While cannabis is legal for recreational use in 11 states, and with 33 states and four territories that allow medical cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level. So it’s up to state lawmakers to develop regulations for these new industries.
Some states are developing social equity programs. In essence, these are designed to offer opportunities to disadvantaged communities, including people who have been convicted of cannabis crimes in the past. This is done through a number of ways:
- Application and other fee grants
- Reserving licenses
In California, Palm Springs and Coachella received $600,000 worth of grants collectively last October from California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. The purpose of this money is to provide social equity assistance to residents within the area.
The first person to apply for this program was Willie Holland. A few years ago when Holland applied to open a cannabis dispensary in Palm Springs, he was denied due to a past cannabis misdemeanor.
In 2017, he was lucky enough to find a partner who held a majority stake in the business and opened a shop called “Green Dragon” on Palm Canyon Drive. However, being as he wanted to call this business his own, he went ahead and applied for Palm Springs social equity program.
Holland was granted $4,600 in application and license fees for a second cannabis shop set to open later this year under the name “Holland Pharms.” Social equity programs are meant to subsidize the expensive costs that come with opening a cannabis business. However, in order to qualify for these programs in Palm Springs, a client must have at least 51 percent stake in the business.
“You have to come up with that first before you even submit your application,” Holland told Desert Sun. “That eliminates a lot of people, because they may not have the five, six grand to submit with the application.”
While these programs are a great way to identify social justice issues, some claim more action needs to be taken. For example, it’s been argued that social equity programs should offer counseling and education when it comes to running a business.