Two San Diego city council members exploring ways to tap the city's $12 million annual marijuana tax haul are likely out of the money, based on a July 31 memo from City Attorney Mara Elliott.
"You have expressed your desire to explore the establishment of a Cannabis Equity Program, which would be intended to provide support and mentoring services for communities that may have suffered disproportionate levels of law enforcement of cannabis-related crimes," writes Elliott to council Democrats Chris Ward, running for state assembly, and Monica Montgomery.
"On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64 legalizing adult use, cultivation, and retail sale of recreational cannabis in California. City of San Diego voters also approved a ballot measure labeled “Measure N,” establishing a Cannabis Business Tax," continues Elliott.
But the measure, which got more than a two-thirds vote, imposed a general tax, "the proceeds of which must be placed into the City’s General Fund to be allocated in accordance with the City’s annual budgeting and appropriation process."
As a result, "the Council may not make multi-year commitments of Measure N tax revenues toward specific goals absent a new public vote approving a special tax."
Reparation-based pot equity programs, including those in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, are burgeoning.
"The Social Equity Program is one tool the City of Los Angeles is using to begin to acknowledge and repair the harm caused by the War on Drugs and the disparate enforcement of cannabis prohibition," per L.A.'s website,
"Individuals with past cannabis arrests and/or convictions, and those that were low income and lived in high arrest communities ... experienced the brunt of societal harms associated with cannabis criminalization."
L.A. has earmarked $3 million annually for three years "to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities."
“This is the social justice for us,” Gidai Maaza, a mental-health therapist seeking a cannabis license in Fresno, told the Washington Post in April. “This is reparation.”
Ten percent of roughly $10 million in annual revenue expected from the pot tax approved by Fresno voters last year is set to go into a "community benefit fund," which the Post describes as "money that could be used to build up neighborhoods run down by drugs."
“Now, I will admit that I do not think that what we’re doing fits in line with the term ‘reparations’ in a whole, because I don’t think that the industry or government agencies can ever fully repair the harm that was done,” Cat Packer, head of L.A.'s cannabis regulation department, told the Post.
“But I think that what we can do is to try and acknowledge that harm, and to promote policies that address that harm.”