CA cities to get state funds for marijuana license backlog

As thousands of provisional marijuana license holders in California struggle to secure a full annual license, the state is kicking in $100 million to help cities and counties to address the backlog.

California voters in 2016 voted to legalize the sale of adult-use cannabis, opening the door for a legal recreational cannabis market in the state. The state began issuing licenses in 2018, including provisional licenses.

Provisional licenses were intended by the state to be a stepping stone to help marijuana cultivators, retailers and distributors enter the legal cannabis marketplace. They are intended to be replaced by full annual licenses.

The state’s provisional license program was set to expire in January, however Assembly Bill 141, which was passed into law last summer, created rolling sunset dates for provisional licenses based on license and applicant type, and also established specific benchmarks for the renewal of provisional licenses.

Seventeen California cities and counties are eligible for the Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program funding, which is administered by the newly created Department of Cannabis Control. The eligible jurisdictions were selected because they have the highest numbers of provisional licensees, representing approximately two-thirds of California’s provisional license holders, according to the Department of Cannabis Control.

“The local jurisdictions eligible to receive grant funding represent areas with large numbers of small, equity and legacy cannabis businesses, including small cultivators that often have unique regulatory needs,” said Department Director Nicole Elliott in a statement.

That includes Sacramento, which is eligible for up to $5.7 million in funding, including $3.2 million in funding from an equity program.

There are a total of 296 cannabis licensees in Sacramento County, of which 218 are provisional and 78 are annual.

Tim Swanson, spokesman for the Sacramento city manager’s office, said the city plans to work with the state to identify which local operators have not yet fulfilled the requirements to receive their annual license.

“We also will be working with our stakeholders to further understand what barriers are keeping them from an annual license. The city remains committed to improving the regulated market and creating a more streamlined and user-friendly permitting process for legally operating cannabis businesses,” he said.

Statewide, there are 11,861 total marijuana license holders — of those approximately 75% are provisional, according to the Department of Cannabis Control.

The department typically issues provisional licenses in cases where the business is working to become compliant with either the California Environmenal Quality Act (CEQA) or with local ordinances, but is not yet fully compliant.

“DCC’s licensing staff also works directly with both applicants and local governments to ensure applicants are actively and diligently working towards completion of annual license requirements. When a provisional license is issued, DCC provides the business with a list of pending application items that must be resolved in order to obtain an annual license,” according to a department statement.

Jurisdictions have until Nov. 15 to submit their application for the grant funding.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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