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City Could Make It Easier For Some Cannabis Businesses To Find Locations


The city of Los Angeles' well-intentioned social equity cannabis licensing program has been beset by growing pains since its creation, but a new suite of recommendations from the city's Department of Cannabis Regulation is aimed at helping businesses have greater access to real estate, one of the trickiest elements of the process.

As it stands, these businesses are not able to simply find a new location as they see fit. They are tied to specific community plan areas for prospective locations and to the sites that they selected when they applied. As such, "DCR routinely receives feedback from stakeholders frustrated that they are trapped at locations with unfavorable leases or at locations that may limit the success of their business," a report from the DCR reads. 

The social equity program is open to applicants who have had a cannabis arrest or conviction, who are low-income or who live in an area disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

"The only landlords I can even talk to are those within my community plan area," Biko CEO and social equity license holder Timeka Drew said at a Bisnow event in September.

"There is nothing forcing any landlord in my community plan area to even rent to me to begin with, let alone give me a reasonable deal for my lease," Drew said. "It makes it incredibly difficult to make sure that I can establish myself in a way that's going to make sense over time."

The department has proposed a pathway that would allow these business owners to relocate to a different community plan area in the city —any community plan area that hasn't already hit its limit for that type of cannabis business. The idea is that there may be more opportune real estate locations and better lease terms waiting for them.

These new prospective locations still have to meet the litany of zoning criteria that cannabis businesses do, which dictate how far they must be from uses including schools, but businesses would get to choose from a much larger, citywide pool of suitable sites. 

"Another part of it is just your attractiveness to partners," Drew told Bisnow. "It's a lot harder when you're coming to them and saying, I'm stuck in this community plan area, I can't find a compliant property, can you help?"

The proposed amendment was one of over a dozen that went before the city council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Nov. 1. The committee recommended allowing social equity applicants to relocate but would leave out licensees. 

The matter has to go before the full city council for a final vote. The council could follow the committee's recommendations but is not required to. A date for the matter to go before the full council has not yet been posted.