Dispensary Decision A handful of dispensary permit changes will rewrite how permits are granted in San Francisco

Changes are underway for dispensaries located in San Francisco, including the creation of a legal pathway for qualifying medical-only dispensaries to convert to recreational sales. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bundle of permit requirements on Jan. 7 that will apply to cannabis businesses. On Jan. 15, the Board of Supervisors approved the changes under its first reading.

An ordinance amending Sections 101.1 and 302 of San Francisco’s Planning Code was approved and awaits final approval from the mayor. Medical cannabis dispensaries in the city that have received approval for Medical Cannabis Dispensary Use may apply to convert to Cannabis Retail Uses. Those who wish to qualify must obtain valid final permits from Department of Public Health.

Medical cannabis dispensaries that wish to apply for recreational privileges still need to complete additional public engagement requirements which include neighborhood notification and engagement at community meetings. Every neighboring business within 150 feet of the dispensary has to be notified of their intentions.

Ray Law is associate director of Enforcement and Outreach at San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis, which oversees licensing for cannabis businesses in the city. “For those existing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) that have received their operating permits from the Department of Public Health, they should have already submitted their applications to the Office of Cannabis to become commercial retailers,” Law told CULTURE. “All of these operators will have to go through a full application process with neighborhood noticing process prior to being eligible to receive a final Cannabis Retailer Permit which would allow permanent recreational sales.”

Temporary solutions for the licensing process were also provided under the new amendments. “If an MCD received their permit from the Department of Public Health prior to Jan. 1, 2019, then in the interim, they are allowed to seek temporary authorization to sell adult-use cannabis,” Law added. “If they successfully receive that authorization, they can commence sales of recreational cannabis under certain conditions, like maintaining medical access, committing to the City’s equity goals, ensuring public safety, being a good neighbor and finally, securing a state license.”

“This legislation was approved unanimously at the Board of Supervisors meeting [on Jan. 15]. If passed by the Board at the next meeting on second reading, then this legislation will take effect 30 days after receiving final approval from the Mayor.”

 

Other regulatory issues were addressed at the board meeting, such as buffer zone requirements between existing dispensaries. Dispensaries that began the approval process before the 600-foot buffer was imposed between existing dispensaries will be grandfathered in, and exempt to the new rule. Dispensary owners, however, were split on the new buffer zone requirement changes. Three dispensaries, at 443 Folsom Street, 5 Leland Avenue in Visitacion Valley and 2057 Market Street were in the approval process before the 600-buffer zone was finalized, and will be exempt from the rule.

These changes would allow businesses that flourished during the medical era of cannabis in San Francisco to turn the page and move into the recreational era, by following through requirements. There still remain a few more approvals before the ordinance amendments can be finalized and become law. “This legislation was approved unanimously at the Board of Supervisors meeting [on Jan. 15],” Law explained. “If passed by the Board at the next meeting on second reading, then this legislation will take effect 30 days after receiving final approval from the mayor.”

 

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