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June 20, 2023 Kyle Jaeger
California marijuana regulators announced on Tuesday that they have awarded $4.1 million to cities and counties across the state to support local cannabis business licensing programs working to address unmet consumer demand and help curb the illicit market.
The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) unveiled the first-of-its-kind program in February, committing to provide about $20 million total to localities through its Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant. The $4.1 million in grants that it has now awarded to 18 jurisdiction represents the first phase of the program.
“The Local Jurisdictional Retail Access Grant program will help provide access to regulated cannabis retail for over 2 million Californians that currently live in an area where access to licensed cannabis retail businesses is insufficient,” DCC Acting Director Rasha Salama said in a press release. “In addition to improving access to existing customers, these grants are another important step towards establishing legal pathways for legacy and social equity operators.”
The department also noted that $870,000 of the $4.1 million in phase one grants will go to 14 localities “that are proposing to assist and issue licenses to equity applicants within their retail licensing programs.”
Local governments are eligible for the grant dollars if they currently have no retail licensing program but plan to develop and implement one. Jurisdictions that intend to support equity-centric licensing policies are being prioritized.
Localities that have opted out of allowing marijuana retailers, with no plans to license them in the future, are ineligible for the grants. Jurisdictions that have licensing programs, and those where retailers have already been approved, also don’t qualify.
For the phase one grants, here’s where those dollars are being distributed:
“Grant recipients can use their grant money to develop retailer licensing programs to assist them in issuing retail cannabis licenses,” DCC said. “This includes drafting and adopting ordinances, hiring staff and contractors, holding community outreach and engagement events, forming stakeholder workgroups or technical advisory committees, conducting economic studies and environmental reviews, developing application forms or online application portals, and processing and issuing cannabis retail licenses.”
The department said that when the phase two grants through the program are processed, additional funding could be awarded to the eligible localities “based on the number of local retail licenses they have issued.”
Meanwhile, the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced last month that the state has awarded more than $50 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants
The funds have been distributed to 31 different local health departments and community-based nonprofit organizations that support economic and social development in areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
It is the fifth year in a row that the office has provided the grant funding. And the cannabis tax dollars that are supporting the program increased by about $15 million compared to last year.
DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of “legacy” strains from the state.
And California officials announced in February they awarded $15 million in grants to support local efforts to promote equity in the marijuana industry. GO-Biz distributed the funds to 16 cities and counties across the state through the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions. Applications opened for the program late last year.
California is additionally making moves to expand its marijuana market beyond the state’s borders, with regulators recently seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action.
The request for guidance from DCC is a key step that could eventually trigger a law that the governor signed last year, empowering him to enter into agreements with other legal states to import and export marijuana products.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) also said last year that he wants to see marijuana federally legalized, in part so that his state’s cannabis farmers can “legally supply the rest of the nation.”
A state task force has also officially recommended that the legislature pass reparations legislation to compensate about two million Black Americans with a total of nearly $228 billion for racially disproportionate harms that resulted from the war on drugs in the state over the course of a half-century.
In California, the Assembly recently passed a bill to legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval.
Also, the Senate has also approved a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use. It would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.
Separately, the sponsor of a Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances in California says that advocates are up against a “challenging road” toward passage in the Assembly, where an initial committee hearing is scheduled for next week.