LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The head of Los Angeles’ Department of Cannabis Regulation said today her department will not move on to the next phase of a program that provides specialized cannabis retail licenses until a third-party audit of its latest phase is completed.
Cat Packer, the department’s executive director, said Mayor Eric Garcetti last week called for an independent review of the Social Equity Program application process for the Phase 3 Retail Round 1 and stated that the final licensing process will not continue until the completion of the audit.
Packer said the department will continue to process Phase 3 Retail Round 1 application per city law until 100 applicants are determined to be eligible for further processing. However, the department will not continue to the next phase of licensing until the audit process is complete.
The Social Equity Program is open to people who are considered low- income and/or have a low-level criminal history related to cannabis and operate in a “dispensary-impacted area,” most of which are located in South Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Dozens of program applicants who attended a meeting of the Los Angeles Cannabis Regulation Commission last month complained about the process.
Some suggested that their applications were not fairly processed, while others said the website wouldn’t work with their internet speeds. Some said they believed certain people were given priority in the system.
DCR reported that in total, during the third phase of the 14-day application period that started Sept. 3, it received 802 applications for about 100 available licenses from verified applicants and each of them had already made investments associated with the licensing process.
Amid questions about the fairness of the process and potential problems with the online application system, City Council President Herb Wesson announced in October said he asked the DCR to suspend processing retail licenses.
A recent report from City Controller Ron Galperin earlier this month noted that the city collected more than $70 million in cannabis business and sales taxes last fiscal year.
The California Bureau of Cannabis Control recently announced it will spend $10 million to help social equity programs in cities, including Los Angeles and Oakland.