Pubdate: Tue, 14 Nov 2017
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Los Angeles Times


San Francisco is having a surprisingly difficult time establishing
regulations for the broad legal pot market, thanks in part to
criticism from older Chinese immigrants who oppose marijuana use.

Divided San Francisco supervisors are scheduled to take up the issue
at a board meeting Tuesday, where they may vote on a stop-gap measure
to allow the sale of recreational cannabis through existing medical
marijuana outlets on Jan. 1 as they continue to figure out where to
allow new stores.

The possibility of overly strict regulations has businesses fretting
over access and some San Franciscans wondering what happened to the
counter-culture, anti-Prohibition city they know and love. The smell
of cannabis being smoked is not uncommon in certain neighborhoods and

"Let's be honest: Cannabis is effectively legal now, and the sky
hasn't fallen. A lot of the information people have been given is
completely false," said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who uses medical
marijuana to mitigate pain from older HIV medications.

He and others are calling for keeping recreational retail pot stores
600 feet away from schools, comparable to the radius required of
stores that sell liquor or tobacco. Medical marijuana dispensaries are
required to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools and recreation
centers that serve primarily minors.

But some Chinese American organizations have pushed back, calling for
an outright prohibition on retail stores in San Francisco's Chinatown.
They want future retail stores to be at least 1,500 feet away from
schools, child-care centers and any other place minors gather.
Supervisors are considering a 1,000-foot buffer that cannabis
advocates say is too restrictive for a city as compact as San Francisco.

Ellen Lee, a family social worker at the nonprofit San Francisco
Community Empowerment Center, which has helped lead the protests, said
most of the people opposed to recreational cannabis are elderly and
speak little to no English. She said children are impressionable and
must be protected from a drug that remains illegal under federal law,
and she is frustrated by elected officials.

"We have been meeting with them and talking to them," she said, "but
they are not listening."

Chinese Americans are an integral part of San Francisco's history, and
they carry political clout in a city where one-third of its 850,000
residents are Asian and Chinese Americans are the largest Asian
sub-group. The mayor is Chinese American, as are other elected
officials in the city.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said Monday he has a holdover measure that
will allow 46 existing medical marijuana facilities to sell to adults
while the board takes more time to hash out zoning regulations. He
said that would allow people plenty of places to buy cannabis come
Jan. 1.

Peskin, who represents the Chinatown district, said he expects the
board will come up with a resolution that satisfies most people in the
diverse city.

"We're not just legislators. We are group therapists for 850,000
people, and understanding what their concerns are -- whether we agree
or disagree -- and addressing them respectfully is very important in
the legislative process," he said.
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