San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Discusses ‘Cannabis Equity’ Program
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / October 3, 2019
Speaker 1: 00:00 Now that the laws around cannabis are evolving. There is an effort by two San Diego city council members to bring equity to the multibillion dollar industry. It's called the cannabis equity program and its goal is to take dollars from marijuana sales tax and use them to lower barriers to cannabis licensing for those hit hardest by the war on drugs. One city council member proposing this program is Monica Montgomery. Monica, welcome. Thanks for having me. You and Chris ward have made the pitch for a cannabis equity program in San Diego. What spurred this proposal?
Speaker 2: 00:34 Yes, we did make the pitch. Uh, we went before our, our colleagues on the economic development and intergovernmental relations committee. I believe it was last week or the week before last. Um, really what this comes from is the desire for, uh, our city to gain, uh, prop 64 funding that comes from the state. That was the proposition as you may recall, that the state, uh, voted on to allow marijuana to be legally sold in our state. And so there are, there are funds that we're missing out on as a city because we do not have a cannabis equity program, uh, at the city level. And that's really what, what spurred this along with just me being familiar with a lot of community members that have the same desire to enter into the industry but have a lot of barriers.
Speaker 1: 01:28 So how does your program help communities and people hit hardest by the war on drugs?
Speaker 2: 01:34 We're still working out some of the details, but the idea is that if there is a permitting, uh, component, um, attached to this program that it would benefit folks who have been impacted negatively by this, uh, this war on drugs or so called war on drugs, um, that we've experienced in the last few decades, uh, in our black and Brown communities. And so what it would do is it would concentrate on folks that have been impacted by the system, allow them to, uh, gain permits and maybe other assistance that they would need to open up, uh, cannabis shops, uh, throughout the city. We know that, um, the city of San Diego does allow for, um, marijuana retail outlets per district. Um, and we want to ensure that those permits are being given out, uh, equitably.
Speaker 1: 02:29 And what type of barriers might exist for people trying to get those licenses at this point in time? Well,
Speaker 2: 02:37 uh, the licensing has it, it's definitely a hot topic. When, uh, San Diego first decided to legalize having shops that were selling medical marijuana. There were, you know, basically permit Wars here at the city where folks would come and stand in line and, and really try to get those permits. Um, so there are just barriers, uh, from that perspective. There are also barriers as to, you know, obtaining land, um, to, to put the, the shops on. Um, and what we're trying to do with this systems just again, to equity component to cannabis. And we're trying to make sure that now that this, this market in this industry is legal. In so many years, it has not been and our communities have been negatively affected by that. We want to make it easier, uh, easier for those who have been impacted by a system that is now illegal system.
Speaker 1: 03:37 Can you talk a bit about how communities have been negatively impacted and how that puts certain people at a disadvantage when they're trying to get into this industry?
Speaker 2: 03:47 Yeah, so, um, when we're speaking of marijuana, we can look at marijuana usage and see that across the board and all different, uh, racist and um, races and, and uh, different folks. The usage is the same, but what we see is that black and Brown folks have been criminalized more for the use of marijuana. And so I believe when it comes to felonies, for example, a black person is, uh, has been five times more likely to have a felony attack to some attached to some type of drug use than their white counterpart. What that, um, there is, uh, you know, direct, uh, effect, a negative effect of that when we're talking about anything from housing to getting a job and also with permitting and, uh, cannabis retail outlets. And so we again, want to just really break down those barriers because there has been such a disproportionate impact on our communities.
Speaker 1: 04:49 In what other ways will this proposal help communities? Are there programs that will be put in place for, um, job at training or anything like that?
Speaker 2: 04:58 Yeah, so we have asked the city attorney to do a legal analysis, some of the ideas that we came up with that committee, but expungement relief was included as one of those ideas, ideas, uh, youth services for opportunity youth, um, in the areas of workforce and substance abuse treatment. Um, we are looking at many different things. Also funding of grassroots organizations that work with the populations that have been most impacted. And so, you know, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we're very hopeful that this would be something that, you know, the city can embrace and really be a model, um, of equity in the city of San Diego.
Speaker 1: 05:43 And you know, despite the best intention, some in the marijuana industry say social equity programs aren't necessarily working. They point to staffing and funding shortfalls for the programs. As you craft this, how do you ensure San Diego see some of the same problems? Other cities, uh, who have the same type of legislation have seen?
Speaker 2: 06:02 We know that the cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, all have their variation of a cannabis equity program. Um, we are fortunate now in San Diego that we have examples before us that we can kind of look at and we can make this program tailored to San Diego, which is exactly why we're taking our steps. We're going and getting a legal analysis, we're doing our own research. We really want something that benefits the people. Um, and so that's what we're striving to do.
Speaker 1: 06:34 Another concern is limited oversight of business partnership arrangements among social equity applicants and outside investors that could really ultimately keep equity applicants from getting their fair share. How do you prevent something like that from happening?
Speaker 3: 06:49 Okay,
Speaker 2: 06:49 well it's all in the way that we build the program. And like you said, that the, the things that we choose to sort of enforce and monitor our main purpose for this program is to counteract that. And so if it's a part of the program to monitor, to ensure that impacted folks are getting their fair share, then we have to look at that. But that is our purpose. That is our goal.
Speaker 1: 07:11 And this proposal, as you mentioned, was last in the economic development committee. What's next?
Speaker 2: 07:17 It will come back to the economic development committee with the legal analysis from the city attorney, um, and with more, you know, the resolution, the council resolution, and also a policy attached to it. And then we've, we'll see what that committee conversation is and go from there. Okay.
Speaker 1: 07:35 I've been speaking to city council woman, Monica Montgomery, council woman Montgomery. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: 07:41 Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 3: 07:50 [inaudible].
City Council members Monica Montgomery and Chris Ward are pushing for a program to bring equity to communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.