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San Francisco’s social cannabis sales could begin Jan. 5

Sara Tiradossi

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Social cannabis could be on sale in San Francisco as soon as Jan. 5 if the mayor quickly signs legislation approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The regulations, which were favored by cannabis advocates, would reject attempts to mandate a larger barrier between schools and cannabis shops as well as provisions that allow neighborhoods to limit the number of dispensaries or ban them outright. The rules would also help African-American and Latino residents, who have disproportionately been affected by cannabis-related arrests.

The legislation requires a second vote on Tuesday by the board.

John Cote, city attorney spokesman, said the legislation could go into effect Jan. 5 if San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs that same day. There are about 40 approved medical cannabis outlets that could start selling to adults then.

Cannabis advocate Patricia Barraza called for supervisors to quickly approve rules allowing small cannabis businesses to start preparing for sales on Jan. 1, before Tuesday’s meeting. Cannabis, she said, could be a major economic driver for people who struggle with living expenses in San Francisco.

“Your family can live in this city and thrive in this city by having your own business, it just happens that cannabis is the way to do that right now,” Barraza said.

The board approved a 600-foot buffer zone between cannabis shops and schools, rejecting attempts by Supervisor Katy Tang, who called for a 1,000-foot zone. She also wanted the zone to apply to child care centers.

“I just feel this huge push and pull between, well, it’s harmful if there’s so many in this one area but at the same time, they’re not going to harm kids or youth,” Tang, who represents a heavily Asian residential district, said.

On the other hand, Supervisor Hillary Ronen talked about embracing a “new exciting industry.”

“I’m just shocked by my colleagues, quite frankly, on this board, and I don’t understand why we’re pretending that this is so dangerous for children,” Ronen said.

The legislation was approved 10-to-1 with Supervisor Ahsha Safai being the only person in disagreement, stating the board did not have enough time to think through this sensitive issue.

“It’s a temporary feeling of relief,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said Wednesday. “We just created the parameters and the guidelines. I think the real work is going to be on the implementation side.”

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San Francisco’s social cannabis sales could begin Jan. 5