In Los Angeles, Labor and Social Justice Advocates Join Forces on Cannabis Equity Proposal


On Tuesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, in collaboration with local organizations, released a report that aims to shape Los Angeles’ still-evolving social equity efforts.

To announce the report’s release, members of the union’s local chapter gathered before Los Angeles City Hall, where they were joined by other groups, including advocates from the Social Impact Center, Cage-Free Cannabis, and the TransLatin@ Coalition. Together, they called on Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is slated to release his budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year this week, and the City Council, which is tasked with approving it, to heed the report’s recommendations. These include:

  • the creation of a “city-managed incubator system”
  • the creation of a Cannabis Health and Social Equity working group charged with putting together guidelines that will be used to measure success towards equity goals
  • the implementation of a “progressive and comprehensive” enforcement strategy that includes members of the public, including those affected by the war on drugs, as well as public education to help communities identify regulated shops and products
  • linking the Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles Unified School District with the Cannabis Health and Social Equity Working Group “to ensure alignment and equity principles” in youth drug counseling and safety programs
  • creating a pathway to free, publicly-managed consumption zones
  • making Los Angeles “a leader on equity” by sharing knowledge and resources at a locally-sponsored National Cannabis Repair & Equity Summit

In an interview with Cannabis Wire, the report’s primary author, Robert Chlala, signaled that the report aims to support the broader cannabis industry ecosystem, not solely those vying for licenses.

An important feature of the report, said Chlala, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California’s Department of Sociology, is that it recommends for all funds beyond what is needed for the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation to be directed to neighborhoods disproportionately targeted by law enforcement during prohibition, with an emphasis on “programs empowering formerly-incarcerated adults and similar investment in youth development and early education.”

Up in Santa Cruz, Chlala noted, in contrast, one percent of cannabis sales revenue is used to address social equity. “That’s cute,” he said, but not enough.

Gloria González, a member of the Youth Justice Coalition, underscored that “the war on drugs really impacted generations” by generating “disinvestment in our communities,” which eroded “tangible opportunities, resources, funding.”

In relation to cannabis sales revenues, González insisted that “we need a look at where this money is going. And we need to be able to have transparency [to ensure] that [it] is going to go back into . . .the communities that were broken.”

Jonathan Fabro, a member of UFCW Local 770 who is currently employed in the cannabis industry, spoke of his experience in the licensed and unlicensed market. “When I worked in an illegal shop,” he said, “I was pressured to do whatever the shop owner requested. At my current shop, where I’m covered by a union contract, I know I have rights.

“Workers and people impacted by the war on drugs need to be part of the conversation,” Fabro added. “We need to be part of the city’s vision for the cannabis industry.”

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