In late August of last year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to their cannabis enforcement policy. While cannabis remains illegal federally, the Department of Justice is expecting individual states to create “strong, state-based enforcement efforts…. and will defer the right to challenge their legalization laws at this time,” reserving the right to challenge the states at any time if necessary.

While San Francisco has instituted strong operational restrictions at a local level, California has yet to adopt “strong, state-based enforcement efforts” to regulate the consumption, cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail of marijuana. The lack of a state-based regulatory framework could leave San Francisco’s existing 29 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) in the Fed’s crosshairs and at risk.

At the same time, in an attempt to address concerns that local restrictions are leading to an over concentration of MCDs in some neighborhoods and a lack of opportunity in others, San Francisco’s Planning Department is recommending a number of policy changes which would expand San Francisco’s “Green Zone” in which MCDs would be allowed to operate:

The Department identified three possible ways to expand the Green Zone and increase the number of available commercial spaces.

The first is to allow MCDs in zoning districts where they are not currently permitted, such as PDR, South of Market Districts and NC-1 Districts. The second is to reduce the Planning Code required buffer around schools from 1000’ to 600’ per State Law; and the third is to allow MCDs on the second floor in neighborhood commercial districts.

Doing all three of these actions together would expand the Green Zone approximately five times the current size, from 462 acres to 2373 acres.

In addition, the Planning Department is recommending an elimination of the existing 1,000-foot buffer around Recreational Facilities that cater to those under 18, as the Department has found that most Recreational Facilities in the City serve various age groups “making the distinction hard to make and difficult to map,” and the restriction “is rarely used to prohibit an MCD in a particular location.”

The Planning Department will present their recommendation for expanding San Francisco’s Green Zone along with a number of other MCD related findings and recommendations to the Planning Commission this week. Any changes would need to be approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by anon

    San Francisco is simply looking for more sales tax revenue by proposing expansion of cannabis dispensaries “Green Zones.”
    Is there any City resident who doesn’t know of a pot club in his neighborhood?

  2. Posted by Fishchum

    I don’t – Marina resident here. Know of anything in the ‘hood?

  3. Posted by suburbanoid

    Just for one example, according to the map Dogpatch currently has no dispensaries. It seems unlikely that is because there are no patrons in that area. It is really interesting how hard it is for people to take this issue seriously. Effectively replacing the bulk of the large black market for cannabis with dispensaries has greatly reduced related criminal activity. This is a big issue.

  4. Posted by CH

    “Is there any City resident who doesn’t know of a pot club in his neighborhood?”
    Look at the map. No dispensaries north of Geary. None in the Sunset. None in Mission Bay. None in Potrero. None in Dogpatch. None in Bayview.

  5. Posted by Jackson

    LOL. You guys definitely do not have your finger on the medicinal cannabis flow. Green Cross delivers to all SF neighborhoods and there are probably others.

  6. Posted by conifer

    “Look at the map. No dispensaries north of Geary.”
    I think that many people north of Geary who would like to keep it that way.

  7. Posted by Unwarrantedinlaw

    Why do they call it dope

  8. Posted by Steve

    OK – So maybe no one will want to reply to this online, but how easy is it to get a card? I admit, I’m not dying of cancer, but I do get wound up and would like to be able to take the edge off with a joint every once in a while without having to get something from a stranger on Haight St. or the Tenderloin.

  9. Posted by Fishchum

    Steve – It’s incredibly easy. Try Greenway 420, they were great. Just go there and claim “stress”, “anxiety” or “lack of sleep” and you’re in. I like going to a dispensary because I’m able to talk to knowledgeable people about the different strands and the different effects they’ll have.

  10. Posted by MorganDriver

    this whole “medical” dispensary concept is ridiculous. Jeezus — can we not admit that people want to get high? I hate pot but I love sauvignon blanc — what’s the difference?
    the dispensary near where I worked at Market and Valencia always had guys with pit bulls out front and “patients” pulling up in giant vehicles with their handicapped placards.
    so Steve — in answer to your question — I think you just go to your doctor and tell him you need a card.

