Sales of recreational cannabis will begin in January in San Francisco following the approval Tuesday night by the Board of Supervisors of regulations for the new industry.
The board voted 10-1, with Supervisor Ahsha Safai in opposition, to approve permitting requirements and land use rules for cannabis-related businesses after weeks of debate that at times seemed unlikely to result in agreement.
The board seemed deeply divided, in particular, over proposed land use restrictions around how far dispensaries and retailers need to be from schools and child care facilities. Several supervisors, under pressure from anti-marijuana advocates and neighborhood groups, also sought caps or outright bans on dispensaries in their districts.
Ultimately, however, the board approved legislation that requires only a 600-feet buffer around schools, as recommended by state law.
The board also eliminated a three-dispensary cap in Safai’s district that was approved earlier this year in response to complaints from residents about a concentration of dispensaries there.
Adult use of marijuana will become legal in California on Jan. 1, but businesses hoping to set up shop for retail sales, growing or processing operations in individual cities and counties need permits to operate.
The legislation approved Tuesday will allow the 45 marijuana dispensaries and delivery services currently operating in the city to move ahead with recreational sales, meaning such sales could start as soon as Jan.
5 if Mayor Ed Lee signs the legislation promptly.
However, the legislation also includes an equity program that will require new dispensaries to qualify under a program intended to help groups including low-income residents, people of color and those with prior marijuana offenses. Oakland has also adopted an equity program.
The cannabis regulations saw intense lobbying both by anti-marijuana advocates and by those seeking less restrictive rules for what many see as a promising new source of jobs and revenue.
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a longtime advocate for medical marijuana who sponsored the original legislation and sought less restrictive regulations, said the final legislation reflected the city’s “progressive values.” “The board heard our diverse communities and voted to protect medical cannabis patients, ensure equity and allow adult cannabis use in San Francisco to begin in January,” Sheehy said.