Equity programs coming soon?

April 04, 2019 | Geoffrey Marshall

Lara McCaffrey for San Diego City Beat

Terrie Best, San Diego chapter chair of Americans for Safe Access (which works to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis), notes there aren’t any legal dispensaries in communities where residents have been most affected by the war on drugs. This includes District 4, the area encompassing Rolando Park to Paradise Hills and Lincoln Park to Greater Skyline Hills.
“These people can’t even get safe access in their own neighborhoods,” says Best. “As far as funneling money into neighborhoods, and equity and education programs, for folks who have suffered from drug war harm, I would say that’s warranted and will only make us a stronger and a better community and city.”

District 3 councilmember, Chris Ward, plans to propose San Diego’s own cannabis equity program. If initiated, the program could look similar to those already in action in other California cities like Los Angeles and Oakland. These programs give government assistance to cannabis entrepreneurs who’ve been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs in the past.

Additionally, some local community leaders think such a program would also serve to help individuals who don’t necessarily want to work in the cannabis industry. Ward thinks a cannabis equity program is a way to help San Diego communities that were disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis.

“Whether that is through business opportunity, community development, youth programming, there’s a lot of ways equity programs can be designed,” says Ward. “We are at the beginning stages of figuring out what works best for the city of San Diego.”

Even while cannabis equity programs cannot be race-based, studies such as the ACLU’s “Report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” show a staggering racial bias in cannabis possession arrests. (The 2013 report notes Blacks were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession.) Equity programs already in effect require applicants to meet criteria like having a prior cannabis conviction or living in an area where there are a high numbers of cannabis-related arrests.

San Diego’s program could look similar. Ward hopes San Diego can have a cannabis equity program that benefits communities affected by the war on drugs, but who don’t necessarily want to enter the cannabis industry. This is something Laila Aziz, program director at Pillars of the Community (POTC), says is important. The local community organization, based in Southeast San Diego, commonly works with people who have prior cannabis convictions. Aziz says those individuals are often prevented from succeeding.

“They want a business, period, and they want an occupational license,” Aziz says. “Not just for a cannabis business, for any business... There needs to be some really comprehensive thought about repairing the damages that have been done. I think that’s where true equity is going to come in—not just who’s going to get in front of the line to get a cannabis business.”

Terrie Best, San Diego chapter chair of Americans for Safe Access (which works to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis), notes there aren’t any legal dispensaries in communities where residents have been most affected by the war on drugs. This includes District 4, the area encompassing Rolando Park to Paradise Hills and Lincoln Park to Greater Skyline Hills.

“These people can’t even get safe access in their own neighborhoods,” says Best. “As far as funneling money into neighborhoods, and equity and education programs, for folks who have suffered from drug war harm, I would say that’s warranted and will only make us a stronger and a better community and city.”

Besides working with District 4 councilmember Monica Montgomery’s staff, Ward says he welcomes input on equity programs from community members. He adds that interested parties can contact his office.

“We need them to tell the city what we need to work on, whether it’s through mentoring or relationships with all the permitting processes.”



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