Report: California’s marijuana social equity programs not meeting goals

A report issued by the California Cannabis Industry Association took a hard look at seven jurisdictions that have social equity programs and found them lacking.

“California’s cannabis social equity programming is not working as intended,” concludes the report, which lambasted the programs for falling far short of their intended goals.

The report was written by the Diversity, Inclusion and Social Equity Committee of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA).

“(Social equity) grants are issued by the state with little accountability, while local programs stall and funds remain unallocated,” the report noted.

“Applicants are waiting years for local approval, yet paying thousands of dollars in rent for property that has yet to be utilized.”

The CCIA report focused on cities and counties that were among the first to receive state funding under a 2018 law, the California Cannabis Equity Act, which provided millions of dollars in grants to Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco as well as Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

The report found that, despite well-intentioned plans, the participants in most of those social equity programs had been underserved and unable to get their businesses operational.

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Many participants in social equity programs, the CCIA found, “experienced a lack of support in times of need and 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.”

The CCIA report offered several recommendations to state lawmakers who might want to improve the programs’ efficacy, including:

  • Create a new oversight committee of equity operators and community members to ensure state funds are utilized appropriately.
  • Adopt a new definition of “social equity” in state law to avoid confusion among various jurisdictions.
  • Bolster financial assistance for social equity participants, including license-fee deferrals, tax relief and help with startup costs.
  • Increase state funding to ensure the programs are successful.