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How We Ensure Equity in Cannabis Policy | SXSW 2021

Cat Packer
Executive Director at L.A.'s Department of Cannabis Regulation
+ 1 speaker
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SXSW 2021
March 16, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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How We Ensure Equity in Cannabis Policy | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Cat Packer
Executive Director at L.A.'s Department of Cannabis Regulation
Amanda Chicago Lewis
Journalist at Yale University

About the talk

As the City of LA’s Department of Cannabis Regulation first Exec. Dir., Cat Packer has led the charge to create cannabis policies that restore and repair communities most impacted by cannabis criminalization and the war on drugs. She has used her platform as an agitator and regulator to help craft one of the country’s most inclusive commercial cannabis policies but her experience shows that there’s still so much work that needs to be done. Despite progress made around the country to create programs aimed at promoting equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities, and to address the disproportionate impacts of the War on Drugs in those communities --- disparities persist and harm ensues. How do we ensure equity in Cannabis Policy?

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Are there any Chicago journalist based in LA and I've been covering legalization and the Cannabis industry since 2013 and the New York Times the first and so far only executive director of the Los Angeles apartments. Thank you, Amanda. Let's start with a little contact for those who might need a California voters. Legalized medical cannabis in 1996 the state legislature passed a law allowing nonprofit marijuana collective in 2003. And by 2006, there were hundreds of weed stores in La,

2019. La, the biggest, and most important cannabis Market in the world has cast a ballot initiative, legalizing adult-use, cannabis in 2016. I was going to have to figure out what to do with these two thousand. Jerk hat. Hacker, hacker with a young activist from Ohio would be working away with the insurance organizations. The drug policy light, when she caught the eye of the point, around the city Department of cannabis regulation in 2017. When you arrived on the job,

Yes, it was very much a mess in the city of Los. Angeles has previously described the state of California and the city of Los Angeles. Did not have a slang word for regulation and so, both the state and the city of Los Angeles in public after voters. Decided to legalize cannabis for adult use, I was tasked with building, an agency Department of cannabis regulation transitioning. Some of those operators that you had mentioned previously and also trying to bring on new businesses, for the first time, with hundreds of

new regulations, both the state and local level, and we were doing so while attempting to acknowledge and address. the harms of the drug war by way of establishing, what has increasingly been referred to as social Equity program and so over the course of the last three and a half years, there have been lots of challenges and lots of Lessons Learned, I'm on the job with small little path to take care of here in the conversation around Equity or social Equity.

Operation for the racially different program at the same time. Other places New York, what do you think we've learned in? Los Angeles about the nature of such a program? I think there are many lessons learned that and other Regulators. Those were primarily tasked with developing and implementing safety programs, have learned over the last couple years and it's important to note that even the first Equity program in the nation, with the started in Oakland, California

is all, but just a few years old. And so, there is some sense relatively little data. But there are lots of Lessons Learned. And I think the biggest lesson is that we have to be proactive about our approach to equity and really were behind the ball if we wait until I don't you sleep in the same position to have these conversations because we not only have to make sure that we get the policy right. And that is critically important. But we also have to make sure we get the

implementation of the policy. And it's been the case here in the city of Los Angeles. And many of the other jurisdictions that have any programs across the country that there is increasingly, just not enough administrative support, there's not enough resources to get these programs off the ground. And so a lot of the times these markets will start working for the full programs are in place and in communities impacted continue to get left behind. And so, I think it starts

with making sure that you have the right policy in place near different considerations that jurisdiction have to make when they're establishing personal property program from deciding who qualified personal property program, largely sulfur free programs, based their eligibility criteria based on Farm indicator. So some of those are indicators are, if you are low income, if you have a California, Cannabis arrest or conviction in order to reduce barriers to entry into the Cannabis Market Equity programs seek to devise strategies and programs

or funniest, I already processing of applications for education in technical support. But the reality is that all of these things should set the floor, not the singling out for what activity programs could and should me and we all. We also have to think increasingly about how is your athletes are beyond anything in the Cannabis industry, that is a critical and important. It's also just important to make sure that we have automatic expungement Provisions for community.

