As a businessman, Karim Webb won acclaim for opening a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in a stretch of South Los Angeles that other investors had avoided, bringing new jobs to the area.
He has been honored by Black Enterprise magazine, tapped to serve on charitable boards, and praised effusively by L.A. leaders. When he was chosen as a city airport commissioner, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson declared “there is no more stand-up citizen of our city.”
Now Webb has turned his focus to the contentious world of cannabis — and abruptly become the target of envy and suspicion as marijuana entrepreneurs compete for a limited number of L.A. licenses.
The reason: In the latest round of city approval, nearly a dozen of the applicants that have advanced past an initial step in the marijuana licensing process are partnering with his new company.
That number surprised some cannabis entrepreneurs, who have questioned how applicants assisted by his firm had secured so many coveted spots in the first-come, first-serve process to open new marijuana shops.
“It’s hard to swallow,” said Donnie Anderson, a founder of the California Minority Alliance, who said last week that none of the dozens of applicants his group worked with had fared as well. “We want to know how that happened.”
Webb, for his part, said he’s upset that applicants who partnered with his company didn’t do even better, saying that there were 32 worthy candidates his company helped apply in this round of licensing. The more of their applicants who succeed, company officials said, the more people they can ultimately assist getting a foothold in cannabis and — eventually — other industries.
“This has never been about cannabis to me,” Webb said. “To me, this is about people, specifically the descendants of slaves, having the opportunity to live equitably in our country — to thrive.”
American economic equality — assists candidates who qualify for L.A.’s social equity program, an initiative meant to benefit people from communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.
Anyone who applied for an L.A. marijuana license in the latest round had to qualify for the social equity program, but so far, the city has not provided all of the training that such applicants are supposed to receive under the program.
Published: December 04, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News