California Cannabis Equity Grants Program has provided $30 million in grant funding for certain cities and counties in California to meaningfully assist those people entering the cannabis market who lived in one of the state’s communities plagued by marijuana criminalization. Like several other states where cannabis is legal, California has taken the initiative to right past wrongs caused by its misguided criminalization of the drug.
California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), together with Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GO-Biz), allocated the majority of funding toward low-interest or no-interest loans for those applicants and licensees located in affected communities including Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Humboldt and Mendocino.
The remaining grant funds are for small business support services including recruitment, training, retention of qualified and diverse workforces, and planning for business solvency in unforeseen events. This is encouraging to those people who are looking to enter the cannabis market but do not have the backing or liquidity of a large corporation.
California may serve as a benchmark for other cannabis-legal states who want to create a fair and equitable pathway to the industry. “These Cannabis Equity Grants reflects California’s desire to lead our legalization efforts with equity and inclusivity,” said Nicole Elliott, a senior advisor to Governor Newsom. “We applaud these jurisdictions for not only embracing the challenge of creating pathways to participate in a legitimate cannabis marketplace, but for doing so in a thoughtful way that seeks to uplift all communities. It is our hope that these efforts lead to the creation of a truly diverse industry and that these programs serve as a blueprint for others who share in our commitment to address systemic discrimination and create real prosperity for all,” Elliot remarked.
California joins Oregon and Washington in their effort to repair past harms to communities which have been disproportionately affected by long-standing laws that criminalized marijuana possession. Leaders from affected communities have been vocal about the irony and hypocrisy of legalization and also the roll out of the programs themselves. They argue that the individuals who have been most affected by criminalization have been faced with restricted access to entering this newly created market. Initiatives like California Cannabis Equity Grants Program are designed to eliminate those barriers to the industry while representing reparations for members of communities who have been negatively affected by criminalization.
While the effectiveness of this initiative is unclear at this time, other states have seen limited success in luring members of affected communities into the cannabis marketplace. In fact, Seattle recently opened its first black-owned dispensary earlier this year after legalizing marijuana in 2016, only to later note that the owner was a minority shareholder. Proponents of California’s Cannabis Equity Grants Program insist that success won’t happen overnight as starting any business from the ground up may take several years.