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US (CA): Black growers give up dream of cannabis companies as permit process drags on

Half a million dollars and nearly four years into his Los Angeles-based cannabis venture, Donnie Anderson had no shop, no prospects, and a mountain of debt.

With financial help from family and friends, Anderson rented a $6,000-a-month space in January 2018 for his new cannabis retail shop. He kept paying the rent as the city’s permitting process dragged on. He bought cabinets and other equipment as he waited. And waited. Sick of waiting, he’s selling all that equipment and giving up his lease. Inaction by the city is forcing him to give up his dream, he says.

In November 2016, Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis. But nearly five years later, the state and many of its cities and counties are still figuring out how exactly to regulate the industry. The challenge has been particularly frustrating for Black entrepreneurs like Anderson, who were promised a leg-up getting started, but have seen little movement in that regard.

Following regulation, several cities and counties in California created social equity programs to help entrepreneurs in communities most harmed by the war on drugs. The equity programs were supposed to help people of color and those formerly incarcerated for cannabis crimes get licensed to run all types of cannabis businesses: cultivation, manufacturing, delivery, retail. The programs created big expectations, but implementation has been much trickier. 

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