SAN FRANCISCO — Famously pro-cannabis San Francisco, where the 4/20 marijuana holiday is celebrated with a group smoke-out on Hippie Hill, is having a surprisingly difficult time establishing regulations for the broad legal pot market coming to California in January.
Writing local rules in the weed-friendly city has taken a contentious turn as critics, many of them older Chinese immigrants who oppose marijuana use, try to restrict where pot can be sold.
Divided San Francisco supervisors are scheduled to take up the issue at a board meeting Tuesday, where they may vote on a stop-gap measure to allow the sale of recreational cannabis through existing medical marijuana outlets on Jan. 1 as they continue to figure out where to allow new stores.
The possibility of overly strict regulations has businesses fretting over access and some San Franciscans wondering what happened to the counter-culture, anti-Prohibition city they know and love. The smell of people smoking cannabis is not uncommon in certain
"Let's be honest: Cannabis is effectively legal now and the sky hasn't fallen. A lot of the information people have been given is completely false," said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who uses medical marijuana to mitigate pain from older HIV medications.
He and others are calling for keeping recreational retail pot stores 600 feet (183
But some Chinese-American organizations have pushed back, calling for an outright prohibition on retail stores in San Francisco's Chinatown. They want future retail stores to be at least 1,500 feet (460
Ellen Lee, family social worker at the
"We have been meeting with them and talking to them," she said, "but they are not listening."
Chinese-Americans are an integral part of San Francisco's history and they carry political clout in a city where one-third of its 850,000 residents are Asian and Chinese-Americans are the largest Asian sub-group. The mayor is Chinese-American, as are other elected officials from the city.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said Monday he has a holdover measure that will allow 46 existing medical marijuana facilities to sell to adults while the board takes more time to hash out zoning regulations. He said that would allow people plenty of places to buy cannabis come Jan. 1.
Peskin, who represents the Chinatown district, said he expects the board will come up with a resolution that satisfies most people in the diverse city.
"We're not just legislators. We are group therapists for 850,000 people and understanding what their concerns are, whether we agree or disagree, and addressing them respectfully is very important in the legislative process," he said.