Councilmember John Kennedy took a stand for social equity in the city’s efforts to loosen the city’s cannabis regulations on Monday.
The new regulations will allow up to three cannabis retailers per council district, instead of one, and decrease the required distance between cannabis retailers from 1,000 feet to 450 feet.
However, the guidelines do not address a social equity platform.
Social equity programs are designed to support equal opportunity in the cannabis industry by making legal cannabis business ownership and employment opportunities more accessible to low-income individuals and communities most impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.
The council won’t discuss a social equity program until April.
“We are here today and we are not even discussing social equity, but you are willing to put three dispensaries in District 3 without social equity,” said Kennedy. “It’s discriminatory. No African Americans or Latinos are in the queue to receive a license.”
Kennedy pleaded with his colleagues to respect his efforts to fight for his district and pointed out that in the past he had done the same for them.
Kennedy and councilmembers Felicia Williams and Gene Masuda voted against the item.
So far there is no local social equity program, although Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey secured the dismissal of 66,000 marijuana-related convictions in 2020.
The city prosecutor’s office authorized the district attorney to dismiss the cases for 250 Pasadena City Prosecutor cases being dismissed as part of the LA DA’s Clear My Record pilot program.
African Americans and Latinos bore the brunt of law enforcement actions for cannabis activities for decades and now in many communities they are being aced out of the economic advantages from selling cannabis legally.
“There was work that staff could have done that would not have left us where we are today,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he thought the recommendation was unfair.”
One half of the city’s cannabis retailers will be in Kennedy’s district.
District 3 is largely a minority district.
Kennedy accused City staff of being disingenuous for not sharing that there has been a change in ownership in one of the companies.
In 2020, High Times purchased Harvest’s California cannabis retail dispensaries.
The city chose six dispensaries in 2019 to move forward in its process: Integral, Atrium, Sweetflower, Medmen, Harvest and Tony Fong.
So far, only two of those dispensaries, Integral and Tony Fong, have opened. According to a staff report, Harvest has plans to open in District 3.
Harvest has been awarded a permit, but has not yet opened.
Atrium and Sweetflower unsuccessfully attempted to sue the city after they were not allowed to advance in the process.
Sweetflower lost an appeal at the Board of Zoning Appeals after submitting an incomplete application and when that was called up for review at the City Council, the council voted 6-1 against the appeal.
Without explaining how the council’s vote was overturned, the city now says that Sweetflower turned in a complete application.
Atrium was also denied a Conditional Use Permit after Harvest turned in a complete application to do business in District 3.
MedMen was also disqualified.
Voters overwhelmingly passed Measure CC in 2019 which called for a maximum of six dispensaries and established distance requirements between cannabis dispensaries and churches, schools and parks.
The City Council said at the time there would not be an overconcentration of dispensaries in any one district.
In 2019, the council shot down an effort to amend the cannabis ordinance when it tabled a motion that would have changed the law to allow up to three dispensaries to operate in each of the city’s seven council districts.
During that hearing, several council members expressed concern that changing the ordinance would go against the will of the voters and 41 people sent correspondence opposing the change.
At that meeting, the mayor and council were asked to revisit the discussion on the city’s cannabis regulations once three cannabis retailers were operational so that staff could evaluate the impacts on the city and the cannabis market.
City officials said the ordinance would be reviewed after three cannabis retailers opened.
However, three dispensaries have not opened.
At least four unsuccessful lawsuits have been filed against the city.