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Politics & Policy

Running for Mayor, This SF Supervisor Calls for Ban on New Cannabis Dispensaries

Written by Han LiPublished May 09, 2023 • 2:55pm
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí at Mayor Breed's State of the City address in San Francisco on March 9, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A current San Francisco supervisor and 2024 candidate for mayor is looking to limit the reach of cannabis businesses by banning all new dispensary applications.

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí proposed a new moratorium at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, citing safety and community concerns.

“Let’s be clear—we have no shortage of cannabis retail storefronts, and many are suffering because of brazen break-ins, public safety concerns and an unregulated market that is not facing proper enforcement,” Safaí said in a statement announcing the proposal.

He urged City Hall to focus on processing existing equity applications. Currently, there are about 30 cannabis dispensaries with storefronts in San Francisco as well as another 30 medical cannabis stores. A number of other applications are pending with the Office of Cannabis and will not be impacted by the proposed ban.

In pushing for a halt to new dispensaries, Safaí’s office noted that implementation of 2016’s Proposition 64, in which California voters permitted the recreational use of cannabis, takes place at the local level.

An individual holds a “Pasta Not Pot” sign during a protest against opening a cannabis dispensary in the Sunset District on April 7, 2023. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Safaí’s action is an apparent move to appeal to the Chinese American community as he’s running for mayor against incumbent London Breed in 2024. Many Chinese Americans, especially immigrants, have long protested the cannabis industry in the city, with Chinatown designated a dispensary-free zone.

Recently, despite an outpouring of opposition from neighboring businesses and residents, San Francisco supervisors approved a cannabis dispensary in the Sunset District. Last month, the board allowed it 9-2, with Safaí voting with the majority.

In general, however, Safaí has been a moderate voice on cannabis issues since 2017, when the city grappled with recreational legalization. As the representative of the Excelsior and other southern neighborhoods, he proposed allowing only three dispensaries in his district, but that measure failed to pass. He also fought to push dispensaries to install security gates as a burglary deterrent.

If passed, the ban would be permanent, and there is no expiration date. It’s expected to have its first hearing on May 25 with the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.

Han Li can be reached at

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