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California Launches $30 Million Cannabis Equity Fund

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Apr 22, 2020   
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Cannabis entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization will soon be able to apply for a new equity grant in California.

In an announcement on Tuesday, April 21, the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control and Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development explained that the $30 million fund will support equitable business development in local jurisdictions throughout California.

California social equity

This $30 million fund will be divided between California’s cities and counties. Among the cities, $6,576,705.76 has been allocated to the City of Oakland, $6,042,014.23 to the City of Los Angeles, and $4,995,000 to the City and County of San Francisco.

“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,” said Nicole Elliott, Governor Newsom’s senior advisor on cannabis, in a press statement.

Once a local jurisdiction classes an applicant as belonging to a community harmed by cannabis prohibition, they can be allocated a low/no-interest loan or grant.

Other aspects of the program include small business support services, reduced licensing fees, and assistance in recruiting and training a diverse workforce.

“These cannabis equity grants reflect California’s desire to lead our legalization efforts with equity and inclusivity,” Elliott said.

“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.”

Reparation of intent

Cannabis equity programs have been introduced in California before.

By the end of 2018, four cities in the state (Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco) had independently established their own programs to help reduce license fee payments and offer a route to the expungement of past cannabis-related offenses. The same year, the then Californian governor, Jerry Brown, also signed off on the California Cannabis Equity Act, which later allocated $10 million for equity applicants.

“If people of color with financial capital and high business acumen are having difficulty gaining licenses, one can only imagine the struggles individuals with zero capital and previous convictions are faced with,” the Cannabis Equity Act’s author, Sen. Steven Bradford, said when the act was passed.

“Although California isn’t the first state to legalize the adult use and sale of cannabis, we can be the first state to do it right – by including those who were once punished but can now contribute.”


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