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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Should San Francisco Ease Restrictions on Pot Clubs Near Schools?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 8:40 AM

click to enlarge The titty bars are fine; it's the pot club that a-fears us.
  • The titty bars are fine; it's the pot club that a-fears us.

San Francisco's notorious land-use restrictions and zoning laws send neighbors to court over the construction of a porch, and they also mean that the city known as the birthplace of medical marijuana is tougher on pot clubs than most of the rest of the state.

California state law provides for a 600-foot barrier between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools, a law valid from Mexicali to Yreka (at least in cities that haven't banned dispensaries outright). In S.F.'s densely packed 49-square miles, however, the no-go-zone for dispensaries and schools is 1,000 feet. That's partially led to the city's clustering issue -- as school locations and other planning decisions mean dispensaries can operate only in limited areas. It's also created some, frankly, silly situations as liquor stores, bars, and strip clubs are allowed near schools, but not medical marijuana dispensaries.

Could San Francisco get in tune with the rest of the state and ease this one-of-a-kind strict restriction? It's one of the ideas the city's Medical Cannabis Task Force floated in its annual report.

In fact, ending the 1,000-foot restriction could be a way to end the proliferation of law-skirting medical marijuana delivery services, only one of which in San Francisco has signed up for the requisite Medical Cannabis Dispensary permit and ponied up the $8,500 in city fees. "San Francisco is leading the way in California" in terms of regulations, the report notes, while mentioning that the school zone rule could be a way to address both the rogue delivery services and the clustering issue.

San Francisco Unified School District officials did not return telephone calls or e-mails when contacted by SF Weekly, but if the past is any indication, school district officials have not appeared friendly to dispensaries well within the 1,000-foot rule. Superintendent Carlos Garcia once wrote city officials that a pot club within 1,500 feet of a Sunset District school would lead to increased drug use, even as other dispensaries operated much closer to Mission District schools.

To put the city in line with state minimums might make sense -- particularly with medical marijuana -- but it would also take some doing at City Hall. And lately, even the movement's purported allies aren't eager to get involved.

There isn't exactly unity on this issue even in the medical marijuana community. For all of the movement's allies' reluctance to touch the issue of late, there is also fear that a political opponent of medical marijuana could broach the issue instead -- and tighten restrictions even further.

"If the wrong person gets involved, we don't know what could happen," said former Task Force member David Goldman at last week's meeting.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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