The City of Coachella and Cannabis Social Equity
The Coachella City Council is set to authorize spending up to $50,000 on consulting services for, according to a staff report, “cannabis technical assistance services” and “Social Equity Consulting Services” to the consulting firm of CannaBiz Consulting Group. The proposal from CanaBiz, published by the City of Coachella, describes the firm as a “Cannabis Social Equity Consulting,” firm and is on the agenda for the May 10th City Council Meeting.
So, just what in the Sam Hill is “Social Equity” in regard to marijuana? Why is the City of Coachella authorizing $50,000 to be spent to learn how to be a “Social Equitists”? The short, non-answer, is that social equity in cannabis is exactly like social equity anywhere else, a bunch of balderdash just with marijuana dispensary ownership… that gets a ton of tax-payer money spent on it. The longer, real answer takes a little digging.
Shovels at the ready? Let’s go!
According the staff report attached to the agenda, Coachella had a previous agreement with CanaBiz from May 13, 2021 to the tune of $25,000. The agreement that is linked gives the date of May 14, 2020. In any case, it looks like CanaBiz will account for $75,000 from the coffers of Coachella. Keep that amount in mind.
The services that were rendered in 2020-21, per agreement, were to assist city staff in developing “scoring sheets,” for cannabis license applicants, Coordination of the Cannabis Review Committee’s duties, and the coordination of scoring sheets, among other duties. Take a look at the screenshots below for a more accurate picture.
The new 2023 agreement looks a little different, with the exception of the billing amounts, which stayed the same. Take note of #1 below, about reviewing cannabis arrest records and identifying barriers for “social equity applicants“. In addition, if you go back to the proposal, you’ll see a ton of gibberish about social equity. Take note that the firm has experience in “oversight of cannabis social equity policy and verification processing, and “oversight of social equity grant disbursement for cannabis businesses.”
Just a reminder, this all centers around applicants that desire to be licensed to sell marijuana in the City of Coachella, and how they rank on the social equity scale.
We will get to a few of these points in just a minute. First, note that the Staff report indicates “the Agreement with CannaBiz Consulting Group will be paid out of existing GO-Biz Cannabis Grant funding. The City was awarded $50,000 for this provision of service.” Go-Biz?
The State of California
Go-Biz, according to this ca.gov website, is a product of the State of California and was born from the social equity lunatics in Sacramento and the passage of Proposition 64, “the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA),” in 2016. Proposition 64 called for “ for regulating cannabis in a way that reduces barriers to entry into the legal, regulated market.” The purpose of Go-Biz is to “administer(s) the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions to aid local equity program efforts to support equity applicants and equity licensees.”
The State of California offers two types of requests for local jurisdictions: Type 1 is a request for up to $75,000; Type 2 is a request for up to $5 million. It is up to those jurisdictions to develop guidelines for the social equitable regulation of their cannabis industry. Since 2019-20, California has granted approximately $93 million tax-payer dollars to cities and counties across the State.
Local beneficiary, the City of Palm Springs, claimed $149,397.90 in Go-Biz grants in 2019-20; $869,540.18 in 2020-21; and $1,303,588.00 in 2021-22. The City of Coachella received $93,783.22 in 2019-20, and $500,000 in 2023.
If you remember the amount from earlier, CannaBiz Consulting has so far claimed $75,000 (not to exceed) of those grants.
California offers “State support to…equity business owners…who can get” reduced or deferred state licensing fees, and technical support with the licensing process. California further contends that “offering these types of support will also aid the state in its goal of eliminating or reducing the illicit cannabis market by bringing more people into the legal marketplace.”
Oh, brother. What could go wrong? Read on to find out.
Click on the link “Local Equity Promising Practices (Hosted by the Department of Cannabis Control)” from the Go-Biz site and you’ll land on another California government site, this one actually defines what is actually going on: “California’s cannabis equity efforts support people and communities harmed by cannabis criminalization. These efforts lower barriers to the cannabis industry for those hit hardest by the War on Drugs.” Specifically, those hardest hit are “people who were arrested or convicted of cannabis offenses, their families, and the communities in which they live.”
The site also identifies the barriers to access to the cannabis ownership market. Namely: “Getting access to capital; Understanding complex regulatory requirements; Finding locations where cannabis businesses can operate; Developing business relationships; Getting technical support.” Oh, and is it safe to assume that “our people” is not white people? Or, would a straight, white man who went to jail for dealing weed, be a “Tier 1” applicant?
California also informs prospective applicants on what to look for in local equity programs.
Now, to the scary part. The Promising Practices website directs city and county officials to review the Ten Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinances to get an idea of what they may need to do to get paid (in grants). Remember, this is not free money, to do with what they please.
Model Social Equity Ordinances
Yikes! My shovel is getting dirty and smelly!
Ordinance #1 gives a couple of working definitions. One definition is that a “‘Member of an Impacted Family’ means arrested or convicted for a cannabis charge.” A “’resident of a Disproportionately Impacted Area’ means someone who lived in an area with disproportionately high cannabis arrest,.” is another. Tiers of equity in applicants for dispensary licences are defined in ordinance #1–Tier 1 and Tier 2 and Tier 3. Tiers 1 and 2 are given application processing priority and are funded and “incubated” by tier 3. The 4th Tier are “general applicants” who are not equity applicants and are served dead last.
Ordinance #2 defines the percentage of employees that must meet “equity eligibility criteria,” which is 25%.
Ordinance #5 is the humdinger though. This ordinance states that there must be no discrimination in regard to an applicants…well, just read the entire ridiculous ordinance:
“This ordinance bars local governments from discriminate against licensing applicants on the basis of their substance use treatment history, or convictions unrelated to honesty (e.g., fraud, deceit, embezzlement), and background checks can only be used to check for these convictions.“
There ya go. Did you catch it? Here, read it again.
In the name of equity, those applying for licenses to sell marijuana in the City of Coachella will not undergo background checks for murder, rape, battery, stalking, domestic violence, et.al. before receiving taxpayer money to sell weed. Applicants recruited from the illicit marijuana trade, as stated by California.
Racism in practice? Who are the “general applicants” that get served last? Perhaps the text of the ordinances would give us a clue? Let’s try!
This is not “anti-racism,” nor is it equality or equal opportunity. It is “equity”. The entire paradigm of pre-determined outcomes based on racial preference, is repugnant to the U.S. Constitution. This is racism in practice and should be abandoned by cities, counties, and the State of California.