As the date nears when recreational marijuana will be legal in California, one Los Angeles County supervisor raised concerns Tuesday about making sure low-income neighborhoods don’t bear the brunt of bad consequences.
Motion Proposing Public Hearings
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas previewed a motion proposing that would-be cannabis retailers seeking licenses be subject to a public hearing process that considers area alcohol sales, crime rates and high school dropout rates, among other factors.
“The proliferation of cannabis businesses and over-criminalization of cannabis use have contributed toward widening gaps in health,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Cannabis businesses have continued to multiply in low-income communities of color, reminiscent of problematic alcohol outlets, and compound the deterioration of the health and vitality of surrounding neighborhoods.”
Shifting The Conversation Toward Health Equity
Just as permits for construction projects can require developers to take steps to reduce traffic, noise and other negative impacts, Ridley-Thomas suggested that cannabis licenses could carry conditions aimed at offsetting problems the outlets create.
That could include funding youth development or substance abuse programs.
How the businesses are operated and who operates them is a key question, the supervisor said.
“Listening Sessions” Held
Ridley-Thomas said there has already been a focus on economic equity and who benefits financially from legalization, but said he wanted to shift that conversation toward health equity.
The county’s Office of Cannabis Management has been holding a series of “listening sessions” and is expected to present a set of recommendations to the board later this year.
Ridley-Thomas will formally present his motion next Tuesday.