LA Hosts historic first meeting of cannabis regulation commission

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CRC will hold public hearings on cannabis business licensing and rules.

The inaugural meeting of the Cannabis Regulation Commission was held tonight at Los Angeles City Hall, packing the John Ferraro Council Chamber Room to standing room only with a diverse crowd.

Though this particular meeting is just the first of many to come, Robert Ahn—a former planning commissioner who was unanimously elected president of the Cannabis Regulation Commission at the same meeting—was quick to note its importance.

“As I was thinking about today’s hearing last night it dawned on me that this is historical,” he said. “Each and every one of you that is here today is seeing history in the making. Very seldom in our lives do we have that opportunity.”

While the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) administers the city’s rules and regulations for cannabis businesses within Los Angeles, the Cannabis Regulation Commission will hold public hearings related to the licensing of said businesses and may also make recommendations to City Council about changes to L.A.’s rules.

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In addition to Ahn, other commissioners include CPA Rita Villa, who was unanimously elected vice president; Victor Narro, formerly of the LAPD Commission’s Police Permit Review; Phillip D. Mercado, regional chief of general surgery with Southern California Permanente Medical Group; and lawyer Misty Wilks.

Cat Packer, DCR Executive Director, noted that Los Angeles is the second largest city in the U.S. to implement such a regulatory program, behind New York City, where medical cannabis has been legal since 2014. What Los Angeles does now and in the months to come will certainly influence other cities, and a meeting like Monday’s is emblematic of the sweeping changes in cannabis laws and perception over the past several years.

“It is my hope as Executive Director that… in implementing this shift in public opinion and public policy, we do so thoughtfully an equitably to address the many challenges and opportunities ahead,” Packer said.

Packer also laid out a timeline of cannabis legalization in California and the creation of DCR and the Commission before turning the floor to DCR’s Jason Killeen, who discussed the phases of city licensing.

Phase 1 pertained to existing, compliant medical marijuana dispensaries. Killeen said the city estimates that before Phase 1’s end, there will be 167 authorized adult-use and medical locations citywide. Phase 2 will pertain to non-retail, social equity cannabis businesses that were supplying to existing medical cannabis businesses. Los Angeles’ Social Equity Program is meant to ensure that those who have been negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition will have access to the opportunities provided by legalization.

Phase 2 information will be online at the DCR’s website on July 18, and businesses will have a 30-day window to submit beginning August 1st. (Criteria which can not feasibly be proved within 30 days may be overlooked, so don’t worry if that’s you.) Phase 3 will be open to the general public and other social equity applicants. A date for Phase 3 has not been announced.

Though many people are likely ready to move forward after decades of cannabis being criminalized, the Commission repeatedly asked for patience as it figures it all out.

Of course, public comment indicated many are over being patient. Over 30 people lined up to speak. Packer noted she’d talked to perhaps 75 percent of the room already since appointed to her position by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in August of 2017, saying people often recognized and stopped her when she was out and about to ask questions.

Those who weren’t advocating for the city to get a move on asked for assurance that the Social Equity Program would, in fact, be equitable and not just cater those wealthy enough to pay for education, licensing, and other associated costs. The youngest commenter was an 11-year-old girl, in attendance with her mother, who told the Commission that the youth need more cannabis education — as those of us who grew up with D.A.R.E. can probably relate.

Packer concluded the meeting by asking everyone not to use the term “black market” when talking about cannabis activity that falls outside of legality, but instead say “illicit market.”

“Black does not mean criminal,” she said, before being momentarily drowned out by an enthusiastic crowd.

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