At long last, San Diego is receiving grant money from the state as part of a program designed to help cities bolster their local cannabis industries.
The southern California city announced last month that it is receiving $880,000 from the Governor of California’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) as part of a statewide grant program aimed at promoting equity in the regulated marijuana market.
Under the initiative, California provided millions of dollars to cities throughout the state with their own cannabis equity grant programs.
Major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland all got in on the grant program. Last spring, officials in San Francisco announced that they had received $4.5 million from the state of California to fund its cannabis equity grant program.
But the $880,000 gift last month was the first such grant money to be awarded to San Diego.
That is because San Diego didn’t establish its own grant program until last year, which, as the San Diego Union-Tribune noted, was “several years after other large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and Long Beach.”
“Receiving this critical funding source is vital to jump-starting our Cannabis Equity Program,” Lara Gates, the deputy director of San Diego’s Cannabis Business Division, said in the city’s announcement. “These dollars will provide a solid foundation for our initial cannabis equity applicants to get a strong foothold in the legal cannabis market.”
In its announcement of the grant last month, the city said the the “money will support residents seeking to enter the legal cannabis industry in San Diego through funding grants to cover permit and license fees and associated start-up property costs while providing access to the cannabis industry workforce.”
Those funds “will be dispersed locally, supporting the state’s effort to advance economic justice for populations and communities harmed by cannabis prohibition,” the city said in the announcement, adding that the grants “will help potential business owners pay for permitting and licensing fees, access education and training, and receive property rental assistance for entrepreneurship in various sectors that support local cannabis businesses,” which include “finance, marketing, advertising and legal services, among others.”
In determining the qualifications for the grant program, the city of San Diego “found the biggest hurdles to entering the industry are lack of capital, lack of training, problems finding suitable sites and complex government regulations,” according to the Union-Tribune.
“The historical enforcement of drug laws produced profound disparities in business ownership, wage earnings and mass incarceration within the criminal justice system for African American/Black, Latino and Native American/Indigenous communities,” Kim Desmond, the San Diego Chief of Race and Equity, said in last month’s announcement. “An acknowledgment of historic institutional racism and systemic inequity is key to understanding disparities in the cannabis industry.”
The money awarded to San Diego represented the “the seventh-largest grant, after Oakland and Los Angeles with nearly $2 million each, as well as Sacramento, San Francisco and Long Beach at $1.5 million each and Humboldt County with $1.2 million,” according to the Union-Tribune.
The city of San Diego said that it “was among 16 cities and counties across the state to receive a combined $15 million in grants, funded through tax revenue generated from statewide recreational cannabis sales.”
In its cannabis equity assessment last year, the city of San Diego found that Black and Latino residents accounted for roughly 50% of total cannabis arrests since 2015, although they comprise only 29% of the city’s population.
The assessment also found that nearly 70% of cannabis business license holders are white.