Last-Minute Appeal Delays Passage Of SF Marijuana Legislation

October 24, 2005

, Fox Reno News

A last-minute appeal has temporarily halted the passage of San Francisco's first set of medical marijuana regulations, delaying a final vote on the legislation until Nov. 15 at the earliest.


Bill Barnes, a former aide to Supervisor Chris Daly, filed the appeal on Friday in objection to the Planning Commission's determination that the legislation was "categorically" exempt from an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.


The California Environmental Quality Act, passed by the state Legislature in 1970, requires state and local governments to identify and mitigate, if at all possible, the environmental impacts of their actions.


According to state's CEQA Web site, a project can be determined to be exempt if "it is determined not to have a significant impact on the environment."


Barnes pointed to the possibility of the closure of three pot clubs on Haight Street and many more throughout the city, and how this could affect traffic and other environmental considerations if medical marijuana patients have to travel to find a new clinic.


"That's a significant change," he said. "(The supervisors) should at least tell the people of San Francisco how it is going to affect them."


Reports of the total number of clubs that would be closed if the legislation passes have varied widely, with some officials, including Daly, citing more than a dozen that would get the ax. Last week, however, City Planner Dan Sider said the legislation would close five clubs citywide.


Daly, who has been critical of the measure, said there are still serious problems with the proposal that need to be worked out.


"What we have is a fatally flawed piece of legislation," he said.


Daly gained approval for an amendment to the legislation last Tuesday to exclude certain neighborhoods in his district's South of Market area as eligible sites for pot clubs.


In a separate amendment, Daly failed to gain support to exclude the planning department's role in the legislation altogether, which he said unfairly focused on his and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell's districts as homes for the highest number of pot clubs.


Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, sponsor of the legislation, struck a more positive note, arguing that his ordinance had sufficient support to pass the board.


"We are very close to coming to an agreement," he said, adding that the current moratorium on new pot clubs, set to expire next month, may have to be extended to allow for the delay.

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