Pot-loving San Franciscans can breathe easy again, now that the city council has officially voted against banning cannabis use in apartments.
Last month, a committee of the city's Board of Supervisors advanced a bill to ban smoking and vaping inside private apartments. As proposed, the bill would have prevented any apartment tenant from smoking or vaping pot or tobacco anywhere within their homes, even on a patio or private balcony. Anyone caught puffing in their apartment would receive warnings from the city, and if they failed to heed them, could get hit with a $1,000 fine.
City Supervisor Norman Yee proposed the ordinance to protect non-smoking tenants from secondhand smoke drifting in from neighboring apartments. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand tobacco smoke accounts for 41,000 deaths per year in the US. Recent studies have found no link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer, though, and researchers have not identified any risks related to secondhand exposure to passive vapor from vaping devices.
The proposal drew criticism from cannabis activists, who argued that the ban would prevent many city residents from smoking pot at all. Cannabis use is legal in California, but smoking weed in public is not. It is also illegal to spark up in business establishments, with the exception of a handful of public pot lounges that have been closed since the pandemic started. Critics of the proposal also argued that the ban discriminates against lower-income residents, as it would prevent tenants from smoking weed while allowing wealthy home or condo owners to do the same.
Faced with these concerns, city Supervisor Rafael Mandelman added an amendment to the ordinance to specifically exclude cannabis from the ban. “Unlike tobacco smokers who could still leave their apartments to step out to the curb or smoke in other permitted outdoor smoking areas, cannabis users would have no such legal alternatives,” Mandelman said during the meeting, according to USA Today.
Fortunately, the majority of board members recognized the validity of Mandelman's argument. The board voted 10-1 to pass the smoking ban, and 8-3 to pass the cannabis exemption amendment. The board must vote on the issue a second time in order to pass it, but this second vote is largely a formality and is not expected to change the outcome of the vote.
Mayor London Breed must still sign the ordinance before it can take effect. If she does, San Francisco will become the 64th California locality to ban smoking in apartments. The City by the Bay also banned the sale of Juuls and other e-cigarettes last year, but still allows cannabis vapes to be sold.