The Desert Sun reports….

When Willie Holland first attempted to open a medical cannabis dispensary a few years back, the city of Palm Springs denied his application.

He’d been convicted of a misdemeanor cannabis-related possession charge in the past, and its presence on his record prevented him from getting a license.

It was only in 2017, after Holland paired up with a partner who held a majority stake in their business, that he was able to move forward with Green Dragon, a recreational dispensary on Palm Canyon Drive, which opened last year.

“I was born and raised in this city, so I didn’t want to go somewhere else,” he said.

But Holland, never one to back down from his dreams, still wanted a shop to call his own. So this summer, Holland became the first to apply for a social equity cannabis license in Palm Springs. And it paid off: His dispensary, Holland Pharms, is slated to open up on Palm Canyon Drive later this year, right in the heart of his hometown.

Cannabis social equity programs, like the one Holland applied to in the city of Palm Springs, aim to create a pathway to enter the legalized industry for people who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses.

More broadly, these programs looks to open doors for all kinds of people who either could not afford the expenses associated with starting these businesses or who were disqualified from the regular application process because of cannabis-related criminal histories.

Acknowledging the need to diversify the industry, the state has awarded at least $40 million in grants to cities and counties to be put toward cannabis social equity programs in the past year. But despite the relative popularity of implementing these programs, some experts say these programs don’t go far enough to achieve parity. Advocates want to see business training and safer financing opportunities to give applicants a fairer shot at operating a legal business.