Pot club permits stuck in limbo

June 20, 2007

Adam Martin, San Francisco Examiner

As the deadline nears for San Francisco medicinal marijuana dispensaries to come into compliance with strict new city codes, no club in The City has received an official permit.

Under a 2005 ordinance authored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, cannabis clubs have until June 30 to get permits under a set of codes that include sign-offs by the Health Department, Planning Department and Police Department.

While 28 of San Francisco’s 31 medicinal cannabis dispensaries have submitted applications, according to one club owner who is tracking the progress, none of those clubs have received official permits.

Mirkarimi introduced the legislation in the fall of 2005 with the goal of regulating San Francisco’s marijuana dispensaries the same way other city businesses are regulated. The updated codes call for new dispensaries to be more than 1,000 feet from schools or community centers and to go through an extensive permitting process.

The process allows existing clubs to stay in their locations, but requires them to go through the permitting process as well.

Kevin Reed, owner of the Green Cross medicinal cannabis delivery service, has been tracking the progress of clubs’ applications citywide. He said Wednesday that backlogs in city departments and a refusal on the part of police to participate in the process have left most of The City’s clubs with unfinished permit applications.

“They come to [the Department of Public] Health for a permit to operate. We make referrals to planning, fire, building and police. When all the agencies sign off on it, then we hold a hearing for the permit. … We can’t move until we get those approvals back,” Health Department Consumer Safety Director Ken Sato said. “The long process is going through city planning.”

Officials with the Planning Department were unavailable for comment Wednesday. Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina said the Police Department is not involved in the permitting process.

Mirkarimi indicated earlier this month that the onus is on The City to get the applications processed in time for the deadline. “It sounds like the applicants are doing their part,” he said.

Technically, if legislation to extend the deadline doesn’t pass, every dispensary in The City that does not have a permit — which is all of them — may have to close.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier has introduced legislation that would extend the deadline for clubs to come into compliance with The City’s regulations. It would also remove the police officially from the planning process. That legislation is expected to come before the Board of Supervisors on July 12.

Meanwhile, Alioto-Pier introduced a resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting that would stay enforcement of the permit requirements until the bill amending the requirements passes.

amartin@examiner.com



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