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420-Friendly? San Francisco Struggles to Finalize Rules for Legal Weed

City officials are close to reaching a temporary agreement, but some residents don't want pot sold in their neighborhoods.

San Francisco city officials are close to reaching a temporary agreement that would allow the city's residents to purchase legal weed on January 1st, but some locals are still fighting to keep retail pot shops out of their neighborhoods. California residents voted to legalize adult use of cannabis starting at the top of next year, but many of the state's municipalities have been struggling to get their regulations in order by this deadline.

In September, San Francisco officials announced that they wouldn't make the deadline, deciding instead to delay the licensing of retail establishments until new regulations are in place that would ensure equal opportunity for low-income entrepreneurs. The decision left the city's traditionally pot-friendly inhabitants wondering where and when they could enjoy the newly-legal herb, but the city may have finally reached a compromise.

"We may have a pathway to an agreement," city Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the SF Chronicle. The proposal would allow the city's 46 existing medical cannabis dispensaries to sell cannabis to any adult until the formal retail licensing system is in place. "Then we can hash out the details for how to go forward from there," Peskin said. The compromise "would be a great thing — at least we would get something to happen," Supervisor Jeff Sheehy said.

Sheehy has recommended that retail cannabis stores are kept 600 feet away from schools, the same distance required for liquor or tobacco stores. Medical cannabis dispensaries are required to be 1,000 feet away from schools or recreation centers that serve minors. These regulations do not go far enough for some of the city's residents, however. In SF's Chinatown, several Chinese-American organizations are pushing the city to keep retail stores 1,500 feet away from schools and other places where children gather.

Cannabis advocates have argued against these buffer zones, arguing that the city is so small that there will be little room for legal retail establishments. "When you put it all together, it means cannabis businesses will be prohibited in almost every part of San Francisco," state Senator Scott Weiner said regarding the buffer zones.

Peskin, however, is confident that the Board of Supervisors will come up with an agreement that will please the majority of the city's residents. "We're not just legislators," he told the SF Gate. "We are group therapists for 850,000 people and understanding what their concerns are, whether we agree or disagree, and addressing them respectfully is very important in the legislative process."

San Francisco's struggles with retail cannabis licensing mirror issues faced by many California towns and cities as the deadline for legalization grows near. In Los Angeles, new regulations have left the cannabis industry concerned that both new and existing businesses will face long delays before they can receive their licenses. Earlier this year, Oakland legislators passed regulations to provide equal opportunity to minorities in the city. These regulations require owners of Oakland canna-businesses to actually reside in Oakland, which will force some existing businesses owned by non-residents to move their businesses elsewhere.

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