On New Year’s Day 2018, when Californa’s recreational cannabis program launches, San Franciscans without a medical marijuana card will be forced to buy their legal weed on the black market. After a contentious debate on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said more time was needed to complete a regulatory framework for cannabis retail.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way — especially in one of the most liberal, weed-tolerant cities in the United States. San Francisco is home to Haight-Ashbury. The Summer of Love. Brownie Mary. Dennis Peron. Hippie Hill. Grateful Dead. And Prop 215 in 1996, which set off the chain reaction of medical marijuana laws across America.
According to the Associated Press:
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 Jeff Sheehy pushed the board to pass something immediately. He proposed a measure that would allow current medical cannabis dispensaries to apply for a permit allowing them to also sell marijuana for adult recreational use. But his efforts were rebuffed for by the majority of the board.
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Still, Sheehy said marijuana users should chill a little. “You can get cannabis today. You’ll be able to get cannabis on January 1,” he said. “The adult use piece will continue to be black market, which is what we have today.”
Supervisor Malia Cohen urged her colleagues to go slowly and come up with stronger regulations to help people of color enter the industry. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported:
The point of contention was a proposal by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jeff Sheehy to grant temporary permits to existing medical cannabis dispensaries, cultivators and manufacturers, so that they could enter the recreational market in January
Supervisor Malia Cohen balked at the idea, saying it would provide a boost to people who already own cannabis businesses, leaving behind the low-income residents, people of color and victims of the country’s war on drugs that the supervisors say they want to help.
“It would be responsible for us to continue this and ensure that the final legislation that is passed is thoughtful, culturally sensitive, and allows us to be up and running by the first week of January,” Cohen said, suggesting that her colleagues could push the recreational start date to Jan. 5.
The board will meet in two weeks. If the supervisors hammer out a compromise, it is still possible for sales to begin on Jan. 1. But most insiders are not holding their breath.