efforts in the area would not be helped by more dispensaries.

Despite the Planning Commission recommendation, the Board of Supervisors today voted 9-2 in support of Safai’s legislation, with Sandra Lee Fewer and Jane Kim opposed.

Kim and Fewer said they were uncomfortable with the piecemeal nature of the legislation, and would prefer to consider the issue citywide.

Other supervisors echoed their misgivings, but said the issue would likely be revisited when the board considers citywide cannabis regulations this fall, which may preempt any existing legislation.

“I consider this to be practically an interim measure,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said before voting in favor of Safai’s legislation.

The board also gave final approval today to legislation by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy creating an Office of Cannabis.

Further amendments introduced by Sheehy today call for the controller’s office to produce a report analyzing disparities in the cannabis industry based on race, income, gender, sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status, among other factors, and to make recommendations for policy to foster equitable access to the industry.

Additionally, the amendments call for a report on the needs of medical cannabis users and how to maintain access for them.