San Diego’s Social Equity Proposal Could Provide Needed Fixes

The long-awaited social equity program for San Diego would provide a revolving loan fund for eligible parties.
San Diego's

San Diego’s proposal to establish a social equity program would present eligibility criteria that would help participants find locations, get financing, and get critical mentorship from existing members of the cannabis industry.

It would create a revolving loan fund that would begin with $5 million in city cannabis tax revenue. That probably won’t be an issue, as San Diego recorded over $24 million in cannabis tax revenue that was collected during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Only those who meet these two criteria will be eligible:

  • Applicants must have been convicted of a cannabis crime, or have had a family member convicted of a cannabis crime, after Jan. 1, 1994, within the San Diego city limits.
  • Applicants must be 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 of these four criteria:

  • Have a household income under 80% of the area median income.
  • 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.
  • Placed in the foster care system at any time between 1971 and 2016.

“We’re no longer talking in abstractions,” Kim Desmond, Chief of Race and Equity for the City of San Diego, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “It’s an industry that is riddled with racial disparities.”

Bruce Mayberry, chief executive of the San Diego Central Black Chamber of Commerce, echoed those statements, adding that the city must take action.

“If you look at the number of African-Americans that were incarcerated and had their lives turned upside down when cannabis was illegal, and now you look at the number of African-Americans that are benefitting from cannabis now that it’s legal, you can make an argument that another crime is being committed,” Mayberry said.

San Diego’s Equity Problems

The problems of the city and county of San Diego have already been laid out.

On July 7, the City of San Diego released the Draft Cannabis Equity Report, detailing how Black and Latino people make up about 50% of total cannabis arrests since 2015, despite representing only 29% of San Diego’s population.

Ownership misrepresentation problems represent another facet of the problem: The study found that in San Diego County, 68% of cannabis business license holders are white, while white people make up 44% of the county’s overall population.

Latinos make up 34% of the overall population—yet hold only 14% of cannabis business licenses. Black people make up 5.6% of the county population and hold about 7% of cannabis licenses, perhaps due to recent efforts.

The study also found a huge disparity between men and women business owners.

San Diego’s proposal for a cannabis equity program will receive its next hearing in City Council on Sept. 20. It must be approved by late October in order to meet a state-imposed deadline for the next round of cannabis equity funding, which is expected to be close to $2 million, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Voice of San Diego reports that cannabis sales, distribution, manufacturing, and cultivation continue to be banned in the unincorporated areas, but a countywide ordinance is expected to include a social equity provision. That ordinance could roll out next year with a vote from the county’s Board of Supervisors.

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