Marijuana Business Magazine January 2020

same conference where Bradford had blasted it. “I think that it’s just getting started.” Packer noted that the city hadn’t even completely funded the social equity program until summer 2019, even though it got underway two years earlier. She also noted that she spent “months” hiring a social equity program manager this past year, another indication the program is still getting off the ground. “You’re essentially grading a paper right after someone writes their name at the top of the test,” Packer said, responding to Bradford’s assertion that the program is failing. Packer did acknowledge that there were problems with the DCR’s first- come, first-served system, under which more than 800 applicants tried to compete for the coveted retail permits, simply by being first to file their applications online at 10 a.m. Sept. 3. That, she said, resulted in a situation where the winners were more often the ones with the fastest internet connections. “It happened almost as a lottery for the well-resourced,” Packer said. “It was arbitrary in that sense.” Audit Puts Progress on Hold In November, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti authorized a comprehensive audit of the licensing program, based on a request from City Council President Herb Wesson, and it appears that none of the 100 retail permits at stake will be issued until the audit is complete. No one knows when that will be, which means that, for the time being, the full build-out of Los Angeles’ legal marijuana market will remain on hold. That, in turn, has many social equity stakeholders contending that they can’t afford to wait several more months for permits, given that they’ve already had to pay rent on empty storefronts while waiting to get licenses. The delay also has led to a drop in interest from many would-be industry entrants, simply because the barriers are so high. As of mid-November, the future of the program—and all the cannabis business licenses at stake—was very much up in the air. In short, Los Angeles is yet another study in how not to roll out a functional social equity program. John Schroyer covers California for Marijuana Business Magazine. You can reach him at [email protected]

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