Tax dollars from Cannabis tax revenue and reinvesting it in the community. And then also just thinking comprehensively about the ways that sarms continue to linger in the ways that consumers are treated differently than other folks and Society. All of those things if not thought about the info, possibly, I will continue to exist station. I want a very complicated and that social activity programs. Are these ambitious social justice initiative that has highlighted 10. Be very troubled for a number of different reasons. I think timing,

as passive said, right, most places are useful for recreational use and we've seen in places Market setup. Under medical, may be less likely to have a first-mover advantage that adult use in place of equity comes to play in Los Angeles. And of course, reflection of what are the qualifications that someone needs to have to be at the dentist and crime data measure. You know, folks differently. So, very hard to the line, goes to types of measurements to figure out who's been disproportionately

allegations of corruption. Actually halted, its Equity licensing process in. Los Angeles are still growing, lots and lots of money at properties, that they are supposed to have under control in order to get license. So, I've heard some people say that the attempt to implement an equity program in Los Angeles has completely backfired. You agree. No, I don't think that it's backfired. I think that it's a work-in-progress a lot of the times. And The Regulators were tasked with implementing this program

sounds on your effort, and I can say that we've made every effort underway. Bryan, CDs programs in C programming, for the very first time at 6 to rectify in decades of, I think that through our experience, thus far and see if I mentioned previously, they're definitely Lessons Learned and thinks we should. We have the opportunity, for example, of the city of Los Angeles, initially have property before they sit. Gator application, just to determine if they were, I'll be eligible to, or the application process.

Although, that is something that our office advocated against ultimately, the city council's policy that require applicants to hold onto property. And so, we have a circumstance today, where Africans have been paying her rent for over a year. Now during the application process, and many of these businesses, it'll still be several months before they received their licenses. I think these are the types of lessons that Regulators have a responsibility to share with others who

are seeking to develop new programs, but that's something that we don't have to and we won't wreck with case here in the city of Los Angeles, Department of Kansas regulation. And my office recommend a series of comprehensive amendments to the cannabis for seizures ordinance in the city of Los Angeles in the summer of last year and fortunately every single one of the recommendations for the doctor. And so now we no longer have a policy will be required to have a property upfront, the next

round of retail licenses that we make available. Are we will identify those African not fight a first-come-first-serve process by which was heavily criticized, the city of Los Angeles, buy a lottery. Identify this pill for after the applicants by Lottery and then get those applicants up to a year to come back to the apartment with a property and with a full business application user, some of the ways that you can take lessons learned and be proactive about using this lesson and how we move forward. Another thing that we recommended that was adopted by the city council

here in the city of Los Angeles. We ended our policy. So that only the African at access to new retail, in new delivery license until January 1st of blank from five. This is now being referred to as the exclusivity even just by looking at the benefits that our existing medical marijuana dispensaries, I have experienced by essentially having No, competition in the market for the last several years. How beneficial that's been to our existing medical marijuana, dispensary owned by white men. And

so, by taking some of these Lessons Learned, I think that folks in the city of Los Angeles and folks, who are participating in our program will over time to see the benefits associated with this program. But I acknowledge that it hasn't been on the prettiest process or experience, but I wouldn't discount not only its intention but the potential outcomes of the program as well. I also have to acknowledge that we're at a point in time and Society where communities

and particularly communities of color, black and brown. Barry distrusting of government institutions. And so when I saw this idea and concept of social Equity comes along, many communities can be skeptical about what this means for them. And we have a responsibility as public servants to deliver on the Promises of equity and you want to talk out of various politicians about the harms of the war on drugs and about the need for breakfast. But when it comes down to how we establish our budget, how we actually right on our walls and

the intention is at work and I know that there has been some concerns about Russian general in the Cannabis industry in, as it relates to the social Equity program and that's difficult to There are concerns or difficult to Discount when like in places like the city of Los Angeles, we had council members who have been arrested by the FBI and have been under investigation for corruption. And so we have to be increasingly thoughtful and intentional about how we engage with communities and stakeholders engagement process. But then also I'll

make a real commitment to follow through and do know that. It may not come in your volume, two or three and that doesn't mean that we walk away from the program altogether. It means that we double down while we collect data. While we try to Josh about how we can prove it all day. Los Angeles has made a lot of mistakes and other places don't have to be. So great example for other people in other states to understand what I'm curious to talk about last year in the Cannabis program, in Los Angeles and

