SAN FRANCISCO — Those preparing to celebrate by sparking a joint at 12:01am on New Year’s Day in San Francisco may be in for a disappointment, legally speaking.
A frantic, last-minute effort by the board of supervisors to codify the necessary regulations in one of the nation’s most pot-friendly cities failed on Tuesday, due to a handful of lingering concerns among some community members.
Pot use will be legal for adult-use in California on Jan. 1, but because San Francisco has been unable to finalize its municipal and county guidelines, full implementation in the city will likely be delayed until after the new year.
At what distance, precisely, cannabis shops should remain from areas frequented by children and students has emerged as a main issue, particularly among Asian immigrant communities. Representatives from those communities have proposed buffer zones of 1,500 feet (460 meters) from schools and daycare centers. Cannabis advocates countered with a shorter distance of 600 feet (183 meters).
Anticipating a delay, supervisors debated what would be more beneficial to the city – getting the rules right the first time, or pushing through temporary measures to meet the New Year’s Day deadline.
San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen argued that by rushing regulations, the city would be helping mainstream operators, to the exclusion of less fortunate parties, including African Americans, veterans, and women.
“Doing this ensures that the final legislation passed is thoughtful, culturally sensitive and the best legislation for the city of San Francisco,” Cohen said, asking the board to meet again in two weeks to discuss the regs.
However, supervisor Aaron Peskin said temporary measures would give the board more time to “hash out rules” and send a clear message that San Francisco “is ready to enter the dawn of the 21st century.” Another San Francisco supervisor, Jeff Sheehy, who uses medical marijuana to alleviate pain resulting from HIV medications, also expressed support for temporary measures.
Retailers and growers in other big cities, including Los Angeles, are also struggling to reach consensus on regulatory frameworks. State authorities said that temporary permits may be granted on January 1. Lori Ajax, the state’s top marijuana regulator, is hesitant to estimate the number of growers and retailers that will seek licenses. To what size the market will grow may depend upon what becomes of the innumerable illegal grow operations remaining in the state.