If San Francisco continues to drag its feet on cannabis legislation, State Senator Scott Wiener and Democratic Party Chair David Campos may bring weed to the ballot.
The passage of Proposition 64 last year was supposed to make legalized recreational cannabis a walk in the park; in San Francisco, however, implementing local permitting rules has been anything but easy.
At yesterday’s full Board of Supervisors meeting, a majority of the Supervisors voted to postpone any further decision on new cannabis dispensaries until November 28th, after the Thanksgiving holiday. This delay was approved over the stern objections of Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, an HIV-positive activist and medical cannabis patient himself, who argued that failing to agree upon rules by the January 1st deadline would only create “chaos.”
The tension is centered on whether or not new cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to set up shop within 600 feet of a school, as recommended by State regulations, or 1000 feet, as some have proposed. An amendment introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin would only limit recreational permits to existing cannabis businesses in the city. Other amendments seek to restrict the number of cannabis businesses that can open in certain neighborhoods.
State Senator Scott Wiener, who had previously convened a press conference with frequent rival David Campos to criticize the Board on the issue, excoriated the new amendments in a press release co-authored by Campos: “Let’s be very clear: the cannabis restrictions the Board of Supervisors is considering are so broad and draconian that they will effectively ban new cannabis businesses in San Francisco. In the city that gave birth to the medical cannabis movement and that voted overwhelmingly (74%) to legalize cannabis, these restrictions will effectively kill the cannabis industry.”
On Peskin’s amendment, Wiener and Campos spared no criticism, adding: “This limitation means the creation of a monopoly for existing businesses with no guaranteed opportunity for new businesses to enter the market…Creating such a monopoly will reduce competition and innovation and close off opportunities for new businesses operators to enter the market, including the communities of color who have been historically targeted and disenfranchised by the failed and racist war on drugs.”
The press release also indicated that Wiener and Campos would be willing to campaign for a ballot measure if the Board of Supervisors failed to act in time.
The majority on the Board was none too pleased with the odd couple’s recent activism, with Supervisor Peskin lamenting that the two had “inflamed passions” on the issue. Supervisor Jane Kim, a frequent ally of Peskin’s, argued that “this is not a debate about medical cannabis…this is a land use debate.”
Wiener and Campos likened this moment in history to the end of Prohibition in the 1930s, when San Francisco’s newly-legalized nightlife followed fairly straightforward regulations. “Today, we have a world-renowned nightlife and wine industry that is healthy and regulated, with plenty of neighborhood protections, and is a major contributor to both our economy and our culture,” the two wrote. “We can and should do the same with cannabis.”
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