San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis Takes New Action to Keep Permit Applications Moving Forward Amidst COVID-19

On June 3, 2020, the San Francisco Office of Cannabis announced that it is adopting a temporary regulation to require applicants for Cannabis Business Permits to conduct required Community Outreach Meetings via virtual platforms. Specifically, applicants holding Community Outreach Meetings between June 3, 2020 and September 30, 2020 will be required to hold “Virtual Community Meetings” rather than in-person meetings in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The temporary community outreach regulation has a flexible end date that can be extended at the direction of the Office of Cannabis Director. 

1609(B)(24) Virtual Community Outreach and Neighborhood Notice

The temporary regulation language can be located in Article 16 of the Police Code. Specifically, Section 1609(B)(24), which is now entitled “Virtual Community Outreach and Neighborhood Notice – Temporary Regulation”, details the new rules and regulations that apply to required Community Outreach Meetings. The Office of Cannabis also posted Section 1609(b)(24) to its website, which can be accessed here

So, what does this mean for those actively going through the Cannabis Business Permit application process that need to conduct Community Outreach Meetings within the next few months? It’s actually quite simple. Rather than holding an in-person Community Outreach Meeting as previously required by Article 16 of the Police Code, applicants must hold a Virtual Community Meeting. 

Requirements for The Virtual Community Meeting and the Notice to Neighbors

Weeknight meetings must occur between the hours of 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, while weekend meetings must occur between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm. Prior to holding a Virtual Community Meeting, applicants need to submit a proposed Community Outreach Strategy to the San Francisco Office of Cannabis for review and approval. This is where applicants will tell the Office of Cannabis, among other things, what platform it intends to use for its Virtual Community Meeting, how participants will log into the meeting, how participants can submit comments or ask questions, the proposed date and time of the Virtual Community Meeting, etc. 

After an applicant’s Community Outreach Strategy is approved by the San Francisco Office of Cannabis (and the Office of Cannabis has given the applicant approval to move forward with its Virtual Community Meeting), the applicant must provide notice to Neighbors (defined as “property owners and tenants within 300 feet of the proposed Cannabis Business Permit premises”) at least seven (7) calendar days before the proposed Virtual Community Meeting. All meeting material and notices must be translated into the following languages: English, Spanish, Tagalog, and traditional Chinese. Additionally, the notice must contain the following information:

  1. The date and time of the Virtual Community Meeting.
  2. Detailed instructions for accessing the Virtual Community Meeting, including a means of accessing the Virtual Community Meeting by phone, through a smartphone application, and from a web browser.
  3. Information about how Neighbors can make comments and ask questions during the meeting.
  4. Alternative ways Neighbors may provide input if a Neighbor is unable to attend the Applicant’s Virtual Community Meeting. This must include a method for neighbors to convey input in writing to the Applicant in advance of the Virtual Community Meeting. The Applicant shall read and respond to all questions and comments submitted in advance of the Virtual Community Meeting during the meeting.
  5. The name, phone number, and email address of the community relations staff person who may be contacted by Neighbors.

Once the Virtual Community Meeting date, time, and access information is confirmed, it must be shared with the Office of Cannabis and the office of the district Supervisor at least 72 hours prior to the start of the meeting. 

Selecting a Digital Platform to Host the Virtual Community Meeting

When it comes to conducting the Virtual Community Meeting, applicants must ensure that the digital platform used to host the meeting does the following: 

  1. Provides options for video and audio access through a mobile phone application or web browser and an option to call into the meeting from a telephone extension;
  2. Provides an option that allows Neighbors to indicate to the host that they would like to make a comment or ask a question;
  3. Has screen sharing and chat functions;
  4. Provides a visual roster of attendees;
  5. Allows a Host/Co-Host to be assigned to oversee the meeting; and
  6. Allows the Host/Co-Host to mute and unmute participants.

Additionally, the Applicant should take all necessary steps to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and, with the exception of holding an-in person meeting, the Applicant shall comply with all other Good Neighbor Policy Requirements. If you have any questions about how to hold a Virtual Community Meeting or how to submit an appropriate Community Outreach Strategy proposal to the Office of Cannabis for your San Francisco Cannabis Business Permits, please contact the cannabis industry permitting and licensing attorneys at Rogoway Law Group or give us a call at 415-432-7990 to schedule a consultation.

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