Los Angeles

Los Angeles Considers Amnesty Program for Pot Shop Owners With Non-Violent Felonies

LA officials are considering a plan to help people who have nonviolent felonies open pot shops

Virgil Grant is a marijuana business owner and felon. He spent six years in federal prison for owning and operating marijuana facilities in the city of Los Angeles, he said.

He had six medical marijuana shops — legal by California standards, but not by the feds. And during his time in prison, he lost them.

"Put me out of business for quite some time," he said. "And coming home put me at a disadvantage."

But now he's one of thousands who could benefit from the LA's new social equity program that, if approved, will be part of the local cannabis laws.

"It actually gives me an opportunity to restore my life," said Grant.

Cat Packer, who heads the LA Department of Cannabis Regulation, said the social equity program is an attempt for the city to acknowledge the role it played in the disproportionate impacts of cannabis enforcement on minority communities.

The program would give priority to nonviolent felons convicted of marijuana-related crimes, she said.

Some City Council members argue, though, that it's not fair for the rest of the city's residents who may want to get into the recreational marijuana business.

City Council President Herb Wesson says the plan is evolving.

"Expect that this thing is going to change," he said. "You figure we have the state government constantly making adjustments as we roll out this program, we'll see the needs for adjustments. This is the beginning."

Public comment got emotional as council discussed the plan Tuesday. Grant says there's a reason there's so much interest in this aspect of the new industry.

"This gives us an opportunity to give hope to a community that's always had hope taken from them," he said.

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