San Franciso Mayor London Breed announced last week that the city has received $4.5 million in state funding to enhance the city’s Cannabis Social Equity Grant Program. The funding, provided by the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, will be used by the city’s Office of Cannabis to support social equity applicants who want to open cannabis businesses in San Francisco.
“COVID-19 had a significant impact on our city’s small businesses and entrepreneurs, including those in the cannabis industry,” Breed said in a statement from the city. “With the assistance from the State and leadership at the Office of Cannabis, this funding will ensure that the Cannabis Equity Grant Program continues to achieve its goal of providing access to the industry for those who have been disproportionally affected by past policies.”
The city’s cannabis social equity program is designed to combat disparities in San Francisco’s regulated cannabis industry to ensure a pathway to ownership for members of marginalized communities and those disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Joyce Hicks, CEO of Neicey Pieces LLC, said the grant program has afforded an “unprecedented opportunity to reach my dreams.”
“The Office of Cannabis Grant Program provides vital support and opportunity to social equity applicants to start their own businesses in the regulated cannabis industry,” said Hicks. “As a San Francisco native from the Fillmore District, and a woman of color, my community has disproportionately been affected by the War on Drugs.”
San Francisco launched its cannabis social equity program in February 2021. Since that time, the city has issued $5.5 million in grants to 50 businesses, about 65 percent of which are owned by people of color. Nikesh Patel, director of the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, said that the city is “proactively addressing drug policies that have harmed our communities” through the cannabis social equity program.
“We hear from social equity applicants just how powerful these grants are to advance their businesses,” said Patel. “We take pride in continuing to develop a program that includes community input, meets applicants’ needs, and ultimately reduces barriers to entering the cannabis industry.”
Cannabis Social Equity Grants Up To $150,000
San Francisco’s cannabis social equity grants range from $50,000 to $150,000 and can be used to cover 13 eligible business expenses including licensing, rent, capital improvements, regulatory fees and business services professionals such as attorneys and accountants. The city noted that the program “is structured to allow grantees the ability to determine the best use of their award.”
“The Office of Cannabis Grant Program provided me with an opportunity to open my own retail store. It’s helped me tremendously, not only as a social equity partner, but also as a long-standing member of the San Francisco community who seeks to uplift those who’ve also been hurt by the War on Drugs,” said social equity business operator Rudy Corpuz, CEO of SGI Brannan LLC.
Some social equity programs have been criticized for establishing a system that allows large corporations to assume control of licenses originally awarded to social equity applicants. Many include provisions that allow social equity applicants to partner with larger companies, which can dilute the equity entrepreneur’s control of their business.
“As I seek to establish my own cannabis business, I’ve learned that not all money is good money,” said Perry Jones, CEO of Cali Heals. “However, when it comes to the San Francisco Equity Program, cannabis grants provided me with an opportunity to not only establish my own cannabis company, but to potentially realize generational wealth for me and my family.”
City officials revealed that $2 million in new cannabis social equity grants will be made available to eligible applicants in May. More information on San Francisco’s Social Equity Grant Program is available online.