  11. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    Our planning department is an embarrassing joke. The expansion area is exclusively poorer neighborhoods and lots of faux places like piers in the bay. This is stupid.

  12. Posted by conifer

    Planning may just be responding to what the neighbors want. People in Pacific Heights do not want pot clubs, and if Planning tried to force it on them, they would use their influence to stop it. The expansion area to Fillmore will never pass.
    Only the stupid and disingenuous imagine that pot is a medicine, any more than alcohol or LSD is.

  13. Posted by Fishchum

    Except, of course, for the endless number of studies proving marijuana does have a legitimate medical use.

  14. Posted by Dump it in SOMA

    Hey, don’t want that mental health clinic in your neighborhood, why just dump it in SOMA. Don’t want that SRO, dump it in SOMA. No drug or half way house in your hood, then SOMA….the dumping ground

  15. Posted by anon

    Legitimate medical use? I’m guessing that covers way less than 10% of users. The other 90%+ just want to get baked out of their minds. I don’t understand why that is so hard to admit. How many people would use it if it was just like taking a vitamin? Not too freaking many.

  16. Posted by moto mayhem

    I hardly protest anything, but if they tried to open a “medical” marijuana clinic, or more a drug den, in my neighborhood, i would use all my resources to stop it.
    I work in clinical research in neuroscience. there is no solid controlled data on the benefits of marijuana. I think it should be limited to end term or hospice patients, or cancer pts with extreme nausea. The low THC, high CBD marijuana is probably useful, but thats not what they are selling in these clinics. They are selling drugs that get people high. The vast majority of people who are going to these are people who dont have the courage or skills to deal with life and are going to these place to buy drugs to help them “check out” of life. San Francisco has finally been cleaning up, and expanding these would be a huge step backwards.
    dumpit in soma. agree that soma gets screwed in this way. if soma were allowed to be fully developed with new housing, the multitude of new residents would eventually want to get rid of this crap there too.

  17. Posted by EJ

    No link to the planning dept?

  18. Posted by conifer

    Fishchum, are you a Doctor of Medicine licensed to practice medicine and surgery by the State of California? Do you have a Ph.D. in pharmacology or biochemistry or or any biological science?
    If not, I suggest you consult with someone who does and who has the ability to evaluate the validity and reliability of your “endless number of studies.”

  19. Posted by Lori

    Getting a card is stupidly easy. My ex went to a local doc who was somehow associated with these dispensaries and told her that he was suffering from anxiety and depression. (Mind you, he had NO medical records proving that he was ever diagnosed.) The doctor took his blood pressure and he got his card. While I would never have an issue with someone with a legitimate need, in many cases these cards are nonsense. The doctor just basically gave a permission card to another addict. (Hence one of the reasons why he is an ex.)

  20. Posted by Boo

    @conifer – take one of whatever it is you take to relax and then chill out. There would be a lot more research on the effects of weed if it were not an illegal drug. And do some research of your own, there are plenty of people that have serious illnesses and use weed, even the kind that doesn’t get you high, who will tell you it improves their quality of life. If you can call them stupid to their face then you’re a
    @anon sure, maybe only 10% of people that buy it in the pot shops need it for medical reasons. But what percentage of the general population has a condition known to respond well to weed as a medicine? Probably not much more than that. Of course the image of sick people not getting their medicine was used to move folks towards legalization. The effort would have failed if it was just “hey, we want to get high”. But it’s worked and it’s better for society, IMHO, and it’s starting to be legalized in states for recreational use. It’s no different than any other campaign for change. Get the issue in the door with some marketing campaign and then it starts to spread once poeple realize it doesn’t bring the end of the world.
    The bigger point is there’s a ton of research that shows how all sorts of “legal” drugs mess you up. The drug companies did the research themselves. Check out the list of side effects on those commercials slinging prescription dope to the masses on TV. I don’t think you’ll ever find such a list of side effects with weed, even if the amount of reasearch increases, but it’s still illegal. You’ve even got legal drugs like Oxy becoming gateway drugs to illicit drugs like heroin. And you certainly will not find any study that shows weed is worse for you than booze. But that’s actually a low standard because booze ruins lives and kills 10’s of thousands every year. But it’s legal anyway and available at the grocery store. So what gives? Well, booze is mainly controlled by a few conglomerates while weed would be much more local. Therefore booze has many more lobbyists and a much better marketing team and lots more cash.
    Legalize weed for recreational use, let people enjoy it responsibly, let some folks use it for medicinal purposes, let people buy it near their homes, and many of the problems you associate with its use will be reduced, and we’ll all enjoy the tax revenue.

