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San Diego is granted nearly $900,000 for cannabis entrepreneurship equity

San Diego was awarded more than $880,000 on Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom's Office of Business and Economic Development to "promote equity" in the local cannabis industry.

Armand King is at the forefront of local efforts to create cannabis equity across San Diego.

“Done correctly this is going to help hundreds and create generational wealth. And help be able to produce funding sources for communities that have been ravished by the failed war on drugs,” he said.


According to the state, the money is intended to support residents seeking to enter the legal cannabis industry in the city through funding grants to cover permit and license fees and associated startup property costs while providing access to the cannabis industry workforce.

"The historical enforcement of drug laws produced profound disparities in business ownership, wage earnings and mass incarceration within the criminal justice system for African American/Black, Latino and Native American/Indigenous communities," said Kim Desmond, the city's chief of race and equity. "An acknowledgment of historic institutional racism and systemic inequity is key to understanding disparities in the cannabis industry."

San Diego was among 16 cities and counties across the state to receive a combined $15 million in grants, funded through tax revenue generated from statewide recreational cannabis sales.

According to the city, the GO-Biz funds will be disbursed locally, going toward permitting and licensing fees, education and training and property rental assistance for industries that support local cannabis businesses — such as finance, marketing, advertising and legal services.

"Receiving this critical funding source is vital to jump-starting our Cannabis Equity Program," said Lara Gates, the deputy director of San Diego's Cannabis Business Division. "These dollars will provide a solid foundation for our initial cannabis equity applicants to get a strong foothold in the legal cannabis market."


Gates said they're looking to distribute the funds for 36 cannabis equity licenses.

“We’d be phasing in those 36 licenses over four years, so that's nine licenses a year. So what I’d anticipate is that the first nine licenses would really get the benefit of these dollars,” she said.

Gates said she expects applications to open early next year. First, the city needs to update its land development code.

Armand King said he’s excited to see this effort uplift some of San Diego’s most disadvantaged communities.

“This industry opening up to people like myself — who served three years in federal prison, nine different institutions, for 10 pounds of weed as a first time offender — can now benefit off of this,” he said. “So this means a lot more to people than ‘I have a license,’ it's bigger than that.”

King said he hopes the City of San Diego will add its own funds toward the cannabis equity effort.

In 2022, the city was awarded $764,000 from a state Department of Cannabis Control grant to "develop online the tools necessary to help businesses navigate and comply with local and state laws and streamline permit processes."

The city's Cannabis Business Division issues permits and regulates cannabis businesses in San Diego to ensure they follow requirements under city code.

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