Is San Francisco's Dispensary Zoning Unfair?


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The vast majority of San Francisco is off-limits to medical cannabis dispensaries, but that may change, San Francisco Examiner reports today. Supervisor John Avalos wants to revisit the city's 2005 dispensary rules, after the planning department permitted three clubs to open in the Excelsior District - including two on the same block. Dispensaries cluster because more than 90 percent of the city is off-limits to clubs, advocates note.

Blue areas represent locations where a medical cannabis dispensary may be permitted
  • F Planning Dept.
  • Blue areas represent locations where a medical cannabis dispensary may be permitted

According to the Examiner: “Avalos introduced legislation last week that would require the Planning Commission to review the 2005 medical marijuana law and provide recommendations for changes to the Board of Supervisors by Jan. 1. The review would include analysis of 'impacts on the public health, safety and welfare of expanding the areas' where dispensaries can open and the impact of existing rules on patient access.

“Avalos said the flawed 2005 law has led to unfair zoning.”

“'They should be situated throughout The City, not just in certain neighborhoods,' he said.”

There are more than twenty licensed dispensaries in San Francisco. US Attorney Melinda Haag has tried to close about eight of them since 2011. Most dispensaries are in SOMA and the Mission. Avalos can expect vociferous opposition from groups representing wealthier neighborhoods like the Sunset, North Beach, and Nob Hill. Plenty of San Francisco liberals support dispensaries, just not in their district. Oakland similarly restricts dispensaries to a tiny fraction of its neighborhoods.

Medical marijuana critics have long charged that city officials deliberately place cannabis dispensaries in poorer neighborhoods instead of richer ones.