  21. Posted by conifer

    Note well the intelligent, sophisticated and educated reply I received from Boo. It makes it such a pleasure to follow this site.

  22. Posted by Jake

    The American Academy of Neurology released new guidelines yesterday on the use of medical marijuana to treat multiple sclerosis patients.
    LA Times story has link to the full AAN publication.
    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-treating-ms-with-cannabis-20140324,0,2596095.story
    “The reason there’s no evidence on inhaled cannabis is because it’s very difficult to study,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco and a marijuana researcher who was not involved in the guideline study. “The government really restricts studies of the plant.”

  23. Posted by conifer

    The recommendation is for TABLETS for patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
    I believe the number of people at San Francisco marijuana dispensaries who have multiple sclerosis is quite small, and the number seeking tablets is zero there.

  24. Posted by anon

    I recently had the chance to sit next to a long-time high level DEA manager at a big dinner. I asked what he thought about legalized weed and he said maybe it will help, maybe not. But that Mexican cartels are behind at least 50% of the dispensaries in California.

  25. Posted by Fishchum

    Damn, I knew SS leaned towards the right but chill the eft out, people (confer, Lori, moto).
    I’m not arguing that people who go to dispensaries are doing it for medical reasons – far from it. But it’s a safer, more responsible way to get some weed than buying it off the street.
    Unless you’re 100% straight edge, you need to come down off your soap box when it comes to passing judgement on people who smoke weed. Going to a dispensary is no different than going to a wine store and selecting a nice bottle of beaujolais. You go in, talk to someone who works there about what it is you’re looking for, make a purchase, go home and enjoy.
    I don’t lack the courage or skills to “deal with life”, I’m not “checking out” and I’m far from an addict. I’m a hard-working, responsible, tax paying adult. I don’t deserve to be vilified because I occasionally like to go home, smoke a bowl, order a pizza and watch reruns of Firefly. Who am I hurting?

  26. Posted by the wolf

    im with some other folks here. these owners are drug dealers and more of the customers are addicts than physically sick people

  27. Posted by @conifer

    @conifer – Explain how your statement “Only the stupid and disingenuous imagine that pot is a medicine, any more than alcohol or LSD is.” is intelligent, sophisticated, and educated. I think I must be missing something.
    @the wolf
    Thanks for the Captain Obvious comment. People who sell drugs are by definition drug dealers. Nice catch! Walmart, CVS, grocery stores… drug dealers all. The issue is legality. Medicinal weed is legal in this state and so are the pills they sell at pharmacies and grocery stores. So these drug dealers are following the law. And do you consider everyone that buys booze at a liquor store to be an addict? Do you feel like you’re surrounded by addicts while dining at a restaurant that serves alcohol? Do you judge those people as well? Do you look at the woman buying wine with the same disdain and you do the folks at a pot shop? If not, please explain why. I’d like to know how you justify that.
    Quit stigmatizing weed and those that use it. Operate off of what is known, not you’re own personal prejudices, and let law obiding citizens live their lives as they’re legally allowed to.

  28. Posted by the wolf

    no problem if there was some regulation of what medicinal purposes are? Marijuana has not been approved for medicinal purposes, so the only people prescribing it are charlatans. Its clear than 90% of people using medical marijuana are not using it for TRUE medicinal purposes.
    If weed was approved for recreational use, then i would like at it the same way as alcohol. but this law is being abused.
    I do think people smoke weed to check out of life. if people want to do that its fine. if people are getting drunk alone, i feel the same way about them. not all people drink alcohol to get drunk, but people smoke weed to get high

  29. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    There are plenty of non-chemical ways people “check out of life”. Immersive video games come to mind. Or just plain old TV and movie escapism.

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