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Politics & Policy

‘It’s a pause’: San Francisco lawmakers unanimously pass pot shop moratorium

Isaiah Tapia shows product at Poncho Brotherz dispensary in the Mission District on Oct. 21, 2022. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to ban new cannabis businesses until 2027. | Felix Uribe Jr. for The Standard

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to prohibit new cannabis businesses citywide for the next four years. Existing stores and applicants in the pipeline won’t be impacted by the ban.

All 10 attending supervisors voted yes in a unanimous vote. Supervisor Hillary Ronen was absent.

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who authored the bill, said the cannabis industry is struggling with multiple challenges, including oversaturation and competition with the black market. Additionally, the city’s dispensaries and cannabis businesses have drawn criticism over public-safety concerns, namely that cash-heavy businesses invite break-ins.

“It's a pause, not a ban,” he said, “and ultimately, we can revisit where this is in a few years.” 

He amended the proposal with an expiration date and emphasized that the board will review the policy impact in mid-2027 and decide whether to extend the ban or let it expire.

Safaí, who’s running for mayor next year, also acknowledged a pervasive anti-cannabis sentiment within San Francisco’s Asian American communities. The cannabis industry faces strong opposition from an increasingly vocal Chinese American immigrant community over marijuana’s potential impact on children, mixed with other historical and cultural reasons.

There are about 32 licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and 31 general retailers citywide, and more than 100 additional applications are being processed.

However, San Francisco has long been a welcoming center for weed culture. The annual “420” celebration in Golden Gate Park routinely draws tens of thousands of attendees, including celebrity performers like Erykah Badu.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who said he’s conflicted about this new law, voted yes to support it, as the ban will expire in 2027.

“I think that these amendments really go a long way in creating the short-term moratorium that I think was the original intention,” Preston said.

The law will go into effect 30 days after its final approval, which is expected to be next week.