San Francisco supervisors delayed voting Tuesday on proposed pot regulations, making it more unlikely that people in this weed-friendly city will be able to buy recreational pot when adult use becomes legal Jan. 1 in California.
Supervisors have had a hard time fashioning local rules for pot shops as older members of the Chinese immigrant community have come out against placing retail stores too close to schools, daycare centers and anywhere else that children might gather.
Tuesday’s board meeting in San Francisco was emotional, with some supervisors arguing to get temporary rules on the books for the first day of legal sales while others urged the board to take more time to make the regulations right.
San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen urged the board to hold off until it could meet again in two weeks, saying a stop-gap measure to allow existing marijuana outlets to sell recreational weed Jan. 1 would only benefit existing operators, who are not African Americans, veterans, women or other traditionally marginalized groups.
“Doing this ensures that the final legislation passed is thoughtful, culturally sensitive and the best legislation for the city of San Francisco,” Cohen said.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said passing the temporary measure would give the board more time to hash out rules and send a signal that San Francisco “is ready to enter the dawn of the 21st century.”
Recreational pot might be available in San Francisco in the first week of January, if officials meet a tight timeline requiring the mayor’s quick approval. It could also be ready Jan. 1 if supervisors meet in special sessions.
San Francisco isn’t the only California city struggling with local permits, which growers and retailers need in order to apply for a state license. Los Angeles is still working on its rules.
The state expects to release emergency regulations later this month and has said it will begin issuing temporary licenses on New Year’s Day.
Lori Ajax, the state’s top state marijuana regulator, has said she doesn’t know how many growers or retailers will come forward to seek licenses. It’s a critical question, since the state’s legitimate pot sales could be undercut by illegal operators.
Jeff Sheehy, a San Francisco supervisor who uses medical marijuana to mitigate pain from older HIV medications, pleaded with the board to adopt the temporary measure.
“Taking the time to get the piece right makes a lot of sense, but not having something available on Jan. 1 makes us look bad,” he said.
He and other cannabis advocates prefer a 600-foot (183-meter) buffer zone between pot shops and schools, comparable to the distance now required for stores that sell liquor or tobacco.
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 (460 meters) away from schools, child-care centers and any other places where minors gather.
Several supervisors expressed outraged at the way cannabis advocates have characterized Chinese opponents, calling the comments overtly racist and intolerant.
AP writer Michael R. Blood contributed to this report.