L.A. cannabis regulator Michelle Garakian tells MJ Biz what’s coming next

Here’s the introduction to their interview with Garakian

Shortly after Michelle Garakian replaced Cat Packer in March to become the Los Angeles marijuana czar, the city invoked mandatory timelines to process and approve cannabis business applications and licenses.

Unclogging that bottleneck is among Garakian’s top priorities.

In particular, she aims to remove bureaucratic red tape as well as better communicate with and help operators and applicants in one of the world’s largest regulated marijuana markets.

Garakian, a longtime insider at the L.A. Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) and former aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti, spoke with MJBizDaily for a wide-ranging discussion on marijuana policy, new department initiatives and the push to transfer thousands of temporary permits into annual licenses.

What are your overarching goals for the DCR moving forward?

To get back to the mission of the department, which is licensing.

We’re really focused on business development and customer service.

That has been a core tenet guiding me, in addition to centering social equity in every single one of those tenets.

What should stakeholders know about the new social equity verification process?

The verification rules have changed.

The council made a concerted decision to narrow the criteria because they wanted to ensure the folks getting into this process were the folks that were really dealing with the impacts of the war on drugs.

You have to have a cannabis conviction or arrest and either live in a disproportionately impacted area or prove (you’re) low income.

If (you’re) low income, we’re not using not using zip codes anymore; we’re using police reporting districts.

This is really narrowing it down to where the most cannabis convictions or cannabis arrests have taken place.

Since this process opened May 26, we’ve received 300 to 350 applications.

Once the verification window closes July 25, the department has at least 90 days to process those requests.

What’s behind the push to allow social equity licensees to relocate? The council has yet to take this issue up, but it’s gaining traction. 

We really need to be able to allow them to move outside of their community plan.

I think the council is warming up to it. We’re going to continue to advocate for that.

It’s going to be a game changer and a life saver for a lot of people.

Read the full interview


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