Counties and cities across the state are still working out how the legal cannabis market works in their jurisdictions. Local legislation regulates everything from assistance to communities that were disproportionately affected by drug policies to environmental restriction on farms. This month, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to relaunch the city’s rules for licensing.
David Downs, California bureau chief for Leafly, says that the new rules won’t lead to any major changes for consumers yet. But people who are hoping to apply to the city’s social equity program will see some relief.
“Only they will be allowed to open a store delivery service until 2025 …The city is trying to streamline licensing, and they've added a lottery system for awarding the next hundred permits for stores,” Downs tells KCRW. “But critics say that system is set up to fail. These social equity programs can be gamed and manipulated, in the past. They can create a second class tier of store owners.”
Downs says these programs have led to serious players in the cannabis industry avoiding the city of Los Angeles to do business. But a glut of cannabis businesses comes with its own problems. Up the coast in Santa Barbara County, Supervisors Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino were blasted in a grand jury report for their close ties to industry insiders.
As Williams and Lavagnino were the only members on the ad hoc committee hashing out policy recommendations, they weren’t subject to open meeting laws. The report notes that industry leaders were in contact with county supervisors right before key votes, and provided tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Downs says the grand jury is chiding supervisors for enacting the will of the people.
“I think the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And I'm inclined to support broad freedoms over newer flavors of prohibition, which is what a lot of these rules can amount to,” Downs says. “In Los Angeles, frankly, they're trying to spin an ongoing failure. And in Santa Barbara, they're being chided for doing the will of the people and getting the industry running.”