S.F. Indefinitely Suspends Marijuana Dispensary Licensing

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Robin Wilkey/The Huffington Post

​In the latest iteration of their on-again, off-again approach to the issue, San Francisco city officials decided on Wednesday afternoon to indefinitely suspend the city’s medical marijuana dispensary licensing program, according to the Department of Public Health.

Permits had been on hold since last fall, after a state appeals court case halted similar permitting programs across California, reports Chris Roberts at SF Weekly. That case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and during the appeal, permits could resume being processed, a spokesman for the City Attorney told SF Weekly last week.

But that decision was reversed on Wednesday, and now all permits are on hold indefinitely until the city can “receive assurance that it is in compliance with state and federal law,” according to Jim Soos, spokesman with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The department made the decision to suspend all permitting in consultation with the City Attorney’s Office, which provides legal advice to all branches of city government, Soos said.
“We’re waiting for more clarity from the state on our ability to issue permits,” said Soos, adding the the Department of Justice’s recent closure of five permitted dispensaries was also a factor in the decision.
One year ago, San Francisco had 27 licensed dispensaries, with about a dozen more applying for permits. Since then, five permitted dispensaries have closed in the city after getting letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California. The letters threatened the dispensaries’ landlords with forfeiture of their property and up to 40 years in prison if the cannabis collectives didn’t close.
Sources inside the medical marijuana community are speculating that federal prosecutor Haag’s office may have threatened San Francisco city officials with a lawsuit, much like the threats made to Mendocino County over its permitting process. As a result, Mendo canceled its permitting process on Tuesday.
It seems that S.F. collectives won’t be able to rely on California Attorney General Kamala Harris — elected with support from the medical marijuana community — for advice on their ability to get permits. Harris said in a letter sent to lawmakers let year that the Legislature must “offer more clarity” on exactly what California’s medical marijuana laws do and do not allow.
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