California Announces $20 Million Grant Program to Increase Retail Marijuana Licensing in Underserved Areas!

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To meet unmet consumer demand and assist reduce the illicit market, California marijuana officials announced on Tuesday that the state is creating a first-of-its-kind grant programme to encourage cities and counties in building local cannabis industry licencing schemes.

Local jurisdictions around the state will share in $20 million from the Department of Cannabis Control’s (DCC) Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant, with priority given to those whose surveys indicate a disparity between the number of licenced merchants and the number of adult cannabis users.

If a municipality does not have a retail licencing programme but intends to create one, it may apply. As an added bonus, we’ll be giving extra weight to jurisdictions whose licencing regulations are oriented towards promoting equity.

DCC has already pinpointed 18 counties across the state where “the fraction of permitted cannabis retail outlets is low compared to its share of consumer use,” which includes places like Fresno County, Orange County, and San Diego County.

As the agency puts it, “since cannabis consumers within these areas would benefit from expanded access to legal cannabis,” these counties and the cities within them will be given priority assessment should they apply for a grant and create a permitting scheme.

 

Grants are not available to jurisdictions that have chosen not to allow marijuana merchants and have no intentions to licence them in the near future. In addition to being ineligible, stores located in jurisdictions with licencing programmes or those that have previously been permitted to sell the product cannot apply.

“Expanding access to California’s retail cannabis market is a vital step towards preserving consumer safety and supporting a balanced market,” DCC Director Nicole Elliott stated in a press statement. In order to provide existing consumers with easy access to regulated cannabis, “the retail access award programme ultimately intends to encourage legal retail enterprises.”

The program’s funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to providing assistance to equity applicants and licensees; completing permitting evaluations; covering permitting costs; and providing personnel support for licencing activities.

“Lack of access to California’s legal cannabis marketplace threatens consumer safety and perpetuates the illegal market. By financially supporting the creation of pathways to retail licensure and creating incentives to ensure consumers have access to legal retail, these grant funds are intended to help reduce illicit market activity and provide consumers with access to legal retail stores and regulated products.”

 

From March 10th, until April 28th, municipalities and counties can apply for the licencing grants. The first round of grants, totalling $10 million, will be distributed by June 20. Starting on June 30, when they begin granting retailer licences, those recipients will have access to the remaining $10 million.

DCC claims this is the first time a state has granted funding to help local governments pay for retail cannabis licencing. Since more than 60% of California’s jurisdictions do not provide local retail licencing for cannabis, the retail access grant programme can help cities and counties guarantee consumers have adequate access to regulated cannabis by working with the state.

Only a few days ago, California officials announced that $15 million in grants would be distributed to help local initiatives improve equity in the marijuana business.

Funds were allocated through the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions, which is administered by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). Late last year, registration began for the programme.

Last year, GO-Biz allocated $35.5 million in community reinvestment grants funded by tax income from legalised marijuana sales.
At the same time, in October, DCC stated that the state would be offering up to $20 million in grants to universities that carry out research on cannabis science and policy, such as studies on preventing monopolies in the legal market and securing the genetics of “legacy” strains.

Regulators in California have recently sought an official opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether or not allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action, suggesting that they are considering expanding the state’s marijuana market beyond its borders.

The governor signed a bill allowing for the import and export of marijuana goods last year, and this year’s request for assistance from DCC could be the final piece of the puzzle needed to set that law into motion.

For the same reason, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has been advocating for the federal legalisation of marijuana since last year. He wants his state’s cannabis farmers to be able to “legally supply the rest of the nation.”

In a separate development, after having a bill to legalise possession of certain psychedelics blocked at the final minute of the 2022 session, a state lawmaker has recently reintroduced it.

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