Speed Bumps on California’s Road to Marijuana Social Equity
In the state’s cannabis industry, some businesses are less equal than others.
The vibe was communal and optimistic at the large Victorian-style house south of downtown Los Angeles, where several dozen activists and stakeholders in L.A.’s cannabis equity program met last month to discuss what they want the program to be and how it can help those impacted by the war on drugs start their businesses. The setting was a monthly meeting of the Equity First Alliance, a national nonprofit fighting for racial equity in the cannabis industry. Women, men and some children sitting on chairs and standing in the living room could have turned the gathering into a gripe session about speed bumps that the city of Los Angeles has placed on the road to obtaining equity cannabis business licenses.
Cat Packer, executive director of L.A.’s Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR), which administers the commercial cannabis licensing and regulatory program established by the city, admitted that the city’s social-equity efforts have been slow to get off the ground.
“Right now Oakland is the standard for social equity,” Packer said. “We need to address the work left on the table with Prop. 64. We have to track where the money goes for this, both state and local. We need transparency about how it’s managed. And we need to make sure that LAPD isn’t using money for equity to start Drug War 2.0.”
In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults and provided amnesty for weed-related crimes. That proposition also called for “reducing barriers to entry into the legal, regulated market.” One way to knock down those barriers is through cannabis social-equity programs, which aim to help people who either lack the capital and experience to start a cannabis business or have been blocked from doing so due to past pot-crime convictions.
Published: July 22, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News