SF supervisors create office to handle coming cannabis business

  • San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy sponsored legislation to create the citys Office of Cannabis. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle



The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday created a new “one-stop shop” to handle policies for marijuana businesses once recreational cannabis becomes legal.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy sponsored the ordinance to set up the Office of Cannabis, which will open for business by the end of this year. It will set up an application system for marijuana licenses, resolve complaints, be a conduit to state regulators, and serve as a centralized information source for the public.

The board unanimously approved it on the first reading after some initial dissension.

Sheehy’s measure also extended the life of the city’s Cannabis Legalization Task Force, which would have ended in August. It will now live on at least until the end of next year.

“We’ve had an industry that’s been on the margins of legality for a large part of its existence, and now the state is about to fully legalize adult use,” Sheehy said, noting that the new state law left many policy issues open for debate.

“Some of this stuff looks like candy,” Sheehy said. “Do I really want it sold at my local convenience store?”

Several supervisors expressed concerns that the marijuana industry would come to resemble the tech industry in San Francisco — largely white and male.

“We have not done a good job of getting equity in the tech sector,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who feared that the people who were most harmed by U.S. drug policies would be excluded from the cannabis business.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai amended the ordinance, hoping to address Fewer’s concerns. His amendment required the new cannabis office to consider communities that have been negatively affected by federal drug laws in policy decisions.

The board approved the office on the same day it passed a $10 billion city budget, amid last-minute sniping over how to divvy up $46 million that the supervisors scooped from the mayor’s budget proposal. The budget passed on the first reading and is expected to be made final next week.

The city budget included $700,000 to fund three Office of Cannabis positions — a manager, a principal analyst and a management assistant — along with overhead, website development and public outreach. Mayor Ed Lee also set aside $665,227 this year for five new Department of Public Health employees who would help oversee permitting for medical cannabis dispensaries.

The city currently has 39 permitted dispensaries and 28 pending applications.

Separately, the board finally passed a set of comprehensive affordable-housing laws that require developers of new market-rate projects to set aside a portion of their units — 18 percent for rentals and 20 percent for condominiums — for low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

But a proposal to dilute a 2014 law mandating that companies beautify sidewalk utility boxes hit resistance at Tuesday’s meeting.

The measure by Supervisor Malia Cohen would have allowed telecom and Internet service providers such as ATT to pay fees instead of planting trees near the boxes or decorating them with murals. Several of Cohen’s colleagues raised concerns over whether the fees — $2,000 for each revoked mural and $1,961 for each unplanted tree — were high enough.

The supervisors sent the measure back to committee to calculate new fees based on the sizes of the boxes.

They unanimously approved legislation by Supervisor Norman Yee to ease the permitting process for child care facilities, which Yee said was essential for keeping families in the city.

“At my office, we’re already receiving calls from prospective child care providers who have been waiting for something like this to come along,” Yee said.

The supervisors also voted to make the El Rey Theatre on Ocean Avenue a historic landmark.

And they established proof-of-residency requirements for landlords who evict their tenants in order to occupy a dwelling themselves. The owner move-in law, which had been the focus of months of debate between the moderate and progressive wings of the board, passed unanimously on a final vote.

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: rswan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rachelswan

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