no changes. And I think I'm wondering what insights do you have for people looking to effect change on a local level? Did you feel you have more leverage when you are outside of the room, where it happens or inside of the room and the politicians and officials pointed bureaucrat? Yeah, I think that for 4 meeting for Tickler. I I was in a book policy reform Advocate and activist with the drug policy Alliance prior to joining the city, and I often like to say that I'm going to a computer turned in

his position. In this role, I would still be heavily engaged. What's going on in the city of Los Angeles? Scared of criticism. I think we have to walk because I found that's that's largely. We're progress is made as when we can think critically about our are polyps in your impact. Can't be naive to think that our current and future impacts as well. And I think that there's often an inside and an outside game, all that has to be engaged in order to see victories and said

they may run a year after year, after year before it finally gets implemented properly. But in terms of the death of George, Floyd protest, Racial Injustice that have happened throughout the United States truth be told my office. My team has been working on these amendments for a month because we recognize that historically has tried to do this meal and sometimes just moving sings piece by piece, but I think that is going to be there every single policy recommendation that

we make. But let's try and approach a comprehensive late. But when I look at the licensing program program it for streamline to improve the prophecies and to strengthen different professions of the Social Security program and then when all of the protest, Around the death of George, Floyd happened. I think that that allowed a city council to be more receptive to a dock in the policies, but the policy who had written on ahead of time. But I definitely think that we were able to

essentially leverage the moment that we were in and I think that at that moment hasn't gone away. We have to recognize that there are still and mediate in urgent, need for cannabis policy before. I'm at every single level of government Farm continue to persist and continue to be different. Fortunately impactful to communities of color. Even in states that have legalized, we will see folks continue black and Braunfels continue to be arrested at higher rates. And so we

have to have this conversation about how I feel Individual institution on Insta, stomach level on, we can root out. These causes out of of, of racism and how they persist in an everyday life and in our policies and programs that I would encourage young people when you recognize me, when you feel something in your gut that just doesn't feel right. If you feel is so you're getting called into a particular space for reform or advocacy. And if an opportunity presents itself or if you have the opportunity to create an

opportunity to join, Local state or a federal government and be a part of the change that you don't run away from those opportunities. I think that these institutions I've learned are largely. Just the people who work for them and who made them and see if we can pull more people into government, has recognised the arm on it that government. We will be in a much better position in the future. In Los Angeles for the George Floyd protest. We were going to see a hundred new dispensaries from social Equity,

1063 total in Los Angeles, currently only 185 of the storefront Marijuana store in Los Angeles. Are we going or not? So the city of Los Angeles when it passed its policy back in December of last year and increase, the number of retail licenses, that would be made available to smoke crack with the application. As you mention from 100 to 200 in December of last year, the department has finalized its processes. Identify those two hundred applicants applicants were moving through what we call locally the temporary approval process,

which requires them to get licenses from the state of pass inspection. I didn't have to go through inspection fire, department of department of building and safety approval process, by the summer on, at least, 50 of those businesses would become operational because each business is kind of moving at its own pace, depending on the quality of the Nothing submitted a business relocation by specific timeline. But based on what I'm saying, I'm imagining that at least a quarter of those businesses who participated in what we call Aunt will be

able to receive authorization in the next couple months. As you mentioned, there are still many businesses in the city of Los Angeles, are not licensed businesses. That are not licensed by the city of Los. Angeles are illegal and state-level encourage consumers to make sure that they are purchasing from unlicensed. Operator license, operators required to follow certain public policies, is what it claimed to be in. Doesn't have things like an unsafe levels of pesticides or heavy metals xcetera, but we do have

still have a large unlicensed Market in the city of Los Angeles, and we're working on various strategies across different City. To develop and administer a new enforcement strategy on the seek to rid ourselves of some of those old criminal enforcement tools because what we've seen is that they just continue to replicate harm and they don't actually do anything to decreased the size of the unlicensed Market. Where is now? We're seeing a lot of rage from lepd in an aggressive

policy on behalf of the city attorney's office, especially arresting low-level workers at cannabis dispensaries. New, maybe you're not even know where they're working for an illicit business, we are committed to making sure that our licensing so far. I can see programs enforcement efforts as possible until after the whole Summers. I have a role to play in choosing to buy some illegal operators and also those that are actually own regulators and government play. Creating a framework that allows people to do just that

Thank you. Amanda always enjoyed speaking with you.

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Cat Packer
Amanda Chicago Lewis