California To Open New $15 Million Marijuana Equity Grant Round For Local Jurisdictions Next Month

California officials next month will begin accepting applications for the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions for the coming fiscal year. The grants to municipalities are part of the state’s effort to use cannabis tax revenue to fund equity programs for those disproportionately impacted by the drug war.

The purpose of the program is “to advance economic justice for populations and communities impacted by cannabis prohibition and the War on Drugs by providing support to local jurisdictions as they promote equity in California and eliminate barriers to enter the newly regulated cannabis industry for equity program applicants and licensees,” a description says.

A newly posted 19-page solicitation for the 2023–2024 fiscal year includes final details on program eligibility, funding, application scoring criteria and other aspects of the $15 million grant program. An application guide, meanwhile, walks potential applicants through using an online portal that municipalities must use to submit their applications electronically.

The grants are meant “to advance economic justice for individuals most harmed by cannabis criminalization and poverty by providing support to local jurisdictions as they promote equity and eliminate barriers to the newly regulated cannabis industry for equity program applicants and licensees,” the solicitation says.

The online application portal will be available through the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) program website beginning on November 6, and applications must be submitted by December 14. Grants are scheduled to be announced by January 22, 2024.

Money from the program funds local programs offering technical support, regulatory compliance and assistance with securing startup capital to equity applicants and licensees. The grants “will further the stated intent of the AUMA by reducing barriers to licensure and employment in the regulated industry,” according to a description posted on the California Grants Portal. “Offering these types of support will also aid the state in its goal of eliminating or reducing the illicit cannabis market by bringing more people into the legal marketplace.”

Grants for last fiscal year, announced this past February, went to 16 cities and counties across the state, ranging from $350,000 for San Diego County to nearly $2 million for Oakland.

Separately, The state Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) recently announced they’re doubling the amount of money available to localities to speed the opening cannabis retailers in their jurisdictions as part of a different grant program that aims to mitigate the illicit market.

DCC unveiled that 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 license 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.

Both funding efforts are among the ways California is working to eliminate the illicit market and transition consumers to the regulated industry—topics state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) addressed at an August briefing.

The application round for a separate $48 million grant program for broader community reinvestment closed last month. That program, paid for through state marijuana tax revenue, funds awards of between $600,000 and $3 million to support job placement, legal assistance, treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, referrals to medical care and other services for communities that have been disproportionately affected by the drug war.

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.

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.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed several marijuana-related measures into law, including a bill to prevent employers from asking job applicants about past cannabis use. He also vetoed some legislation, including a proposal to legalize cannabis cafes.

The governor additionally vetoed a bill that would have legalized possession of some psychedelics, including psilocybin and mescaline. However, he did did sign a separate bill that would allow doctors to immediately start prescribing certain currently illicit drugs like psilocybin and MDMA if they’re federally rescheduled.

Newsom took some harm reduction advocates by surprise last session after he vetoed a bill from Wiener that would have established an overdose prevention site pilot program in the state.

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