California marijuana regulators are doubling the amount of money they’re offering to localities to open up cannabis retailers in their jurisdictions as part of a grant program that aims to mitigate the illicit market.
The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) also announced on Thursday that they’re expanding eligibility for the Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant (LJRAG) program, allowing cities that participated in the first phase to apply for funding again this round.
DCC unveiled the first-of-its-kind program in February, and it awarded $4.1 million in grants to 18 jurisdiction in June. For the second phase, regulators said that they are offering up to $150,000 per eligible retail licensee that a city authorizes and up to $300,000 per social equity license. Previously, the awards were limited to $75,000 and $150,000, respectively.
“There are still many locations throughout the state where cannabis usage is notable, but existing consumers do not have convenient access to legal retail cannabis,” DCC Director Nicole Elliott said in a press release. “We know that cannabis consumers often make purchasing choices based on convenience, so sufficient access to legal retail reinforces extremely important consumer safeguards.”
Local governments are eligible for the grant dollars if they currently have no retail licensing program but plan to develop and implement one. Jurisdictions that intend to support equity-centric licensing policies are being prioritized.
Localities that have opted out of allowing marijuana retailers, with no plans to license them in the future, are ineligible for the grants. Jurisdictions that have licensing programs, and those where retailers have already been approved, also don’t qualify.
The revised Phase II guidelines now permit the roughly 300 cities and counties that participated in Phase I to apply for grant funding again.
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The program is one of several ways that California is working to eliminate the illicit market and transition consumers to the regulated industry—a topic that state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) addressed this week at a briefing about a new program that it means to support localities in enforcement efforts targeting illicit operators.
Bonta also said at the event that the high tax rate for cannabis is partly to blame for ongoing illegal sales.
Meanwhile, California nonprofits and local health departments will soon be able to apply for an estimated $48 million worth of community reinvestment grants, which are paid for by tax revenue from legal cannabis. The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced in May that the state had already awarded more than $50 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants.
DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of “legacy” strains from the state.
And California officials announced in February they awarded $15 million in grants to support local efforts to promote equity in the marijuana industry. GO-Biz distributed the funds to 16 cities and counties across the state through the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions. Applications opened for the program late last year.
California is additionally making moves to expand its marijuana market beyond the state’s borders, with regulators recently seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action.
Accordingly, the state attorney general’s office has been soliciting input from local government and cannabis industry groups as it works to finalize that opinion, documents recently obtained by Marijuana Moment show.
A state task force has also officially recommended that the legislature pass reparations legislation to compensate about two million Black Americans with a total of nearly $228 billion for racially disproportionate harms that resulted from the war on drugs in the state over the course of a half-century.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
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