UPDATE December 1, 2020 – After San Francisco residents and activists mobilized, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to approve an ordinance that bans tobacco smoking but allows cannabis smoking inside multi-unit apartment buildings in the city. The amendment to remove cannabis smoking and vaping from the ban passed by an 8-3 vote, with Supervisors Mar, Safai and Yee opposing.
San Francisco is now the largest city in the country to ban tobacco smoking in apartment buildings, and to specifically allow cannabis smoking. West Hollywood took a similar step this year.
Thanks to our SF supporters who took action following Cal NORML’s alerts prior to the meetings.
“For over forty years, San Francisco has been a beacon of tolerance for marijuana users,” California NORML director Dale Gieringer told the Board of Supervisors. “To trash this tradition now is an insult to countless long-term marijuana-using renters who can’t afford their own homes.”
The proposed ordinance would constitute a de facto ban on cannabis use for most San Francisco residents. Unlike tobacco, which can be smoked outside on public streets, cannabis consumption is illegal in all public places under state law. The proposal would thus leave apartment dwellers with no legal place to enjoy marijuana, except in a handful of licensed on-site dispensaries, which are closed due to COVID.
Cal NORML rejected a proposal by the bill’s sponsor, outgoing Sup. Norman Yee, to exempt medical cannabis patients with a state ID card. “Obtaining a doctor’s recommendation is costly and inconvenient, especially during the COVID crisis; likewise obtaining an official state medical cannabis ID card. Private, adult use of cannabis is no more dangerous to public health than medical use.”
In a letter to the city, Cal NORML cited scientific evidence showing that cannabis does not present the same kind of secondhand smoke hazard as tobacco. Not a single human study has found second-hand cannabis smoke or vaping to be harmful to health. Unlike tobacco, first-hand cannabis smoking has been shown not to cause lung cancer or cardiovascular disease. Second-hand exposure from neighboring apartments is all the less likely to be harmful. Vaporizers are safer yet, since they eliminate some 95% to 99+% of smoke toxins. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, cannabis smoke does not leave behind prolonged, residual “third-hand” odors in the room.
Cal NORML has charged the California Dept. of Public Health, funded by the state’s tobacco tax, of scaring the public with junk science studies alleging traces of toxins in marijuana smoke, without mentioning that the amounts are so small as to have no impact on human health. In general, cannabis users tend to smoke much smaller quantities than tobacco smokers. In addition, cannabis smoke does not leave behind prolonged, residual “third-hand” odors like nicotine.
“San Francisco’s proposed ordinance inordinately impacts lower-income and minority residents who can’t afford their own homes,” says Gieringer. “Evicting tenants for smoking marijuana will hardly improve the city’s homelessness crisis. The city is large enough to provide odor-free apartments for those who are smoke-intolerant, while allowing freedom for others to enjoy marijuana in different units.”
The city of West Hollywood recently rejected a similar proposal to ban cannabis smoking in multi-unit dwellings. California NORML is urging supporters to tell San Francisco to respect its tradition of tolerance and say no to cannabis prohibition.
Residents of San Francisco can contact their supervisors via this Cal NORML Action Alert.