Diamond Gomez, employee, works behind the counter at Haven Cannabis Dispensary in the Belmont Heights neighborhood in Long Beach Friday, February 19, 2021.Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.
Opening a retail cannabis storefront can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that was before all the retail business licenses were claimed in Long Beach, but on Tuesday the City Council will consider adding additional dispensaries for lower-income owners.
Councilman Al Austin is asking the council to add up to eight new storefronts to the city’s roster which already has 32 retail dispensaries that were approved as part of a ballot measure in November 2016.
The spots would be set aside for applicants who qualify under the city’s cannabis equity program who have at least 51% ownership in the business.
Austin said that these applicants are being left out of the most significant revenue source in the industry; retail storefronts.
Last year cannabis tax revenue generated nearly $6.5 million over what city budget officials projected. However, nearly all of that money was generated by non-equity business owners.
“This is an issue that is long overdue,” Austin said. “If we’re not giving this direction now, then when?”
Austin said he wants city staff to explore the best possibilities for ensuring that equity applicants can get into ownership positions. The request for more storefronts comes after a bitter decade full of cannabis dispensary raids, marathon public meetings and a historic vote by Long Beach to legalize cannabis in the city.
“Certainly our viewpoints as a city and community on cannabis have shifted,” Austin said, referring to the city’s past abolitionist stance on cannabis. “Clearly it is a profitable industry.”
The council approved a cannabis equity program in July 2018 that sought to create more opportunities and diversity in the industry by promoting equity ownership and employees.
The city defined “equity” applicants as people with net worth of less than $250,000, a family income less than 80% of the area median income—$77,300 for a family of four in Los Angeles County—and meeting one of three markers including having past criminal convictions for cannabis or being an unemployed Long Beach resident.
Published: March 10, 2021
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