BY ED MURRIETA
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s Cannabis State Legalization Task Force was formed in January to prepare the city for cannabis legalization. Today, one day after California voted to legalize cannabis use by adults, the task force delivered preliminary recommendations urging the city to swiftly license cannabis businesses beginning in 2018.
“Prop. 64 creates a very specific state licensing scheme from seed to sale,” said Terrance Alan, chairman of the 22-member task force. “The response needs to be local and focus on how well local jurisdictions implement those license types.”
Alan said the task force is focused on land use, public safety and tourism. Business types include cannabis farms, processing and manufacturing facilities, testing labs, kitchens and cafes.
“We’re looking at where these types of businesses should go in a city as dense and complex as San Francisco,” Alan said. “We recommend that cannabis businesses be located in corollary areas already outlined by planning for similar product development of business types that don’t use cannabis.”
For example, a cannabis testing lab and its highly-skilled workforce would fit perfectly in Mission Bay, the newly redeveloped neighborhood south of AT&T Park that’s dominated by UC San Francisco medical facilities.
Envision an edibles bakery green-lighted in the old Parisian bakery south of Bayshore.
“Baking is still the same underlying facility,” Alan said. “There may be some additional business practices or licenses that the city will want to do with regards to security, etc., but as far as the underlying land use, we’ll be making recommendations that follow that kind of logical pattern.”
For businesses like retail cannabis shops and cafes where adults can consume cannabis, Alan said, “It’s quite a bit more complicated.”
“When you consider retail and public use, then you bring in youth access and exposure and public safety,” Alan said. “We’ll be issuing separate recommendations on those issues.”
Alan said tourism presents great opportunities and challenges.
“There are those people who want to embrace cannabis tourism and those who want to make sure that cannabis tourism is not shoved in everyone’s face getting off the airplane,” Alan said. “How do we move forward? It’s through education and sensitivity.”
Alan recently presented his vision for cannabis tourism to the California Travel Association.
“There is already cannabis tourism,” Alan said. “There are dinners in private homes that serve very high-end cannabis dining experiences. There are already medical cannabis retreats. Many of the things that could make up a cannabis tourist milieu are already happening but it’s just slightly undercover.”
How can San Francisco’s Cannabis State Legalization Task Force pull back those covers?
“How are we going to struggle with some of the restrictions built into Prop. 64 such as the inability of restaurants that serve wine to serve cannabis cuisine?” Alan said. “It may be that we have go to Sacramento and talk to them about that because that prohibition may not make sense in a fine-dining experience.”
Alan is no newbie to such matters. He used to be chairman of the city’s powerful Entertainment and Nightlife Commission. He owns a Tenderloin building that’s operated as a sex club since the 1950s.
“It’s been interesting to find out how much overlap there actually is here,” Alan said. “I haven’t been involved in the cannabis industry but it certainly creates the same public discourse that nightlife created when you talk about impacts on neighborhoods, people’s concerns and what they believe the industry does in contrast to what actually happens.”
Task force members are drawn from government agencies, the cannabis industry and neighborhood associations. In December, the task force will present its final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee, who today released a directive calling for a prompt city response to regulating medical and recreational cannabis.
“As long as we in the industry are being respectful and we as recommenders of regulations are not pushing an agenda and we are representing the spectrum of public opinion, then it’s our job not just to be on the conservative side but also to open up the possibilities and prepare the city for what is going to happen anyhow,” Alan said. “We might has well have that conversation right now.”