Supervisors green light grant for cannabis social equity

In the event the state’s Office of Business and Economic Development approves the County of San Diego’s application for a Cannabis Equity Act grant the county’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice is now authorized to accept it.

A 4-1 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote May 5, with Jim Desmond opposed, authorized the OERJ director or designee to conduct all negotiations, submit all necessary documents, and execute grant agreements for the proposed $75,000 grant. The county will use the grant funding to help pay for a study to review and analyze local historical rates of arrests and convictions for cannabis law violations, identify the impacts that the ban on cannabis has had on local communities, and determine how the population has negatively been impacted by the “War on Drugs”.

A 4-1 Board of Supervisors vote January 27, with Desmond opposed, directed the development of a more lenient ordinance for the zoning of marijuana cultivation and sales in unincorporated San Diego County. The supervisors’ action also called for creation of a “social equity” program which gives individuals with past cannabis arrests and those in “disproportionately impacted areas” greater opportunities to secure an operating permit and directed county staff to seek grant funding to implement the social equity program. A March 3 Board of Supervisors action directed OERJ to lead the development of the framework and strategy needed to implement a social equity program for the new ordinance, including grant funding options, and to coordinate the social equity program with the land use permitting system which will be developed by the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services.

The November 2016 election included the passage of Proposition 64 which legalized recreational marijuana in California. That measure calls for regulating cannabis in a way which reduces barriers to entry into the legal and regulated market. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Office of Business and Economic Development entered into an interagency agreement to administer the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for local jurisdictions.

“I’m glad we will be able to receive these resources,” said Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher.

The county will also use the grant funding, along with other sources of revenue for the cost of the study, to conduct community outreach, assess best practices, and work with local stakeholders. The costs not covered by the grant are currently unknown, although the January 27 action included appropriating $485,000 to cover county staff time and consultant services to develop the ordinance and up to $215,000 of Land Use and Environment executive office funds are available to develop the social equity program.