By Chris Frost
Oxnard—The conversation about Oxnard Cannabis Equity Program, with consideration on how to allocate the one percent local equity donation, on Sept 8 continues with Cannabis Attorney Lesa Slaughter urging the committee to maintain two licenses for local residents during public comments.
The Housing and Economic Development Committee provided input and comments on the Oxnard Cannabis Equity Program, with consideration on how to allocate the one percent local equity donation after hearing all sides.
"You may know there are a large majority of large cannabis corporations coming in, specifically in the area of cannabis retail," Slaughter said. "My big concern is that foreign-owned companies dominate the ownership of cannabis retail. When cannabis is made federally legal, which is probably sooner than we all think, who will own the California Cannabis brand globally? California and Oxnard will not get the chance again to make this a homegrown industry."
By not supporting local ownership, she said it's a multi-state invitation for out of state owners to buy Oxnard licenses.
"By failing to set aside some licenses for local ownership, the odds are, as we've seen in other cities, in two years or less, Oxnard will have eight cannabis retailers whose management and community relations policies are controlled by owners who may not live in California," she said. "We've certainly seen this happen with retail, restaurants, and coffee shops. Why would it be any different for cannabis?"
When the government started issuing liquor licenses, she said it got done through a lottery.
"The requirement of the lottery was that you had to be a local resident," she said. "The government understood those city councils, communities and county supervisors realized that if local residents had licenses, the community would be a little more accepting of a new industry that is highly regulated if they knew their neighbor and the neighbor next door was running the store. The store owner would more likely be compliant because he or she knew his neighbor was looking over his shoulder when he's operating the shop. Allocating licenses to local owners has a tremendous number of benefits for the community and the industry."
Pat Brown said she's 79, lives alone, and doesn't care about smoking anything.
"I don't really go for this cannabis thing," she said. "I've always known that no matter how much the city tries to make off these people, you're not going to get a lot because it's all going to be secretive. That's the way they think of their operation, and they don't think anything is wrong with that, and they shouldn't have to pay anything to anyone."
Brown says that it's up to them if someone wants to have a couple of cannabis plants on their property.
"It's none of my concern," she said. "If they die doing it, then so be it. That was their choice. It's going to have to be done inside, in buildings, where it is well-filtered and air-conditioned, so no one will be able to smell anything outside."
She advises the city to watch the program like a hawk.
"Otherwise, the city is going to get abused," she said.
Rodney Medina wants to know about how the city will support the local minority cannabis businesses.
"Having worked locally, regionally and internationally at cannabis education, I've seen, first hand, how minorities are being left out of the new business opportunity that cannabis provides," he said. "After reviewing the proposed cannabis equity program, I can say that it misses the mark completely of what a community-conscious, social equity component to cannabis legality is supposed to be. When I first presented the concept of social equity to the Oxnard Planning Commission, and then to this body in April 2019, it was with the specific intention of promoting a well-intentioned social equity program for the Oxnard cannabis community. To say that I'm disappointed with the planning and sustainability manager and the consultants that put this together would be an understatement. The whitewashing began with a rebranded social equity, that became local equity. It helped you usurp the intentions of a well-intentioned program that truly benefits the local minority cannabis community. The intent of a social equity component is to maximize the abilities for communities of color, which Oxnard is, that were disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, which Oxnard was, to benefit from the new industry as owners."
He feels that confirmed equity applicants should have access to capital, priority licensing, and technical assistance.
"As well as general applicants incubating a cannabis business owned by an equity applicant," he said. "These ordinances are meant to level the playing field. Your ordinance is suggesting that your equity applicants should pack their bags and find another field to play on."
During committee member comments, Mayor Tim Flynn said they don't often have social equity conversations at the council level.
"We have a lot of people in our community who need to be empowered," he said. "If I really thought that awarding one person, one group or one gender was going to empower the community at large, but I am concerned about individual empowerment. I am more concerned about empowering the community and as many people as we can. That should be the objective. We should be empowering women, men, minorities, all the things that were said. But, people are going to object on the best way to accomplish that."
Councilwoman Gabriela Basua wants to keep the permits for local residents.
"I don't know if we can do that, for example, if we have eight and two are for local residents," she said. "If we have no one who qualifies, maybe we can give it to someone else. I would still like the preference for local residents. The increase of the one-time payment amount, I understand that's probably a little bit high, especially if we have first-time mom and pop shops that are going to be applying. Maybe we can do something like the mayor said. Have them make the one-time payment based on profit? If it's too complicated, I'm okay with the increase there."
She agrees that 75 percent of the employees hired should be local people.
"My only suggestion with the 1 percent gross revenue funds, nothing against the homeless, and I know the money is really needed, but during this Covid-19 epidemic and being a parent, I've seen the struggles the youth have, and I don't think that we, as a community, are investing enough in our youth. I see parents struggling to go online with their children and parents unable to help their children. I think it's time for Oxnard to start investing in the next generation. I would like to see some cannabis money go towards that."
Chairman Oscar Madrigal echoed the same sentiments as his colleages and agrees that some permits need to be reserved for local residents.
"I understand the power of the job aspect and the local hire requirement, but at the same time, that's like saying yes, you can work here, but you can't be the boss," he said. "I may not be that person, in general, but there may be more people like me who don't have the qualifications to own a business. That doesn't mean that it speaks for the entire city. We do have local residents who are capable and able to lead this type of business."