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Hot! Oakland Tries At New Medical Marijuana Permit Program

Siccness News

Oakland — When the city in May rolled out a new permit program for cannabis businesses that gave priority to individuals who’d been convicted of a marijuana charge in Oakland, or who were longtime residents of neighborhoods with the highest numbers of weed-related arrests, no one could predict how many people would apply.

Oakland, a pioneer in the national cannabis movement, was once again testing uncharted waters with a pot reparations program that required half of all medical marijuana licenses go to “equity” applicants. Some in the cannabis industry warned the mandatory 1:1 ratio would drive businesses to other cities.

Yet as of July 21, 81 people had applied for licenses (excluding dispensaries), according to Assistant City Manager Greg Minor, who is overseeing the process. Out of these, 35 are “equity” applications, but only 10 had already secured a business location. For general applicants, all but seven of the 46 had a location. The city allows applicants to apply without a site, but they can’t get a final permit until they have one.

“This is consistent with the challenges we thought would emerge which is why we let people apply while they were looking for space,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the city’s Department of Race and Equity. “We wanted to lay down a pathway that gave us an opportunity to get more people in for us to work with and give them an opportunity to break into this business.”

In order to qualify under the equity category, a person must present documents proving that they were arrested after Nov. 5, 1996 and convicted of a cannabis crime committed in Oakland, or that they had lived in any combination of 21 police beats in East and West Oakland with the highest number of marijuana-related arrests. Equity applicants can’t earn more than 80 percent of the city’s average median income; $52,650 or less for a single person household.

People who don’t qualify under those guidelines but still want to get a permit can team up with an equity applicant to boost their priority. Those partnerships are called incubators, and there are nine such applications so far. Five expressed interest in the idea.

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