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L.A. Cannabis Commission Laments Licensing Program, Vows to Make Improvements

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The executive director and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation addressed concerns and expressed her disappointment Thursday regarding the department’s specified cannabis retail license process, which is subject to an upcoming audit.

The Social Equity Program is open to people who are considered low-income and/or have a low-level criminal history related to cannabis and operate in a “dispensary-impacted area,” most of which are located in South Los Angeles and Hollywood.

But the process for dispersing those licenses has been controversial since it started to take shape. More than 800 applications were submitted online to the city for specific cannabis retail licenses in the program’s third and most recent phase in September, but only about 100 were available, leaving hundreds frustrated.

“I know there’s a contingency that wants us to process all the applications, but the department does not have the discretion to do that,” said Cat Packer, the executive director and general manager of the DCR, during a Cannabis Regulation Commission meeting.

Packer said on April 30, City Council amended ordinances to set limits on the number of SEP retail permits — 100 licenses for the first round, 150 for the second and 100 for the third, and she said the department does not have the legal grounds to grant more.

“What disappoints me most is we always knew there were only going to be 100 and yet we allowed 802 people to take financial risks,” Packer said. “I don’t think that was necessary.”

Packer also said the commission made recommendations to city council against a first-come, first-serve policy, which ultimately became the policy.

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Published: December 05, 2019

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