The City of Los Angeles is changing the rules of the game when it comes to issuing cannabis licenses.

When the city first began regulating legal marijuana more than two years ago, the plan was to give priority licensing to those who were most harmed by the war on drugs. However, many have claimed that the city’s policies for eligibility efforts were confused and ultimately ineffective in empowering victims of the drug war, including people of color.

On Wednesday, the LA City Council voted unanimously to change the rules defining “social equity” qualification among applicants, as reported by L.A. Times.

“We all know social equity has been a failure, here in L.A. and across most jurisdictions. Too many loopholes … This is the first real hope for social equity to succeed,” Lynne Lyman, the co-founder and policy consultant for the Drug Policy Action campaign for cannabis legalization in the state, said at a city meeting.

Under the city’s initial policy, eligibility for the equity program included people with convictions for cannabis-related crimes or people who lived in areas which had been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement during the drug war.

One flaw in the system, however, was that the city’s regions were broken up by zip code, meaning that affluent business owners in rich white neighborhoods were often grouped into an area eligible for the social equity because their neighborhoods bordered poorer neighborhoods.

The city will now instead break up eligibility zones into the smaller unit of police reporting districts.

Additionally, the city will require that the next round of applicants have either a cannabis arrest or conviction in California and that they have either lived for in a district targeted by the drug war or earn low income.

“We agree that this process needs improvement,” said Cat Packer, head of Department of Cannabis Regulation. “[W]e’ve tried to make our recommendations as reflective as we can of the feedback that we received.”

Photo via Flickr/Channone Arif

Natalie