California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018 Approved by the Legislature

September 05, 2018

SACRAMENTO ­– Late last week, Senate Bill 1294, the California Cannabis Equity Act was approved by the Legislature with strong bi-partisan support and is now on its way to Governor Brown’s desk, where he will take final action on all bills of his last legislative session in office. This bill, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), is the first of its kind, recognizing the damaging impacts cannabis prohibition has had on disadvantaged communities and in particular, communities of color. 

“SB 1294 provides legitimate pathways for individuals to operate lawfully - increasing public safety and public health within communities statewide - and is a monumental step in the right direction to ensure that California’s legalized cannabis industry is inclusive and diverse,” said Senator Bradford.  “This bill helps reverse some of the damages of our failed policies, such as the war on drugs, and presents real opportunities for individuals who as recent as last year, were deemed criminals by our justice system.”   

In June of this year, $10 million and four positions at the Bureau of Cannabis Control were approved in the 2017-18 state budget to support equity applicants and licenses.  SB 1294 builds off the work secured in the state budget by authorizing local jurisdictions, who have established a cannabis equity program, to apply for grants.  The funding from these grants will be used for business loans, capital improvements, regulatory compliance, licensing fee waivers, technical assistance and administration to assist local equity programs and participants.  Four cities - Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento - have already established local equity programs for their respective cannabis licensing and permitting processes. These programs are focused on business ownership and employment in the cannabis industry that reflect the local demographics of their cities. Equity applicants include those living in underserved, disadvantaged communities and those who have been negatively impacted by decades of harsh drug policies.

"Cities are working to create social equity programs to bring relief and new opportunities to communities of color that suffered through decades of disproportionate enforcement and punishment for non-violent cannabis offenses," said Cat Packer, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation. "This legislation would help clear the way for more equitable ownership and employment opportunities for people who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs and want to establish legitimate cannabis businesses in California.”  

“The passage of SB 1294 is an important step toward creating an equitable cannabis industry in California,” said Rodney Holcombe, Office of Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance. “As we know, access to capital and technical assistance are crucial for anyone wanting to create a business in this space. Unfortunately, persons most harmed by cannabis prohibition and generational poverty often lack the support needed to be successful. It is our hope that this will be the first of many victories needed to improve equity and accessibility in this growing industry.”



Senator Bradford represents the Los Angeles County communities of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lennox, San Pedro, Watts, Willowbrook, and Wilmington