- San Francisco is expanding its Cannabis Equity Program to include legal services for applicants.
- The program now will include a matching program to partner lawyers with cannabis entrepreneurs who wish to comply with regulations related to permitting, banking, zoning and taxation, among other topics. The Office of Cannabis is partnering with the local Bar Association to provide the legal assistance at no cost to program applicants.
- The equity program is intended to support those who were affected by the enforcement of previous drug laws, especially people of color who disproportionately experienced an impact.
California legalized the recreational use of marijuana in January and people have since been hopping on the bandwagon to launch weed-related businesses.
One aspect of cannabis legalization that the public sometimes overlooks is what happens to people who previously had been convicted on drug charges for a substance that now is legal. Typically, states automatically expunge those portions of a person's criminal record. However, those convictions can have a lasting effect on a person's life. Expungements do not take into account the lost time, energy and income or the negative life experiences for fighting such charges, or how drug charges could be related to additional charges that cannot be instantly expunged.
San Francisco's Cannabis Equity Program aims to support this group of people by providing a form of reparations. Offering the free legal advice to program applicants removes a significant barrier to those individuals starting successful cannabis businesses. Research indicates that people who have better access to legal resources, especially a lawyer with knowledge of the cannabis industry, can better navigate regulations and become successful.
The program is designed to level the playing field for low-income cannabis entrepreneurs by shrinking knowledge gaps and providing economic opportunities, especially for people of color who were disproportionately affected by previous marijuana law enforcement.
More than 100 equity program applicants have applied for permits with the Office of Cannabis but none have been approved yet, reports the San Francisco Examiner. The free legal advice should better help the applicants navigate the barriers of the approval process.