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Measure M Looks to Level the Playing Field in Los Angeles’ Marijuana Industry

In addition to giving the City Council more control, the measure would help minorities get a foothold in the California’s historically discriminatory cannabis market.

by Zach Harris

Virgil Grant wants unity in the Los Angeles cannabis industry. The 49-year old dispensary owner in South L.A. has seen the good and the bad of the marijuana trade, and after months of hard work and politicking, Grant will vote yes on Measure M next month, hopefully enacting the bill that would give L.A.’s City Council more control of the cannabis industry, and open up SoCal’s segregated marijuana businesses to more diverse ownership.

“We are not letting that be an afterthought,” said Grant. “I won’t call them ‘set-asides,’ but we are helping draft the language. X percent of dispensaries will have to have minority ownership.”

According to the L.A. Times, Grant is the founder of the Southern California Coalition, who along with local City Council members, law enforcement agents, and community organizers, helped put together Measure M, a comprehensive initiative that would “give the City Council authority to regulate, tax and create an enforcement scheme for medical and recreational marijuana.”

Currently, Los Angeles has about 135 semi-legal medical dispensaries that operate with immunity from law enforcement based on 2013’s Prop D ballot measure. Since then though, unregulated pot shops have popped up all over the Southland.

“Prop. D did not allow the City Council to control and govern the business,” said Grant, “and it didn’t give law enforcement a clear pathway to enforce.”

For Grant, who has spent years of his life behind bars because of unfair marijuana laws, Measure M would be a huge relief. As of now, state regulators take previous marijuana arrests into account when awarding permits and licenses for pot shops, but if Measure M passes, that won’t be the case.

And as Grant pointed out, he and his team are working with the City Council and legislators to make sure that, with regulation, comes a pointed effort at ensuring that minorities have a fair shot to benefit from an industry that they helped build.

But while Measure M would allow entrepreneurs with marijuana convictions to obtain city licenses for dispensaries in L.A., Grant and others in his situation would still have to get past state regulators who still have the power to deny licenses for weed arrests. Still, Grant doesn’t see anything that will stop him from getting a piece of the legal weed pie.

“The NAACP is going to weigh in heavy on that,” said Grant. “The Black Caucus is going to weigh in heavy on that.”


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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