Report suggests that California’s cannabis social equity programs are underperforming

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A report published by the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) attacks seven jurisdictions for failing to successfully execute their social equity programs. 

The report, which was composed by the Diversity, Inclusion and Social Equity Committee of the CCIA, highlights a handful of underperforming programs. Moreover, the review provides recommendations for improvement.

“California’s cannabis social equity programming is not working as intended,” reads a section of the report, which claims that the programs are struggling to accomplish their desired goals.

The primary aim of social equity funding is to ensure that people who reside in communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and discriminatory law enforcement are included in the legal cannabis sector.

“(Social equity) grants are issued by the state with little accountability, while local programs stall and funds remain unallocated. Applicants are waiting years for local approval, yet paying thousands of dollars in rent for property that has yet to be utilized,” the report continued.

California’s social equity programs: What did the CCIA report entail?

Above all, the CCIA report highlights cities and counties that were first to bag state funding under the California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018.

This law granted millions of dollars worth of funding to cannabis social equity programs based in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, as well as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco.

A major takeaway from the report is that participants based in the aforementioned locations have struggled to operate their businesses, regardless of proper planning. The main reason for this, say CCIA officials, is due to “a lack of support in times of need.”

In addition to this, the report states that cannabis business owners in underprivileged communities “were left without support when the city’s sometimes ill-conceived programs made it impossible for them to begin operating before they ran out of capital.”

California’s social equity programs: Lawmakers are being encouraged to boost program efficiency

According to the CCIA report, there are numerous ways in which the efficiency of future programs can be amplified.

State lawmakers are advised to do the following as a way of enhancing California’s social equity programs:

  • Establish a new regulatory committee of social equity community members and operators to ensure the correct utilization of funds;
  • Boost state funding for an increased chance of program success;
  • Redefine “social equity” under state law so as to banish uncertainty among different jurisdictions;
  • Increase financial backing for social equity participants; e.g. assist with business startup fees, tax relief and license-fee deferrals.

In related news, the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) announced on Friday, October 1 that it is launching the application phase for a Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program. In total, $100 million will be distributed among 17 cities and counties in which the number of provisional cannabis licenses vs. full-year licenses is unequal.