Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2013
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2013 SF Newspaper Company LLC
Author: Joshua Sabatini
Page: 6


Avalos Wants to Stop Dispensary Clustering, Faults 2005 Guidelines

Medical marijuana dispensaries are limited to certain areas of The
City under a 2005 law. The opening of three clubs in one Outer Mission
neighborhood this year got the attention of Supervisor John Avalos.

Medical marijuana dispensaries could soon open in more than just a few
San Francisco neighborhoods after the clustering of these businesses
stoked political tensions and prompted calls for rule changes before
the end of the year.

The proposed review of the 2005 land-use controls for dispensaries was
somewhat forced upon city officials earlier this year. Supervisor John
Avalos sought to prevent a clustering effect of shops after three were
permitted to open in close proximity to one another - two on one block
- - in the Outer Mission neighborhood he represents.

Medical marijuana advocates slammed that proposal for squeezing the
already limited areas where such businesses can open. They also feared
it would lead to similar ad hoc limits on the allowable areas for pot
clubs, which are estimated to comprise 10 percent of The City's land
mass. The proposal is now on hold.

However, Avalos introduced legislation last week that would require
the Planning Commission to review the 2005 medical marijuana law and
provide recommendations for changes to the Board of Supervisors by
Jan. 1. The review would include analysis of "impacts on the public
health, safety and welfare of expanding the areas" where dispensaries
can open and the impact of existing rules on patient access.

Avalos said the flawed 2005 law has led to unfair zoning.

"They should be situated throughout The City, not just in certain
neighborhoods," he said.

The review comes at a particularly volatile time for the medical
marijuana movement as federal authorities continue to target
California dispensaries even though medical marijuana has been legal
under state law for more than 15 years. There are more than 20
permitted dispensaries in San Francisco, and eight have been shuttered
by federal authorities since late 2011.

Shona Gochenaur, a medical marijuana activist and executive director
of low-income patient collective Axis of Love, was among those who
blasted Avalos' Outer Mission proposal. But she welcomed and praised
his proposal for the broad review.

As it stands, she said, there are access issues for patients living in
neighborhoods such as Bayview-Hunters Point and the Sunset, where
there are no dispensaries.

Gochenaur said she expects similar political fighting and neighborhood
opposition, as in 2005, to any dispensary changes, but noted that
public acceptance of medical marijuana has increased and the track
record of dispensaries operating under the established regulatory
system has proven critics wrong.
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MAP posted-by: Matt