San Francisco leaders have overcome deep divisions about how to regulate legal recreational marijuana in the densely packed city, approving pot-friendly rules that could allow sales to start the first week of January.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late Tuesday adopted regulations favored by marijuana advocates, rejecting attempts to mandate a larger barrier between schools and pot shops as well as provisions allowing neighborhoods to limit the number of dispensaries or ban them outright.
The rules also could help residents — largely African-Americans and Latinos — who have been disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests and convictions.
Pot advocate Patricia Barraza rallied before Tuesday’s meeting, calling for supervisors to quickly approve rules allowing small marijuana businesses to start preparing for sales that become legal in California on Jan. 1. She said weed could be a major economic driver, particularly for people finding it hard to stay in pricey San Francisco.
“Your family can live in this city and thrive in this city by having your own business, it just happens that cannabis is the way to do that right now,” she said.
It had been surprisingly difficult for the pot-friendly city to adopt local regulations required for growers and retailers to get a state permit. California voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.
A well-organized group of Chinese immigrants strongly opposed to marijuana had lobbied supervisors for larger buffer zones and neighborhood prohibitions that pot advocates said would strangle the industry.
San Francisco will not be ready for sales New Year’s Day, but if Mayor Ed Lee approves the rules quickly, the city could be open for recreational pot at midnight Jan. 5, said John Cote, spokesman for the city attorney’s office. There are about 40 approved medical marijuana outlets that can start selling to adults that day.