Most California Social Equity Programs Still in Development
More than three-quarters of the social equity licenses issued in California are in three localities.

More than three-quarter of the social equity licenses issued are in three localities.

A new report provided to state lawmakers this week confirmed what many already knew: California’s social equity programs still have a long way to go.

The report, which was due to the California Legislature in July but was only published this week by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), delivered both a breakdown on where $35 million in funding was sent last year, and also the status of such programs as of December 2022.

The upshot? California has 23 local social equity programs that have been formally adopted, which in turn have issued 907 cannabis business permits to eligible applicants. That’s a 46% increase from the year prior, when the state had 619 social equity licenses.

Thirty cities and counties have received state funding dedicated to social equity licensing since the legislature began earmarking monies for the programs back in 2018, but only 16 were awarded funding in March 2022 according to the report, compiled by GO-Biz.

Of the 30 localities that received some level of funding for social equity in the past five years, only 11 have awarded any social equity business permits, and seven had yet to approve any social equity program structure as of Dec. 31, 2022.

In the 11 jurisdictions with granted social equity permits, another 4,001 non-equity permits were granted, by contrast. And in the 30 that have received funding, a whopping 4,015 social equity business license applications were filed.

In the other 19 localities, social equity programs were ostensibly still in the works at the end of 2022, and so the number of permits awarded is almost certainly higher than the total included in the GO-Biz report. And many of those that have awarded permits are granting more as time goes on.

Cities and counties that have handed out equity permits include:

  • Coachella, with three equity licensees and 34 non-equity.
  • Humboldt County, with 255 equity licensees and 1,302 non-equity.
  • Lake County, with two equity licensees and 101 non-equity.
  • Long Beach, with two equity licensees and 271 non-equity.
  • Los Angeles, with 262 equity licensees and 781 non-equity.
  • Mendocino County, with 71 equity licensees and 122 non-equity.
  • Oakland, with 186 equity licensees and 318 non-equity.
  • Palm Springs, with three equity licensees and 50 non-equity.
  • Sacramento, with 29 equity licensees and 254 non-equity.
  • San Francisco (city and county), with 34 equity licensees and 125 non-equity.
  • Trinity County, with 60 equity licensees and six non-equity.

That means 77% of California’s 907 social equity licenses are located in just three localities: Humboldt County and the cities of L.A. and Oakland.

The jurisdictions that have yet to award any social equity permits, despite having received state funding:

  • Adelanto
  • Barstow
  • Clearlake
  • Fresno
  • Isleton
  • L.A. County
  • Modesto
  • Monterey County
  • Nevada County
  • Pasadena
  • Richmond
  • San Diego
  • San Diego County
  • San Jose
  • Santa Cruz
  • Santa Rosa
  • Sonoma County
  • Stockton

State funding for social equity programs has dropped precipitously since March 2022, however, from just over $35 million to $15 million in February this year. Another pool of $15 million set to be split between cities and counties that apply for funds from now until Dec. 14.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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