Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jul 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.


The Bay Area's major cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, are 
rewriting their medical cannabis laws in response to state 
legislation passed last fall. The rewrites - and the headaches 
they've brought - are a warm-up for what might happen if California 
voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults in November.

There are many new aspects to the state medical marijuana 
regulations, and state agencies will issue further guidelines for 
cities by January. In the meantime, cities are left to balance a wide 
range of competing concerns around medical marijuana - from racial 
equity measures to neighborhood zoning complaints.

In the Bay Area, Oakland has a head start. It passed its updated 
ordinances in May.

Most of the updated regulations were relatively non-controversial, 
allowing the city to mirror the state law and allow Oakland residents 
to apply for the needed permits. But the city took an unusual tactic 
in choosing its employment regulations.

Under Oakland's new rules, half of dispensary staff members need to 
be Oakland residents, and another half of those must live in 
neighborhoods with high unemployment.

There's also a new equity program, whereby applicant dispensaries 
need to have at least one member with a 50 percent ownership stake 
who's been incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense or lives in an 
Oakland neighborhood that's been heavily affected by cannabis-related offenses.

These new rules have been criticized. Their complexity is cause for 
concern, but it's easy to understand where the City Council was coming from.

There's certainly a need to address the historic disparities in 
marijuana prosecutions and company formation, though it's less than 
obvious that this provision is the way to achieve it.

San Francisco is in the process of updating its marijuana ordinances. 
The city has only one kind of medical cannabis permit at the moment. 
The new state laws allow for 17 kinds of licenses.

A major issue in San Francisco will be - surprise, surprise - zoning, 
and its impact on the geographic distribution of dispensaries.

Many of San Francisco's dispensaries are in the relatively industrial 
South of Market neighborhood; dispensaries are highly controversial 
in many of the family-oriented neighborhoods on the west side of the city.

In 2014, San Francisco's planning department made a recommendation to 
the Board of Supervisors to reduce the school "buffer zone," from 600 
to 1,000 feet. A buffer zone of 1,000 feet in a dense city 
effectively prohibits dispensaries in many neighborhoods.

The Board of Supervisors hasn't taken action on the 2014 recommendation.

The regulation update will give San Francisco the opportunity to 
discuss these issues again. City officials would also be well advised 
to consider regulations for the burgeoning delivery dispensary sector.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom