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Nevada County to review cannabis equity

With millions of dollars to be made in the marijuana industry, Nevada County is attempting to direct that money into the hands of those hit hardest by the decades-long war on drugs.

The county approved an agreement this week with Humboldt State University Sponsored Programs Foundation to provide a marijuana equity assessment and to create a local equity program.

The state announced grant funding to help counties create equity programs with the goal of eliminating barriers to enter the cannabis business for those impacted by its prohibition.

During the era of cannabis prohibition in California, the burdens of arrest, convictions, and long-term collateral consequences arising from a conviction fell disproportionately on African American/Black and Latinx/Hispanic people, even though people of all races used and sold cannabis at nearly identical rates,” the grant application states. “The collateral consequences associated with cannabis law violations, coupled with generational poverty and lack of access to resources, make it extraordinarily difficult for persons with convictions to enter the newly regulated industry.”

The assessment may look at historical cannabis-related arrests or convictions locally and their impacts to determine how to best restore communities disproportionately harmed by these policies. Once complete, the assessment will inform the creation of an equity program, which could help qualified applicants through a variety of free or low-cost services, including technical and support service help, assistance in paying for state and local fees, securing capital investment, and navigating regulatory compliance.

With the assessment, the county will also be able to apply for additional equity funding in subsequent years.

While the state equity initiative is still new, a handful of jurisdictions like Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Humboldt County have enacted programs or provided the framework for their programs.

These examples, though they do include aspects about location, sexual orientation, and gender identity, focus largely on the historically racial aspect of cannabis policing in their areas.

With a 93% white population, according to 2019 Census estimates, it’s not clear what an equity program for Nevada County would look like.

As part of its grant, the county will report the number of applicants served through the program, aggregate demographic data, and how the county created criteria for applicants.

The Board of Supervisors will hear a draft version of the assessment in October or November before finalizing the report in January. The draft equity program will go before the board in April or May and will be finalized June 2021.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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