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San Francisco's Recreational Cannabis Sales Could Be Delayed Due To New Legislation

It seems that San Franciscans will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on some recreational marijuana, thanks to legislation introduced on Tuesday. The legislation actually aims to establish equity in marijuana sales, ensuring that the licensing process is fair.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced the legislation, saying that the original regulations just didn't quite cut it. According to the Examiner, Sheehy said, "This legislation as introduced falls short. Out of a nearly 70-page ordinance, less than a page discusses how to make this industry equitable." He went on to say, "San Francisco led the effort to pass Proposition 215 in 1996. That statewide initiative demonstrated that Californians understood the medical benefits of cannabis for people with serious conditions like cancer and HIV. We must protect and build on that legacy while ensuring that the new adult use industry is equitable."

That being said, as regulations are under development, Sheehy said that licenses for new dispensaries are being delayed, pushing back the aforementioned projection that San Francisco might have dispensaries ready to go by January of next year. According to CBS, Sheehy said, "The most important thing I heard from colleagues is the need for equity and this legislation as introduced falls short. While this is all being worked out, permanent licenses are being delayed, so this cannot be enacted into law as introduced."

San Francisco actually has its own task force (appropriately named the Cannabis State Legalization Task Force) dedicated to researching and establishing such regulations. They've already begun brainstorming what that equity might look like for the city of San Francisco, says the Examiner. For example, their report recommends that half the licenses awarded to new shops should go to people "who have lived in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by War on Drugs police activity (Mission, Tenderloin, Southern, Bayview police districts) for five years since 1996 (i.e. post-Prop 215 enactment) as an adult." It also suggests that if an applicant is aiming to hire more than 15 employees, then, as a means of combating recidivism, 25% of that workforce must have a conviction history. Moreover, if the Office of Cannabis (not even kidding) did begin issuing recreational marijuana licenses, these equity applicants would be processed before marijuana medical dispensaries, giving them a bit of a leg up and priority over established dispensaries.

San Francisco isn't alone in its search for equity, either. The SF Chronicle says that Oakland passed a law earlier this year, requiring that half the city's permits go to "low-income residents who either have a past cannabis conviction or live in a neighborhood with a high number of marijuana arrests." They also point out that this provision was established "to help entrepreneurs of color without explicitly saying so, since California’s constitution bars cities from discriminating by race."

The desire for equity in recreational dispensary licensing reflects a longstanding concern for many people who have see a bit of a discrepancy in the way drug enforcement has been handled with regards to people of color and people from low-income neighborhoods. Back in early August, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation that would change the way courts handle marijuana-related convictions, also including a provision that would have had a retroactive impact on people who have already been convicted. While SF's Office of Cannabis might not be taking a direct cue from Senator Booker's bill, it's clear that they're both fighting for the same end goal: equity and a greater sense of justice in who's allowed to sell marijuana.

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