San Francisco has been stirring the pot with cannabis enthusiasts for a while now, as threats of a smoking ban in apartments loomed over consumers who worried they wouldn’t have a place to smoke. Now, the state has made a bold move, banning tobacco but exempting cannabis inside apartments. 

The ban, which was passed 10-to-one, was made to keep secondhand smoke out of buildings in which smoke could potentially impact other residents. They deemed that three or more units in a building should be tobacco-smoke free. 

“The problem is, smoke easily moves between units and there is no way to contain it,” said Board President Norman Yee, who backed the proposal. 

However, the board was not able to get enough votes to ban cannabis smoke, and a special amendment was passed that exempted cannabis smoke from the new ban. 

While many were surprised by this, as myths about contact highs in the past have made neighbors and family members needlessly worry about cannabis use in homes, any complaints were overruled because of the fact that it is much easier to find alternate places to smoke tobacco than to smoke cannabis. It’s still legal to go out on the street to smoke tobacco, but not to smoke cannabis. Any legal cannabis smoking clubs are closed currently because of COVID, so there is literally nowhere legal to go. 

“Tobacco smokers unable to smoke in their apartment building can go out to the curb or find other public space,” Mandelman said. “There are other public spaces where they are allowed to smoke. Cannabis smokers don’t have that alternative and so I think it is important that we fully exempt cannabis from this legislation.”

Criticism of the Measure

However, not everyone was happy about the exemption. Some felt that, while acceptable in medical cases, cannabis, for the most part, should not be exempt because of worries about second-hand smoke. 

“There are still health risks in exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke,” claimed Yeel, who added that cannabis smoke could be “harmful for young kids and people that have [respiratory] issues.”

Another detractor, Dean Preston, a board supervisor, was the one “no” vote for the smoking ban in general. He claimed that the board needs to hear from more tenant groups and was concerned about smokers who signed leases before the ban was put into place. He felt there needed to be more time to work the new rule into legal agreements. Aside from Preston, everyone else was in agreement that tobacco smoke in San Francisco apartments needs to go. 

Those who do smoke in their apartments after the ban goes into effect could pay as much as $1,000 a day for days they smoked. However, eviction laws still protect tenants from getting kicked out by landlords if they smoke. 

After one final vote on the proposal next week, the tobacco ban in apartments will officially become city law, and it will still allow cannabis smoking on apartment premises. This is a major blow to tobacco smokers, but more proof that the cannabis industry continues to gain acceptance in major California cities.

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