San Francisco will temporarily halt approvals of new cannabis dispensaries just months before the sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal in California, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

The ordinance imposing a 45-day moratorium on the industry, which passed 9-2, prompted fierce debate after Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced it in July. It drew criticism from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, whose members feared it would choke off the city’s nascent pot trade, the jobs it could create and the tax revenue it would produce.

State Sen. Scott Wiener also blasted the measure, saying it sends a terrible message to the rest of the state.

But Cohen said her ordinance would give the city time to come up with new policies to promote racial diversity among cannabis entrepreneurs and ensure that dispensaries are spread evenly among San Francisco neighborhoods.

“Let me make very clear that I’m not an anti-cannabis person,” she said.

The moratorium could start as early as Sept. 22. The sale of recreational marijuana will become legal on Jan. 1.

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Jeff Sheehy dissented. Sheehy, who is HIV positive and uses medical cannabis, said he feared the measure would hurt businesses that provide an important health service.

San Francisco has 35 medical cannabis dispensaries and 11 dispensary permit applications awaiting approval from the Planning Commission. Four of those applicants have hearings scheduled in October and would be exempt from the moratorium.



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