Freshmen Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, whose district includes the Castro, Duboce Triangle, Dolores Park, and Noe Valley, has directed the city attorney to draft legislation to create a Department of Cannabis, a brand new city department with a full bureaucracy, to take charge of the local marijuana trade ahead of the full legalization of recreational pot next January. As he tells the Chronicle, "The goal is to create a single office to manage the onslaught that we are facing come Jan. 1," and in his mind this department is going to come with a director, staff, and an appointed commission, just like the Planning Department, and inspectors, just like the ABC (the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) or the Department of Building Inspection.
To clarify, though Prop 64 took effect last November when it comes to smoking, possessing, and growing small amounts of marijuana, full legalization of retail sales outside medical dispensaries doesn't begin until January 1, 2018.
But given how long medical marijuana has been bought and sold in this city, primarily regulated by the Planning Commission based on zoning, is it really going to be necessary to have a whole department to deal with this? Sheehy is expecting an onslaught of new retail businesses wanting to spring up, clearly, though he tells the Chron he doesn't expect we'll see a lot of cultivation (grow houses) springing up because property is too expensive. He's probably right to anticipate the need for inspections to keep people in compliance with the law but shouldn't the state be dealing with that like the ABC does?
Then the question becomes, if this legislation goes through, who's paying for this new Department of Legal Weed? He says it will get funded through permitting fees charged to pot businesses, which will come on top of the retail sales taxes they'll be paying out, business taxes, and whatever state licenses they'll be having to get.
At the state level, there's already been a Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, and there's a still-forming Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation even though the legislation that brought that into being predates Prop 64, and now seems like it needs to be just be a Bureau of Cannabis Regulation, forget the Medical. According to the state website, the bureau is "now accepting applications for [a] Cannabis Advisory Committee," and the bureau's framework won't come into being until next January, so perhaps Sheehy is right to assume that the city will have to fend for itself when it comes to regulating legal weed.
Any recommendations for who should be SF's first Pot Czar? Want to nominate yourself? Sheehy's office line is 415-554-6968. (To be clear, he has not said that he's currently looking for nominations.)