San Francisco Enacts 45-Day Moratorium on New Cannabis Clubs, Calls for Stricter Regulations
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 9-0 to enact a 45-day moratorium on new cannabis clubs while the city drafts new laws to regulate them, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Currently, there are an estimated 37 cannabis clubs in the city.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who led the effort to pass the moratorium, said that the city is "not impinging upon the ability to administer medical cannabis" and that the moratorium should not eliminate patient's access to marijuana dispensed for medical usage at existing cannabis clubs.
Mirkarimi said that comprehensive regulations drafted with input from the community are needed to protect clinics from federal regulators. Federal law prohibits the use of marijuana.
"Several dozen speakers" attended Tuesday's hearing, and most voiced support for the moratorium, the Chronicle reports. Some speakers voiced concerns about cannabis clubs raising crime rates and ensuring safe and comfortable access to the clubs for patients themselves.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) said that regulations are overdue, adding, "We don't know how many clubs there are in the city. ... I've heard some anecdotal evidence that it may be the best business in the city to be in. That's not what I think the voters intended under Prop. 215" (Herel, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/30).
Newsom plans to convene a group of city officials to examine possible regulations for cannabis clubs. The group will include the heads of the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Planning, as well as Treasurer Jose Cisneros and an official from the city attorney's office. Newsom has asked the task force to complete a report within 30 days (California Healthline, 3/24).
Dean Macris, interim head of the Department of Planning, said the city will consider such moves as "confining clubs to a certain location in the city or limiting their proximity to each other." He added, "We could require all clubs to seek a conditional use permit; we could perhaps expand the notification to nearby residents" (Herel, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/31).
The next city council hearing on the topic is scheduled for April 25 (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/30).
Despite San Francisco officials' support for the moratorium, it likely will be difficult to enforce because the city currently does not require cannabis clubs to have permits before opening, the Chronicle reports.
According to Wayne Justmann, a medical marijuana activist, the moratorium is "going to have to rely on the goodwill of the individuals who claim that they want to come in and be part of the medicinal cannabis community of San Francisco."
Aaron Peskin, president of the Board of Supervisors, said that the moratorium "may not have any teeth" but "it's a sign that the board is going to enact laws that are enforceable." He added, "Regulating cannabis clubs is uncharted waters for the city of San Francisco. As we figure our way, there may be other interim controls put in place" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/31).
In related news, the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday will consider a proposal for an emergency ordinance to regulate cannabis dispensaries in the city in response to complaints from residents, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Santa Rosa, which has three cannabis clubs, currently has no such regulations.
The ordinance would:
- Limit to two the number of medical marijuana clubs in the city;
- Require dispensaries to be adjacent to medical office buildings, hospitals or pharmacies and to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks or public buildings;
- Prohibit clubs from operating downtown or within 500 feet of homes;
- Restrict operating hours to daytime;
- Prohibit the consumption of marijuana at a dispensary;
- Require club managers to discourage illegal activity in areas surrounding the clubs;
- Prohibit anyone with a criminal record from operating a club; and
- Allow random inspections of the clubs.
Mayor Jane Bender said, "The council has expressed a concern over what we've heard from the public," adding, "And I have a concern that three dispensaries may be too many."
However, medical marijuana advocates said the two-club limit would reduce access and overwhelm the remaining dispensaries. "Whether there are two dispensaries or 10, the market should dictate," dispensary owner Ken Doerpinghaus said.
The proposal, along with another to enact a citywide moratorium on the opening of new cannabis dispensaries, will be considered by the city council Tuesday.
If the ordinance is approved by five of the seven city council members, it would take effect immediately. If it is approved by a simply majority, the ordinance would become law 30 days after a second vote (Payne, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 3/30).