Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2017
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Rachel Swan


Each of San Francisco's 11 supervisors has called for "equity" in the
city's cannabis laws, meaning they want to create a racially diverse
industry that gives former drug offenders a shot at success.

On Wednesday, Supervisor Malia Cohen presented an ordinance to help
the city achieve its social justice goals when sales of recreational
marijuana become legal throughout the state in January. The city won't
issue permits to sell recreational cannabis until an equity program is

Cohen's proposal - modeled after a similar program that Oakland
approved in March and another that's being considered in Los Angeles -
would prioritize permits for dispensary operators with marijuana
arrests or convictions between 1971 and 2009. Also eligible for
priority would be entrepreneurs who committed other nonviolent crimes
during that time period, or who earn 80 percent of San Francisco's
area median income, or who were displaced from their homes within the
past 22 years.

Equity applicants must also prove that they have lived for at least
five years in a city census tract where at least 17 percent of the
households had incomes at or below the federal poverty level.

"We consider (this) a robust proposal for how to codify an equity
program," said Cohen's legislative aide, Brittni Chicuata, laying out
the supervisor's 10-page ordinance at a meeting of the board's Rules

Its members - Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Norman Yee and Sandra Lee Fewer
- - voted 2-1 to incorporate the equity program into a meticulously
detailed set of regulations that the Office of Cannabis introduced in
September. Fewer dissented.

The committee will hold a special meeting next week to vote on the
cannabis regulations again before sending them to the full board the
following week.

Chicuata said that Cohen chose the 1971-2009 period because of its
historical significance. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a
war on drugs. Beginning in 2009, rising real estate prices and changes
in the labor market forced many low-income households and people of
color out of the city. It was also the year that former District
Attorney Kamala Harris stopped prosecuting people convicted of
marijuana crimes.

"We wanted to recommend something that gets at the community-level
impacts of the failed drug war," Chicuata said.

Cohen's law would also fast-track permits for businesses willing to
nurture equity applicants by providing mentorship and technical
assistance, or rent-free commercial space for at least three years.
These incubators would also ensure that at least half their employees
meet the equity criteria, and that San Francisco residents do at least
half of the work.

The equity program coincided with two new reports that the Office of
Cannabis, city controller and Human Rights Commission released Wednesday.

Those reports overlapped at many points with Cohen's program, in that
they also recommended an incubator system and urged the city to
prioritize residents of neighborhoods that suffered most during the
drug war, said Office of Cannabis Director Nicole Elliott.

Cannabis business owners who attended the three-hour meeting offered
their own definitions of "equity," most of which were a little more
far-reaching than Cohen's.

"San Francisco should make the equity program as broad as possible,"
said Alexandra Butler, founder of Hepburns, a collective that sells
pre-rolled cones of cannabis and ice-water hash.

Butler envisioned an equity program that would incorporate women
entrepreneurs, as well as people of color and people arrested for
selling cannabis. Other business owners asked that veterans be included.

Supervisors Safai and Jeff Sheehy added amendments of their own,
requiring cannabis operators who didn't fit the equity criteria to
hire locals for at least 30 percent of their workforce. They also
added provisions to protect cannabis workers' rights to unionize.
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MAP posted-by: Matt