San Diego Creates Social Equity Program

San Diego, California has approved a social-equity program that includes fee waivers, start-up loans, and other business assistance.

Full story after the jump.

The San Diego, California City Council on Tuesday approved a social-equity program for the city’s cannabis industry, including start-up loans, fee waivers, and other business assistance, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. San Diego was the first California city to approve an adult-use cannabis licensing plan in 2017 but it did not include social equity provisions. 

To be eligible for the San Diego social equity program, applicants must meet two mandatory eligibility criteria: being convicted of a cannabis crime or having had a family member convicted of a cannabis crime after January 1, 1994, within the San Diego city limits; and being a current or former resident — for at least five cumulative years between 1980 and 2016 — of Barrio Logan, Linda Vista, southeastern San Diego, Encanto, Golden Hill, North Park, City Heights, the College Area or San Ysidro. 

Applicants must also meet two other criteria, including having a household income below 80% of the area median income, which in 2022 is $106,900 for a family of four; lost housing in San Diego through eviction, foreclosure, or subsidy cancellation after 1994; attended school in the San Diego Unified School District for at least five years between 1971 and 2016, or placed in the foster care system at any time between 1971 and 2016. 

Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said during the meeting that the city “had some members of the community, especially the Black community, who were locked up and locked down as a result of participating in something that many other members of society were openly engaging in.” 

“And then the doors were thrown open to a market and those with the most resources were able to rush through and start hoarding the profits, all while folks were chained down by the actions of the past.” — Elo-Rivera via the Union-Tribune 

An analysis by the city found that since 2015, Black and Latino people comprised a greater percentage of arrests than they made up of the population; although local law enforcement agencies couldn’t provide records prior to 2015. 

A city-conducted survey of cannabis business owners throughout the county found that 68% of owners are White, despite the demographic making up just 44% of the population. Latinos hold 14% of licenses despite making up 34% of the overall county population. Black people controlled 7% of licenses while making up 5.6% of the county population. The study also estimates that 87% of license holders in the county are men while 13% are women. 

Since California started allowing equity programs in 2018, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, and San Francisco have launched them, the report says, adding that Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino counties also have programs, which are funded by state cannabis taxes. 

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