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Mayor Breed and City Administrator Chu announce appointment of Nikesh Patel to lead Office of Cannabis

Patel brings seasoned legal and drug policy experience and commitment to social equity

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu today announced the appointment of Nikesh Patel to serve as the Director of the Office of Cannabis (OOC). Patel, who replaces former Director Marisa Rodriguez, will oversee the regulatory and permitting processes for cannabis businesses, focusing on improving equity for individuals negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Oversight for OOC and previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

“I am excited to have Nikesh Patel serve as the new Director of the Office of Cannabis to help build on the important work that this office has advanced over the past few years,” said Mayor Breed. “His long and dedicated career working to reform the criminal justice system and advance equitable policies, specifically for individuals with marijuana-related records, will serve our City and this office well.”

“Nikesh is clear in his commitment to advance social equity and understands why it is important to focus on the nuts and bolts of how to support cannabis businesses in this city,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “We want all businesses in this city to have the opportunity to succeed and to contribute to the community–a strong Office of Cannabis helps us to achieve this vision.”

Nikesh Patel joined OOC in 2019. During his tenure, he steered the San Francisco Cannabis Oversight Committee, a 16-member public advisory body that issues recommendations relating to cannabis to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. While working as an Assistant District Attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, he helped enact then-District Attorney George Gascón’s vision to proactively expunge more than 9,000 marijuana-related convictions eligible for dismissal under Proposition 64.

“I want to thank Mayor Breed and City Administrator Chu for this opportunity,” said Nikesh Patel. “To be the next Director of the Office of Cannabis is both an honor and a privilege. The regulated cannabis industry continues to face obstacles as it seeks to mature. Fortunately, San Francisco continues to be on the vanguard of social equity and commercial cannabis. Building upon the foundation laid by my predecessors, I am eager to ground our efforts in community, grow business and workforce opportunities, and solidify San Francisco’s storied cannabis industry.”

“Nikesh has demonstrated his support of the Cannabis Oversight Committee and our industry from day one,” said Ali Jamalian, Chair of the San Francisco Cannabis Oversight Committee. “Nikesh already has a reputation for listening to and being responsive to our work and industry needs. In short, he and the OOC have been instrumental in ensuring that the Oversight Committee continues to be a meaningful space for the cannabis community and industry and our City partners to meet, collaborate, and build together. We support him being named the next Director of the OOC.”

Born in San Francisco, Patel was raised in a single-room-occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin managed by his parents. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University, an M.S. in Migration Policy from Oxford University, and a J.D. from the Berkeley School of Law.

About the Office of Cannabis

The Office of Cannabis was created in 2017 to oversee the process of approving cannabis permits and create a central point of contact for questions and complaints. In addition to overseeing cannabis permitting and regulations, OOC works to reduce barriers to cannabis licensing and increase workforce opportunities for individuals who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. Through its Equity Program, OOC has issued 41 cannabis business permits to equity applicants since 2018, and additionally approved over $5 million in grants to over 50 social equity cannabis businesses since 2021. OOC has also provided application fee waivers to equity applicants and partnered with service providers to secure free business services, including nearly 300 hours of free legal services to date.

Recent legislation introduced by Mayor Breed and approved last Fall by the Board of Supervisors further strengthened OOC’s Equity Program by prioritizing equity applicants who are sole proprietors for permit processing and establishing additional supports. For more on the legislation, please visit here.