Vote on pot clubs postponed

October 18, 2005

Jo Stanley, San Francisco Examiner

A massive plan to regulate San Francisco’s medical marijuana clubs went through much debate and a half-dozen amendments at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, but a 6-5 vote postponed action on the ever-tightening rules.

The one-week delay leaves in place a moratorium on new clubs beyond the current 35, allowing city officials time to sort out the implications of the latest round of revisions that may leave relatively few locations open to new or relocating operations.

The clubs sprang up in response to state Proposition 215, passed nine years ago, which allowed patients to use the generally illegal substance with a doctor’s recommendation, but they have drawn increasing traffic, noise and safety complaints from city residents.

Several of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s requests — most notably limiting patients’ possession to 8 ounces instead of 16 ounces and adding layers of permitting review and appeals — were incorporated by the ordinance’s sponsor, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, and then backed by the board. Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier also won a provision that all clubs allow wheelchair access.

But the most emotional discussions centered around the combined effect of removing the clubs from most smaller neighborhood commercial areas, an effect that Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said would push the bulk of the dispensaries east toward the South of Market area and her already problem-plagued districts of Potrero Hill and Bayview. “We’ve got the sewage plant, the power plants and now the marijuana plants,” she argued.

In the end, the board agreed to her request that industrial areas be excluded, thereby exempting land around the old Hunters Point Shipyard and Islais Creek as well as Showplace Square near Potrero Hill. Supervisor Chris Daly, who noted that SoMa already has a dense population of the pot clubs, persuaded a majority of the board to also exclude mixed-use residential and industrial areas there.

Daly proposed the greatest number of amendments, including many that would have eased the restrictions, but nearly all were defeated.

Mirkarimi, who has shepherded his proposals through six months of hearings and conflicting ideas for revisions, said he was satisfied with the debate and the one-week postponement. “I think it was a good legislative process,” he said.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he would be eager to see the cumulative effect of all this week’s changes. “I think we need to see a map of what all this is going to do,” he said.


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