Controversy over regulation of cannabis dispensaries (SF Chronicle, 10/7/05)

Supervisors working on new rules for pot clubs
Regulations could include waiting lists, distance

- Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, October 7, 2005

A Board of Supervisors committee began Thursday the
difficult work of hammering out a series of
regulations governing medical marijuana dispensaries
in San Francisco that protect patients' access to
cannabis while curbing abuse of the clubs and their
effect on residential neighborhoods.

About 35 clubs are doing business in the city with
more than 8,000 medical marijuana patients registered
in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom and every member
of the Board of Supervisors have expressed support for
medical marijuana, which was established by state law
in 1996.

But exactly how the clubs should operate, where they
should be located, what fees they should pay to the
city and how much they can sell to individual patients
are up for debate in the absence of any city law
regulating the dispensaries. A moratorium barring the
opening of any new club is set to expire Nov. 20.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has been leading the effort
to pass legislation that will clearly and effectively
define how the clubs can operate. Earlier this week,
Newsom said some provisions of the legislation to be
considered by supervisors were not strong enough.

One proposal pushed by the mayor would require pot
clubs to be located 1,000 feet or more from schools,
recreation centers and parks. The ordinances being
considered by supervisors would allow a club to be run
500 feet from a school if marijuana is not smoked on
the premises.

At a hearing Thursday of the Board's Budget and
Finance Committee, Mirkarimi outlined his concern that
the restrictions proposed by the mayor would force the
clubs to the far reaches of the city. "If you use that
parameter and formula, these clubs will practically be
in the bay," Mirkarimi said.

Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Gerardo Sandoval also
have introduced legislation to regulate pot clubs.
Responding to concerns that some clubs have been
operating within a few blocks of each other, Elsbernd
has proposed a 1,000-foot separation between any new
clubs. He also has proposed a 180-day period, once any
legislation is passed, for clubs to apply for city
permits. Once that six-month period is over, no new
permits could be issued.

Citing concerns from his constituents about crime the
dispensaries might attract, Sandoval has proposed that
any clubs operating in his district obtain special-use
permits from the city's Planning Commission. Those
permits could come with conditions on how the clubs
are run.

Attending the hearing, Supervisor Bevan Dufty said
some Noe Valley residents had been particularly upset
by a club operating in their neighborhood where they
say dealers have been buying marijuana. Dufty said a
proposal to allow patients to buy a pound of pot a day
might make them targets for theft.

Dozens of patients and medical marijuana advocates
packed Thursday's hearing at City Hall to argue
against regulations that would restrict the location
of clubs or make them more expensive to run. The
proposed ordinances are scheduled to come before the
Board of Supervisors for a discussion and possible
vote on Oct. 18.

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

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