What Happened to the Social Equity Program in LA?

The social equity program in LA needs to be fully funded as promised after cannabis legalization.
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Since the passage of Proposition 64 and Measure M, the residents of Los Angeles who have been impacted by the War on Drugs have been waiting to see equity, justice, and repair. They were hopeful that some of this would come from the social equity program that was laid out along with recreational/adult-use cannabis legalization and the rise of the cannabis industry in LA.

However, the City of LA has yet to fund the program, and the cannabis tax revenues that should be allocated to social equity and community reinvestment are in danger of being allocated to the LA Police Department - the same department that has arrested hundreds of thousands of people for cannabis offenses over the last century.

Activists such as Kristen Lovell and Felicia Carbajal have been pushing hard for equality here through organizations such as Equity First Alliance and the Social Impact Center. Alongside several others, they even helped organize protests during SXSW’s inaugural “Cannabusiness” track this year.

Carbajal said, “Social justice and equity was supposed to be the moral compass for the cannabis industry in Los Angeles. We, the voices of Equity First Alliance LA, represent that voice and are reminding our leaders that this is what we voted for. That this is what is needed to begin to address the harms caused by the war on drugs in our LA communities.”

Lovell explained that the recommendations from the budget committee are that the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) will allocate 1.75 million dollars for the 2018 -2019 fiscal year, but the enforcement task force has been established with no community oversight.

As legalized cannabis programs emerge, it is essential that reparations are built in for those families and communities who have been most adversely affected by cannabis prohibition and the overall drug war. Many people were hopeful about this program in Los Angeles, and it is disappointing to see it rolling out this way.

As reported by Filter, activists have pointed out that there is money that could be dedicated to Social Equity. Just recently the LA Comptroller released a report projecting cannabis business tax revenue to top off at $40 million by the end of the Fiscal Year, which is $20 million more in projected revenue than the Mayor’s estimate in the proposed budget. Also, this past November the Rules Committee recommended a $3 million annual amount to fund the Social Equity Program for three years, but the Budget Committee has made little movement here.

Lovell said, “We look forward to continuing to build bridges with communities, grass-roots organizations and City Hall. It’s tiring work, so we need help! From everyone!”

Lovell explained that just this week the Budget Committee did submit a recommendation for $3 million (every year for three years, only $9 million total) for business licensing for 2019-2020. They expect the budget from the City Administrative Officer (CAO) and the Mayors office to go to print on the 10th and be announced on the 19th. Unfortunately, this does not cover community reinvestment. "We need to continue to pressure City Council, the CAO, and the Mayor to not forget this portion of the conversation. It appears that an ordinance will most likely need to be created to secure a percentage of cannabis tax revenue collected to fund social equity," she added.

You can learn more and sign the petition to support funding LA’s social equity program here.

About TheEquity First Alliance

The mission of Equity First Alliance is to harness the political power of cannabis organizers that work at the intersection of the cannabis industry, racial equity, and reparative justice. Through education, mobilization, dialogue, engagement, and collective action, we work to advance equity in the cannabis industry, to repair harms of the War on Drugs, and to seek justice for those who have been most harmed by it. We come from a diverse range of communities nationwide, andwe are in need of support in a time of moral crisis in this field*.*

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