On May 23, 2017, in California, the Oakland medical cannabis permit application was released for those interested in cultivating, manufacturing, distributing, delivering, transporting and testing medical cannabis. Dispensary permit applications will be released at a later date in 2017.
The opening of the application window signifies the start of the Equity Permit Program, which will implement equitable business ownership and employment in the city’s legal cannabis industry in an attempt to correct past racial disparities in cannabis enforcement and incarceration.
“We are committed to combating the disparities that have plagued the cannabis industry in the past,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a press release. “With the launch of this innovative permitting program, Oakland is creating an equal playing field in the medical cannabis arena and removing barriers for those who have been wronged by past practices.”
During the first phase of permitting, half of all permits issued will be awarded to Equity Permit Program applicants. To qualify as an equity applicant, one must be a resident of Oakland with an annual income less than or equal to 80% of the Oakland Average Medium Income and either have an Oakland-based cannabis conviction or have resided in a qualifying police beat for 10 of the past 20 years. The qualifying police beats are those that the city has identified as having suffered disproportionate rates of cannabis enforcement and incarceration.
“The data shows that for over two decades, black and brown residents were arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses at disparately high rates, while largely white cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and distributors who were not operating entirely above board either, flourished under changing laws designed to accommodate the burgeoning industry,” added Darlene Flynn, City of Oakland Race and Equity Director.
The Oakland medical cannabis permit application fee is $2,474 and the LiveScan background check fee is $32, with all applicant board members, partners and managers required to complete the LiveScan. While equity applicants must pay the LiveScan fee, they do not have to pay the application fee.
“Just as diamonds bear the taint of centuries of colonialism and supremacist thinking, so, too, does cannabis,” said Tsion Lencho, an attorney and co-founder of SuperNova Women, an Oakland-based cannabis advocacy organization for women of color, to The Root. “For me, seeking to expand business opportunities for people of color is essential to the creation of the cannabis market.”
According to an Oakland City Council resolution, the first $3.4 million of cannabis-related business tax revenue collected by the city will be used to create an Equity Assistance Program, offsetting some of the startup challenges for equity applicants, such as offering no-interest business loans as well as resources for technical assistance related to the cannabis industry and business ownership.
As soon as the Equity Assistance Program has had a complete roll out, the city will no longer be required to award a minimum of half of all permits to equity applicants.