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San Francisco Approves Strengthened Cannabis Equity Legislation



San Francisco officials are amending their current cannabis protocols, with the city’s board of supervisors voting unanimously to approve a measure from Mayor London Breed to update the city’s cannabis equity program, initially drafted three years ago.

According to a release from Mayor Breed’s office, the new measure introduces new priorities in how San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis processes permites to increase opportunities for prospective equity businesses. It also aims to provide greater ownership flexibility for cannabis businesses and to preserve the program’s equity commitments.

“As San Francisco works to recover from COVID-19, it’s important that we support small businesses, including our cannabis industry,” Mayor Breed said. “This legislation helps us make sure the program continues to achieve its goals and ensure that cannabis business owners are supported and have the resources they need to be successful in San Francisco.”

The new measure is meant to ensure the city continues to support communities that have historically been harmed by the War on Drugs.

The legislation specifically prioritizes cannabis equity applicants who are the sole proprietors for permit processing, noting equity applicants remain the top priority; shortens the time period for a transfer of more than 50 percent ownership interest into a cannabis business from 10 years to five years to give businesses more flexibility to grow; and requires cannabis businesses to make additional social equity contributions, if they seek to reduce the equity applicant’s ownership interest, by 20 percent or more.

Since the cannabis equity program was established, 94 equity applicants have applied for permits to operate cannabis businesses in San Francisco. The city has issued 36 permits to equity cannabis businesses, including permanent and temporary permits. The city’s Office of Cannabis also administers grants to equity applicants, or individuals meeting criteria based on residency, income, criminal justice involvement and housing insecurity.

“Being the first Latina-owned cannabis dispensary, owner/CEO of Stiiizy Union Square, feels surreal,” said Cindy De La Vega, an equity permit holder. “My grand opening was October 9, 2020, during a very difficult time for all of us, and especially for areas like Union Square. I am grateful for the San Francisco Equity Program and proud to be permit number 11. I look forward to using my opportunity to show others that the San Francisco Equity Program does work and should be the blueprint for others to bring to their cities.”

Ali Jamalian, founder and CEO of Kiffen LLC and another equity permit holder, expressed similar sentiments about the program.

“I’m grateful to the city and the state for this opportunity,” Jamalian said. “Thank you to the Office of Cannabis for standing up this pilot program. The money is incredibly helpful and allows me to scale my business during a difficult time. I’m hopeful that all eligible equity applicants will take advantage of the opportunity.”

The mayor’s office release also notes that the cannabis industry is crucial for San Francisco’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating jobs and providing locals with “meaningful access to income,” as many people in the city have worried about employment.

It reports that 17 new equity businesses have opened over the past year-and-a-half, creating new job opportunities and generating new tax revenue to help fund other social services and programs. This is in addition to approximately 75 cannabis businesses operating with temporary business permits and 38 businesses operating as medical cannabis dispensaries.

San Francisco is one of many cities in California and around the country weaving equity programs into new cannabis legislation and reform, designed to support equal opportunity in the cannabis industry by making cannabis more accessible to low-income individuals and communities that have been impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.

Marisa Rodriguez, director of San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis, praised the mayor for introducing the measure, “Thank you to Mayor Breed for strengthening social equity and creating more economic opportunities to those hurt by the War on Drugs. Mayor Breed’s legislation ensures that there will continue to be a legacy of equity in the City for years to come.”