By Nathan Solis
LOS ANGELES (CN) – As 2018 dawned and recreational marijuana went on sale, Los Angeles became the nation’s largest market. And it’s been a lucrative two months for the city, which has collected over $2 million in license fees from recreational cannabis business applicants alone – far exceeding expectations.
On Wednesday, the city continued to fine tune its rules over cannabis businesses, like the distance from public parks, advertising, and the bigger question of which communities were negatively impacted by the war on drugs and how they can benefit from the city’s newest industry.
Since Jan. 3, over 100 applicants received short-term licenses to operate their cannabis businesses in the city. But less than half have received their state license, which is also required to sell recreational cannabis.
Cat Packer, director of the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation, said earlier this month at a committee meeting that Los Angeles will likely see revenue of $3.5 million through June. She called the retail rollout of recreational marijuana “a complex transition from an unregulated market to a regulated market.”
On Wednesday, Los Angeles extended its contract with consulting group Amec Foster Wheeler to determine which ZIP codes should be included in a proposed program that would give back to neighborhoods negatively affected by the war on drugs. The mainly low-income neighborhoods made up of people of color, were specifically targeted by law enforcement and include Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles and communities in the San Fernando Valley.
The social equity program would help eligible people who want to leap into the legal cannabis industry find real estate for their businesses and other subsidies.
Inundated with applications, the city will hire additional staff for the Department of Cannabis Regulation. The 21 employees will include accountants, analysts and managers to process applications, better serve businesses and field questions from the public on the city’s cannabis industry. Up until recently, the department was staffed by three people.
Additional updates to the city’s cannabis rules include restrictions on advertisements to limit children’s exposure, and an 800-foot buffer zone between cannabis storefronts and drug and alcohol recovery facilities, day care facilities, supportive housing, public libraries, parks, schools and homes.
The city will also wrangle with cannabis use in private clubs, lounges and special events hosted by licensed businesses outside their storefronts.