Calif. Offering Social Equity Grants to Cities, Counties

By Willis Jacobson
Dec 18, 2020
Photo by Craig Marolf on Unsplash

California cannabis regulators have begun accepting applications for $15M in social equity grants the state plans to award to local jurisdictions in the next year.

The grants are meant to help jurisdictions promote equity and eliminate barriers to entry into the industry for communities harmed by marijuana criminalization and the War on Drugs. The grants, which are part of the state’s 2020-21 budget, are managed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).

Eligible jurisdictions must submit applications by Feb. 1, 2021.

What can the grants fund?

The state is accepting two types of funding requests:

  • Type 1 provides assistance for the creation of a cannabis equity assessment or for the development of a social equity program within a jurisdiction. There is $2M available for this type of grant, though applicants are limited to a maximum request of $75,000.
  • Type 2 provides assistance to bolster or expand already existing equity programs. Applicants may request up to $5M for Type 2 grants.
    • To be eligible for a Type 2 grant, a jurisdiction must have already conducted a cannabis equity assessment or implemented an equity program by Feb. 1, 2021.

Application process

A GO-Biz team will review the applications and score them on a point scale. The top-scoring applicants will move on to the funding phase, which will involve further review, depending on the request type.

  • Many of the application questions are focused on the size, scope and specific elements of the jurisdiction’s social equity program, or planned program.
  • Jurisdictions that receive grants are required to submit annual status reports to GO-Biz documenting how the funds were used and what impact they made.

Program History

The state awarded $30M in social equity grants to local jurisdictions in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

  • Proposition 64, the ballot measure approved in 2016 to establish a REC market, called for cannabis to be regulated in a way that “reduces barriers to entry into the legal, regulated market.”
  • To fulfill that mission, the BCC and GO-Biz partnered on the grant program for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years.
  • In addition to lowering barriers to entry, the grants will also aid in reducing the illicit market, according to the state.
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