NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-The Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) is responsible for administering the rules and regulations adopted by the LA City Council for licensed commercial cannabis businesses within the City.
The administration, auditing, inspection, and regulation of regulatory compliance of licensed cannabis-related businesses are done in partnership with the Cannabis Regulation Commission and with support services from a number of other City departments.
The primary mission of this DCR is licensing.
Initially there was to be one commercial license per 10,000 residents, limiting total licenses to 400 to 450 citywide, with a soft cap on each of 35 City zones based on population. Six were already above the soft cap at the start of the program. With 187 of the City’s existing cannabis stores wanting to continue selling, theoretically between 213 and 263 additional licenses were available.
To incorporate the social equity aspect, there were to be two social equity licenses issued for each regular commercial license. With 187 existing commercial licenses, that meant that 374 social equity licenses would need to be allotted before any other regular commercial licenses were issued.
As things stand now, only social equity license applications are being considered and, since the tentative total of 561 (187 plus 374) significantly exceeds the proposed limit, no further regular commercial licenses can be contemplated.
In addition to retail establishments, the DCR licenses all aspects of the cannabis supply chain – growers and other businesses supplying these stores to ensure that they operate pursuant to applicable regulations and their product is safe for consumers.
The Social Equity Program
Cannabis criminalization and its enforcement have had long-term, adverse impact on the City of Los Angeles, particularly for its low-income and minority community members.
Los Angeles is one of a few jurisdictions in the United States attempting to address the impacts of past cannabis policies and their inequities by developing and implementing cannabis policies that focus on including benefits to those communities which had suffered the most from previous drug policies.
The goal of the Social Equity Program is “to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities, and to address the disproportionate impacts of the War on Drugs in those communities.”
The Director of the DCR’s Social Equity Program works to provide business, licensing, compliance, and technical assistance to verified applicants with this goal.
There is a three-phased checklist to assess the qualifications of a potential social equity licensee: if they have had a cannabis arrest/conviction, experienced personal poverty, and/or lived in a designated area that was unusually affected by prior cannabis enforcement.
The DCR and the LAPD
The department grew from five employees when it started in 2017 to 32 during the past fiscal year. Furloughs and cuts due to union settlements last year and the current pandemic-induced economic crunch will impact staffing and what the DCR can accomplish this coming year.
While there may be little need for more licensing, there is the growing need for more effective enforcement. The DCR still lacks their own enforcement unit and has to depend on the LAPD and LAFD, whose resources are spread thin and whose priorities are elsewhere.
Published: July 09, 2020
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