- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the City by the Bay, it may soon be easier to get a pot-laced brownie than a can of Pepsi.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently intensified his surge against soda pop just as the city’s health department issued regulations to guide medical marijuana shops in how to prepare “edible cannabis products.”

Which prompts the question: Does Mr. Newsom believe that Sprite and Dr Pepper are more hazardous to your health than a marijuana milkshake? Certainly the mayor, who is running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor, has done little to dispel that perception with his single-minded assault on sugary beverages.

“San Francisco is a very unique environment,” said Bob Achermann, executive director of the California/Nevada Soft Drink Association, who is less than thrilled with the city’s soda assault. San Franciscans “are very progressive in their politics, very progressive in their lifestyle, and they push the envelope consistently.”

The mayor issued an executive order in April banning Fanta and its ilk from vending machines on city property. The order, now being implemented, also limits diet sodas to no more than 25 percent of the machine’s offerings.

The directive encourages “soy milk, rice milk and other similar dairy or non-dairy milk.” Juice is permitted as long as it is 100 percent fruit, and vegetable juice cannot include added sweeteners.

The mayor hasn’t issued an outright ban on sugary beverages yet, but the trend should be disturbing for all San Francisco-based Coke addicts. Mr. Newsom issued a June 21 proclamation declaring this a Soda Free Summer, the third such directive in as many years.

The mayor has also proposed a tax on retailers that sell carbonated sugary beverages in an effort to compel Coke-drinking consumers to think with their wallets.

“San Francisco has some of the best water in the world,” said Mr. Newsom in a statement. “Grab a reusable bottle and fill it up. You’re being good to your body, your pocketbook and the environment all at once.”

The anti-soda crusade comes as the latest in a series of nanny-state moves on the part of San Francisco lawmakers. In 2007, the city became the first in the nation to ban plastic shopping bags. Also that year, the mayor issued a directive barring the city from purchasing bottled water, saying the containers clog the city’s landfills.

Two years later, the San Francisco Chronicle spotted an almost-empty case of bottled water in back of the mayor’s hybrid SUV, prompting critics to point out that Mr. Newsom doesn’t always practice what he preaches.

These days, better that the mayor be caught with a marijuana ice-cream cone than a can of Mountain Dew.

The city has led the way in setting regulations for baked goods, candy and other edibles containing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Larry Kessler, senior environmental health inspector for the city health department, said the regulations were crafted during the spring after finding that the California and San Francisco medical marijuana laws failed to take into account pot-based munchies.

He said the department is now implementing and enforcing the two-page rules, which contain regulations on packaging, sanitation, and warning labels.

“We were looking for the edible portion of the ordinance, and found that there was none,” said Mr. Kessler. “We needed to find a way to allow this to happen while addressing some of the concerns.”

Such products include the standard marijuana brownies as well as ice cream, cookies, cakes, even olive oil. So far, the list doesn’t mention soda pop, which could present an interesting ethical and political dilemma for Mr. Newsom.

A call and e-mail to the mayor’s press office were not returned Wednesday.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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