San Francisco Mayor calls proposed law to regulate pot clubs too soft

October 05, 2005

Charlie Goodyear, San Francisco Chronicle

 

Legislation regulating medical marijuana clubs in San Francisco that comes today before a Board of Supervisors committee isn't tough enough, according to a letter sent by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

Newsom is taking issue specifically with a bill proposed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has spearheaded the effort to standardize how the approximately 35 pot clubs currently selling marijuana operate in the city. Under Mirkarimi's proposed legislation, pot clubs could operate within 500 feet of a school and could sell up to a pound of marijuana a day to customers.

Since 1996, when a state measure permitting marijuana use for medical purposes was passed by California voters, San Francisco has become a haven for operators of medical marijuana dispensaries who now serve more than 7,000 registered patients. But police say the system is widely abused, with drug dealers and gang members buying at the clubs along with patients who have a legitimate need for weed.

Residents complain that the clubs bring traffic into their neighborhoods where reselling of the marijuana occurs in plain view on the street. In May, supervisors voted to extend a moratorium on the establishment of any new pot clubs in the city.

"While I believe the legislation currently being considered by the board goes a long way to regulating (pot clubs), I have concerns that it does not go far enough," Newsom wrote in his letter. The mayor is proposing a 1,000-foot limit from schools, recreation centers and parks for pot clubs, strict regulations on what type of advertising the clubs can use and limiting the amount a patient can buy each day to 8 ounces.

"Considering how large an amount of medical cannabis this amount represents, I do not believe that our city should increase the amount of medical cannabis a person can possess to one pound -- as currently proposed," Newsom wrote. "Such a limit appears to allow an individual to purchase a full pound of marijuana in a single purchase at a dispensary."

Mirkarimi said Newsom's proposed restrictions on proximity to schools would essentially banish pot clubs to the outlying areas of the city, making it harder for patients to obtain medical marijuana.

"I believe that the mayor is sending a very inconsistent message," Mirkarimi said. "In the very recent past he had stated that he would like to see a regulatory scheme that allows clubs who want to comply with the law to thrive. But under his letter this would in essence ban practically all the clubs that exist into areas on the far outskirts of the city. Those issues need to be reconciled."

The board's Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled today to consider Mirkarimi's legislation along with additional pot club ordinances proposed by Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Gerardo Sandoval. It is unclear if any of the legislation will be forwarded by the committee for a vote at the Board of Supervisors. Mirkarimi said he expected a "healthy debate" on the issue.

E-mail Charlie Goodyear at cgoodyear@sfchronicle.com.



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