San Francisco mayor signs legislation allowing adult-use cannabis sales to start in January

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday signed legislation creating  regulations and permit requirements for commercial cannabis retail, distribution and production, paving the way for recreational sales to begin in January.

The legislation, which received final approval by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, will allow the city's 45 existing marijuana dispensaries and delivery services to move ahead with retail sales in early January.

Californians voted to approve adult use of marijuana in November 2016 via Proposition 64, and its use and sale is set to become legal statewide on Jan. 1. However, individual cities and counties are allowed to establish their own permitting requirements and regulations for businesses hoping to set up shop for retail sales, as well as growing or processing operations.

While 74 percent of San Francisco voters supported Prop 64, the debate over local regulations was colored by outspoken protests from marijuana opponents.

In response to the pressure from constituents, Supervisor Katy Tang sought to establish buffers of up to 1,000 feet around schools and other child care facilities, while other supervisors sought caps or outright bans on facilities in parts of their districts.

Ultimately, the board opted for only a 600-foot buffer zone around city schools and no neighborhood caps or bans.

The approved regulations also include an equity program requiring new dispensaries to qualify under a program intended to help groups including low-income residents, people of color and those with prior marijuana offenses.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who sponsored the original legislation and advocated for less restrictive regulations, said that despite the "genuine differences," the city has ultimately been able to unite.

"San Francisco's at its best when we make evidence-based public policy rooted in our shared values," Sheehy said in a statement. "This board passed legislation that renews the city's commitment to our diverse communities, while properly regulating the responsible adult use of cannabis in our city."

Lee said the city will continue to evaluate the impacts of the legislation and "remain flexible and open to adaptation as necessary."

"This legislation strikes the right balance for San Francisco residents and businesses," the mayor said. "It brings the cannabis industry out of the shadows, addresses safety and public health concerns and takes a substantive approach to atoning for the harmful effects of the War on Drugs 
by establishing an equity program."