Framework and Recommendations
FOR REGULATING COMMERCIAL CANNABIS
The Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) recommends the creation of an equitable program for unincorporated Los Angeles County that addresses both the administrative infrastructure barriers that create inequitable outcomes, and the gap in educational, technical, and financial resources caused by systematic racism and exacerbated by the War on Drugs.
OCM’s recommendations include leading with equity licensing with priorities for Equity and Equity-building applicants (applicants that may not qualify as an Equity Applicant, but have robust equity-promoting practices), creating a centralized and simplified licensing infrastructure, building a robust Equity Program, and aligning zoning and buffering limits with State law to prevent overconcentration and disproportionate health outcomes.
Additionally, dedicated, strong, and strategic compliance and enforcement resources are necessary, as well as strategic reinvestment of taxation revenue to support these programs and priorities.
View the full report or the approved Motion.
OCM recommends building a robust Cannabis Equity Program that provides initial priority licensing, business development and technical assistance, pro bono legal assistance, access to capital, and other potential pathways to jobs, entrepreneurship, and ancillary economic opportunities within and outside of the cannabis industry. This would be coupled with a Cannabis Working Group of subject matter experts and County departments to track equity data, program impact, and regulations to promote data-driven decision making.
By starting with 25 retail, 25 delivery, 10 cultivation, 10 manufacturing, 10 distribution and 10 testing licenses this would allow the County to lead the program with equity, monitor and assess community impacts and efficacy of regulations, and build appropriate infrastructure to support expansion in the following years.
To prevent overconcentration of these businesses in low-income neighborhoods and a de facto ban throughout most of the County, OCM recommends aligning zoning and buffering limits with State law and the County’s alcohol outlet zoning ordinances. This would allow retail in C-2, C-3, and manufacturing zones, and create a buffer of 600ft for all sensitive uses. As research indicates that a well-regulated and compliant cannabis business can reduce crime rates in its vicinity, we recommend these zoning ordinances are combined with strict security requirements, a strong compliance infrastructure, and a robust equity and/or community reinvestment plan. Manufacturing, cultivation, and distribution would be allowed in manufacturing zones only.
There is a need for a centralized and simplified licensing process that removes administrative barriers, and a supportive compliance infrastructure. The Cannabis Licensing and Equity Approval Review (CLEAR) Process will review and approve applications based on a comprehensive look at its equity and community impact while ensuring that all basic licensing and permitting requirements are met. A Cannabis Business Concierge will help applicants navigate through the licensing process and provide technical assistance and compliance support.
While the County’s establishment of legal cannabis businesses will not immediately eradicate unlicensed businesses, it will allow the County to access additional State funding for enforcement, expand strategies to shift consumer demand to the licensed market and its safer products, and develop a consistent compliance and enforcement strategy more aligned with the public demand to end the criminalization of cannabis and related activities.
Both public safety and the sustainability of a legal market necessitates enhanced enforcement against unlicensed businesses. More consistent and targeted resources are needed to effectively address this issue. OCM will continue to work closely with relevant stakeholders to develop holistic strategies and opportunities that align with the priorities of the Board.
Best practices for environmental sustainability in the cannabis field continue to be developed, and there are legal and established cultivators that incorporate responsible practices to reduce the harmful impact on the environment and the community. We recommend the issuance of up to 10 cultivation licenses for businesses that can show significant experience and knowledge in sustainable and responsible cultivation. Ongoing monitoring of cannabis cultivation’s environmental impact and an assessment of need will inform future expansion.