Social Equity Assessment for Commercial Cannabis Survey
At the Tuesday, December 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board received the "Social Equity Assessment for Commercial Cannabis". At the beginning of 2021, the Board directed staff to develop a Socially Equitable Cannabis Program— and this assessment is going to serve as a framework for the County to codify commercial cannabis in the unincorporated areas.


Summary of Recommendations (Copy/Pasted from Assessment)
Justice in the 4/20 industry means addressing the disparate impacts of the War on Drugs that Black, Indigenous and people of color and low-income communities disproportionately felt. The SEE program can accomplish this by placing disproportionately impacted communities in the driver seat of policy implementation and evaluation, supporting these disproportionately impacted communities as people overall and as entrepreneurs through community reinvestment and technical assistance, and creating a cannabis industry where social equity entrepreneurs can thrive through policy regulations that focus economic opportunity on social equity entrepreneurs and lower barriers that they disproportionately face. The following section summarizes policy and program recommendations for the County to enact. “PART II RECOMMENDATIONS” comprises the full explanation of recommendations to the County.

Share power with stakeholders by engaging stakeholders equitably, honoring data
sovereignty and building community awareness and education.
Prioritize those individuals and communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs and cannabis criminalization. It is not equitable when impacted people are not central to decision-making and speaking for themselves. Convene and support community collaboratives that are composed of at least 50% social equity eligible participants. These collaboratives will oversee permit selection, an anti-stigma campaign, micro-finance, research and reporting, decarceration and expungement, community reinvestment, and more. Under community guidance public awareness and education efforts should be seen not only as a tool to promote program participation, but also a tool to heal community wounds from the War on Drugs. Finally, evaluate all social equity efforts under community guidance to promote data sovereignty and community ownership. Moreover, social equity is not one-and-done, and program features like eligibility requirements and benefits should be phased in over time with careful attention to community-led research and evaluation. All participants, contributors, supporters, and leaders must commit to building and strengthening social equity efforts and outcomes. The County of San Diego should facilitate social equity leadership, while paying close attention to the Key concepts of social equity, Indeigenous sovereignty and community ownership (Figure 1).

Support indigenous sovereignty through land rematriation and increasing access to the
regulated cannabis industry. 
Partnering with tribal leadership, the County should explore existing and previous land return efforts and learn from best practices. Access to land may, at the tribes’ discretion, increase opportunities for tribes to participate in the legal adult-use recreational cannabis industry. The County should also support tribe-to-tribe cannabis commerce. Additionally, the County should proactively offer access to deidentified public data
that can support advocacy on state and federal levels (e.g., cannabis arrest data for Native American/American Indian (NA/AI) and tribal lands).

End cannabis criminalization and open opportunity for directly impacted by expanding
expungement efforts, investing in diversion and restorative justice and non-carceral
regulation enforcement. 
The War on Drugs and cannabis criminalization have failed to lessen illegal drug use and have failed to make our communities safer. Social equity in the cannabis industry provides the opportunity to focus on alternatives to incarceration, like expungement, jail diversion, and restorative justice, and to educate people about the deeper roots and impacts of stigmatization. Cannabis criminalization has been a major driver of racially
inequitable values and systems in the U.S. The County should build on its existing expungement efforts by implementing automatic record clearing and hosting expungement events that support community healing anti-stigma education. Additionally, re-review thousands of records that were recommended by the State DOJ, but found to not meet criteria for dismissal or reduction. If the initial decision is upheld, report aggregate de-identified data explaining why they were not reduced or dismissed. Enforce cannabis market regulations and
facilitate conversion of legacy markets in a non-carceral manner.

Creating an accessible and responsive Social Equity Entrepreneurs Program by defining
program eligibility based on disproportionately impacted communities and permitting
cannabis businesses through a transparent and equity-focused process.
A cannabis industry should be by and for social equity. Permits should go to social equity businesses only,
and smaller local operations should be encouraged by regulatory design, including lower taxes
on cultivation and manufacturing compared to retail and business-sale, lower taxes on social
equity licensees, and higher taxes on sale of business to large and non-local entities. Public
awareness and technical assistance should support eligible communities in accessing gainful
opportunities in a thriving industry.

Financially support Social Equity Entrepreneurs by increasing access to capital and
providing equitable technical assistance, tax structure and zoning policy.
Social Equity Entrepreneurs (SEE) have been most impacted by the War on Drugs and cannabis criminalization, and will likely bring to the County’s program a range of personal and professional needs that should proactively be supported. Professionally, knowledge of cannabis, business management, heavy regulated industry, financing lots of capital, and navigating complex community dynamics are all important. Providing technical assistance, training, opportunities for engagement with social equity aligned investors and a social equity
fund that can provide micro-grants and loans can help overcome these barriers. Additionally, tax, licensing and zoning structure should be written to reduce financial and regulatory barriers for SEE.

Reinvest in Community Development, Economic Justice and Health.
The County should use cannabis tax revenue to support assistance to social equity entrepreneurs, and leverage additional County programs, funds, and grant writing assistance to expand supports to impacted communities more broadly. Reinvestment should focus on disproportionately impacted communities and include investments in housing and public health. Additionally, reinvestments should include development and holistic support of SEE program-eligible cannabis workforce. Personally, employment, income, former/current incarceration, family support, health and wellness, housing, education, and many more may be high priorities for SEE.

Empower youth through establishment of an equitable regulated adult-use recreational
cannabis market.
Elevate alternatives to incarceration for youth who have been disproportionately criminalized for cannabis use. Include transition age youth (16-25) on all decision making bodies for the social equity program. Support adult transition age youth (21-25) as cannabis social equity entrepreneurs by establishing a social equity youth
empowerment fund, administered by a community collaborative with at least 50% social equity eligible Transition Age Youth (16-25).

Sustainably fund the Social Equity Entrepreneurs Program.
The County should leverage existing County programs and funding sources to provide SEE and community reinvestment benefits. Additionally, use established state funding and local cannabis tax revenue to fund
SEE program and community reinvestment programming. Finally, the County should develop SE-licensees capacity to raise funds.

To begin to repair impacts of the War on Drugs and to support gainful opportunities in
the legal cannabis industry for those who have been most impacted by the War on Drugs, the County of San Diego should establish a Social Equity Entrepreneurs (SEE) program that decriminalizes cannabis and strengthens community ownership in both policy and practice.
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