Richard Vogel / AP
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 | 6:56 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a number of changes on Tuesday to reset the city's troubled legal marijuana market, including support programs designed to help operators who were involved in the country's long-standing drug war have suffered.
Los Angeles was once seen as a potential showcase for the industry, but it has never been compared to real life on the street: illegal businesses continue to thrive, while licensed companies complain that almost everything costs too much and too long in dealing with the city lasts hall.
In the meantime, one of the expected pillars of the city's legal system – programs to support those who work in the business and who have been arrested or detained during the war on drugs, including many colored people – has been slow to take shape.
The proposed changes were greeted with a mixture of applause and confusion.
They ranged from small steps such as adapting a definition to the language in state law to potentially large steps such as restricting delivery licenses by 2025 only for companies that meet so-called social equity benchmarks. These programs aim to help operators who have been arrested or convicted of a marijuana crime and lower-income residents who live or have lived in areas characterized by high marijuana arrest rates.
Cat Packer, the city's top cannabis regulator, said the changes were urgent. She noted that the coronavirus crisis, an economic downturn, and unrest over racist injustices afflicted industry and the city. Meanwhile, federal marijuana remains illegal, and major banks generally refuse to do business with top companies due to the legal conflict between state and federal law.
The interface "between cannabis policy and racial injustice is clear to me," said Packer Drug War.
Adam Spiker, managing director of the Southern California Coalition industry group, described the proposals as a "mixed bag". Although this is meant well, it is "open to many problems" to set an inflexible qualification limit for a delivery license, as this could leave out long-standing operators who are deeply involved in the industry.
"I think that creates more problems than solutions," he said.
Other proposed changes approved by the regulatory committee would allow companies to move during the licensing process, clarify which employees need background checks, and streamline the application process.
Before the vote, the committee heard of a long line of industry representatives and other speakers who took turns praising the proposals or presenting the urban licensing system as dysfunctional.