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Board delays pot regs; Sheehy goes after PJI

by Sari Staver

San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services will not be able to sell recreational cannabis beginning January 1, after the Board of Supervisors turned a deaf ear on the pleas of gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy to kickstart the industry.

Sheehy has also asked city officials to investigate the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute and its influence over a board vote last month to reject a permit for a medical marijuana dispensary.

Sheehy, a gay man who has been open about his use of medical marijuana to treat his HIV-related symptoms, failed to get much enthusiasm for his proposal to give temporary permits to the city's 40 existing medical cannabis dispensaries while the board ironed out the complex regulatory structure that will govern the gigantic new industry expected to bring tens of millions of dollars into city coffers beginning next year.

Instead, the Board of Supervisors voted to postpone a decision on the specifics of the regulatory structure that would detail who could be permitted to sell pot to adults. Last year, voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing adult use of recreational pot in California, but each city is developing its own regulatory structure. The state has also created the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

By kicking the can down the road and voting to delay any decisions about industry regulations until the supervisors' next meeting November 28, the sale of recreational pot likely will be delayed at least a few days, or possibly longer, when the new year rolls around.

Sheehy argued that a delay would put the city's cannabis industry at a disadvantage, because other cities will be selling cannabis legally starting January 1, but the supervisors felt a delay of several days would not be significant.

The board has been grappling with a number of contentious issues regarding legalization, including zoning regulations that would govern how far recreational pot retail outlets must be from schools, how best to encourage and assist minorities to get involved in the industry, and whether to allow some neighborhoods to develop their own regulations and opt out of the citywide regulatory structure.

Cannabis-related issues
Sheehy was more successful introducing two resolutions at the meeting, both related to the LGBT community and medical cannabis.

In the first, he proposed that the board vote at its next meeting to concur with the findings of the Southern Poverty Law Center that PJI is a hate group, though the institute disputes that label. PJI was successful in having the board reject a medical marijuana dispensary in the Sunset last month, working with Asian residents who opposed the project.

At the board vote October 3, nine of the supervisors, including the progressive bloc, voted to reject a permit for the Apothecarium to open a dispensary on Noriega Street.

After the vote, Sheehy was critical of his colleagues, who spoke out against PJI but still voted to reject the permit.

Tuesday, he said the board must take a stand against PJI.

"We must pass this to let the LGBTQ community know where we really stand on LGBTQ rights," he said.

The issue was brought up at Monday's District 8 supervisor debate between Sheehy and gay City College of San Francisco trustee Rafael Mandelman - the men are vying to finish the term of former supervisor Scott Wiener, a gay man who was elected to the state Senate last year.

"I think it's disgraceful what happened to the Apothecarium," Mandelman said, adding there was not a lot of difference between him and Sheehy on marijuana.

"When you vote for haters, you vote for hate," Sheehy said. "That outcome was unacceptable."

Mandelman said that he would have gotten the supervisors to approve the Sunset dispensary.

"I wouldn't have let them do it," he said, referring to the permit rejection.

In another matter Tuesday, Sheehy has asked several city agencies to investigate PJI's "role in impacting the discussions" at City Hall.

PJI, which has a long history of opposing LGBT rights, entered the San Francisco cannabis fray after the group appeared as an appellant on the Apothecarium project, although PJI never registered as a lobbyist.

"I would like to send a letter of inquiry to the Ethics Commission asking if the activity that PJI engaged in to influence the board counts as either direct lobbying activity or grassroots lobbying activity," Sheehy said.

He said he also wants "to send a letter of inquiry to the city attorney and district attorney asking them to similarly explore whether PJI has violated city laws."

Sheehy's resolution noted that during the recent session of the state Legislature, PJI strongly opposed Senate Bill 219 that protects LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities, including the contention that SB 219 would turn long-term care facilities into bordellos.

Cynthia Laird contributed reporting.

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