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California Offering Millions Of Dollars To Support Local Marijuana Business Development And Social Equity Programs

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California officials are making millions of dollars available for grants programs to support marijuana social equity initiatives and assist localities in processing pending cannabis business license applications.

The state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) said on Friday that it was opening applications for a Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program, with a total of $100 million available to 17 cities and counties where there are a disproportionate number of provisional marijuana licenses, rather than full-year licenses.

Provisional licenses were allowed to be granted to business applicants as a way to more quickly stand up the adult-use market, and that temporary licensing category was set to expire on January 1 but was extended through the passage of legislation earlier this year to give localities more time to complete the permitting process and meet environmental requirements.

Now the state has identified a number of jurisdictions that may need additional support to get those provisional licensees into the traditional, annual license category. And additional funds will be made available to places with social equity programs in place.

“The local jurisdictions eligible to receive grant funding represent areas with large numbers of small, equity and legacy cannabis businesses, including small cultivators that often have unique regulatory needs,” DCC Director Nicole Elliott said in a press release.

Because the needs of each city and county vary, the grants will range from $400,000 to $22 million each. And the state expects to issue the grants by the end of this year. This will be a one-time grant program, Elliott told Marijuana Moment in an email, whereas other cannabis-related grants are annually renewed.

“Each jurisdiction is unique. The development of this program acknowledges this fact and was informed by the conversations we had with eligible jurisdictions about their specific needs,” Elliott said. “The way we have structured this program encourages jurisdictions to propose novel, innovative ways to support their local businesses in making the transition into annual licensure.”

Separately, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is awarding up to $35 million for a Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions that’s designed to “aid local equity program efforts to support equity applicants and equity licensees,” according to a description of the effort.

“Offering technical support, regulatory compliance assistance, and assistance with securing the capital necessary to begin a business will further the stated intent of the [Adult Use Marijuana Act] by reducing barriers to licensure and employment in the regulated industry,” GO-Biz said. “Offering these types of support will also aid the state in its goal of eliminating or reducing the illicit cannabis market by bringing more people into the legal marketplace.”

Public agencies and local jurisdictions are eligible for those dollars, funded through cannabis tax dollars as stipulated under the voter-approved 2016 legalization initiative. Cities and counties must demonstrate that they have a plan to create a social equity program, or have taken steps to adopt such programs, in order to qualify.

These latest grant offerings represent a continuation of California’s efforts to support the success of the state’s recreational cannabis system—as well as its commitment to using marijuana tax dollars to invest in communities most harmed under prohibition.

In June, GO-Biz said it was awarding about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations, with the intent of righting the wrongs of the war on drugs. The funding is being provided through the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program.

Grants are being awarded to qualifying nonprofits to support programs aimed at providing job placement, mental health treatment, substance misuse treatment and legal services for disproportionately impacted communities. The program was first announced in April 2020, and applications for those grants were initially opened in September 2020.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also said last month that they were soliciting concept proposals for a cannabis tax-funded program aimed at helping small marijuana cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration efforts.

California isn’t the only state using cannabis revenue to fund broader programs.

Missouri officials last month announced that they have transferred millions of dollars in medical marijuana tax revenue to support programs for military veterans.

In January, Illinois said that it will be distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.

Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established in Illinois to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.

More Than A Dozen Ohio Cities Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization Ballot Measures Next Month

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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