Late yesterday, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill 1294, the California Cannabis Equity Act, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). This groundbreaking bill, aimed at reversing some of the damaging impacts cannabis prohibition has had on individuals from disadvantaged communities, is the first social equity cannabis measure in the Unites States.
“The signing of SB 1294 recognizes the failed efforts of the war on drugs, but more importantly, it highlights the disproportionate devastation cannabis criminalization has had on communities, and helps address the harms by reducing barriers to licensure and increasing opportunities for employment” said Senator Bradford. “This bill will aid in the development of a safer and healthier cannabis industry that benefits all Californians.”
SB 1294 authorizes local jurisdictions, who have established their own cannabis equity programs, to apply for funding from a $10 million appropriation that was approved in this year’s state budget. The funding from these grants will be used for business loans, capital improvements, regulatory compliance, licensing fee waivers, technical assistance and administration to support the development of local equity programs and their participants applying for cannabis permits and licenses. Equity applicants include those living in underserved communities and those who have been negatively impacted by decades of harsh drug policies.
“The California Cannabis Equity Act is an important step toward creating an equitable cannabis industry in California,” said Rodney Holcombe, Office of Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance, who sponsored SB 1294. “As we know, access to capital and technical assistance are crucial for anyone wanting to create a business in this space. Unfortunately, persons most harmed by cannabis prohibition and generational poverty often lack the support needed to be successful.”
Since the passage of Proposition 64, four cities – Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and now Sacramento – have established local equity programs for their respective cannabis licensing and permitting processes. These four cities are in the best position to apply and be awarded funding, however other local jurisdictions across the state have also expressed interest due to the economic, social, public safety, and health benefits of encouraging and supporting more businesses to operate lawfully under a regulated framework.
“The City of Los Angeles created its social equity program to bring relief and new opportunities to communities of color that suffered through decades of disproportionate enforcement and punishment for non-violent cannabis offenses,” said Cat Packer, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation. “This legislation will help clear the way for more equitable ownership and employment opportunities for people who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs and want to establish legitimate cannabis businesses in California.”
“Ultimately, the California Cannabis Equity Act provides local governments critical funding to help ensure California’s cannabis industry is fair, inclusive and diverse,” continued Senator Bradford. “I look forward to continuing my work on the state and local level to have an industry which reflects our state’s diversity and provides opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds to thrive.”