- Posted by Erica Treeby
- On August 21, 2016
- breaking, dispensaries, MCRSA, medical cannabis retail, Medical Marijuana, Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, zoning ordinance
A hearing was held in mid-July before the Land Use and Transportation Committee to discuss how the newly adopted Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MCRSA”), a compilation of recently enacted AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643, will impact San Francisco’s current medical cannabis regulations. Supervisor Scott Weiner, who called for the hearing, requested the Department of Public Health, the Planning Department, and the Department of Building Inspection to comment on MCRSA’s impact on local legislation.
MCRSA imposed new regulatory measures on California’s medical marijuana businesses by creating a comprehensive state licensing system for the retail sale, commercial cultivation, manufacture, transport, distribution, delivery, and testing of medical cannabis. Although the law went into effect on January 1, 2016, the state will not have the necessary agencies and information systems in place to start issuing licenses until January 2018. In the interim, local governments like San Francisco have been working to update and align its medical cannabis regulations and policies with those of the state.
A substantial issue at the hearing was amending current zoning regulations to increase the availability of locations where dispensaries can operate. According to the Department of Public Health’s 2015 Annual Report on Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, there are 28 permitted medical cannabis dispensaries operating within San Francisco.
Due to local zoning regulations, such as the ordinance which requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, many of the 28 dispensaries are concentrated in the city’s eastern districts. A decrease in the school buffer zone would allow an increased number of dispensaries to legally operate within San Francisco. Aaron Starr of the Planning Department suggested changing the “buffer zone around schools from 1,000 feet to 600 feet, which is the state standard.” Starr added that because San Francisco is a dense, urban environment, 1,000 feet from a school could be a completely different neighborhood, or separated by a major roadway.
An additional option raised by Starr was to permit medical cannabis dispensaries to operate on the second floor of neighborhood/commercial districts, where the dispensaries are currently prohibited under local zoning laws. This option would likely boost the quantity and create more even distribution of medical dispensaries within the city.