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State launches first-in-nation grant program to encourage cannabis sales

Five years into California's legal cannabis market, nearly two-thirds of cities and counties still do not allow retail sales. The state wants to change that.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Department of Cannabis Control is launching a new $20 million grant program they say is "the first of its kind in the nation."

It’s called the Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant, and its goal is to encourage cities and counties that don’t yet allow retail sales of cannabis to start allowing that.

In many parts of California, the illegal market is the only place people can buy cannabis. Even though the legal marketplace launched five years ago, nearly two-thirds of California's cities and counties do not allow any retail, whether a storefront dispensary or delivery service.

That's because state law allows local governments to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses.

In fact, the Department of Cannabis Control says, Placer, San Joaquin, Amador, Yuba, and Sutter are among 18 California counties where "the proportion of licensed cannabis retail outlets is low compared to its share of consumer consumption."

That's why the state is giving them priority if any local governments there apply for this new grant program, saying "lack of access to California's legal cannabis marketplace threatens consumer safety and perpetuates the illegal market."

A map on the Department of Cannabis Control's website shows the gaps in access.

In San Joaquin County, the unincorporated part of the county allows just delivery, Lathrop allows just storefront dispensaries, and Stockton and Tracy allow both. The rest of the cities allow no retail.

In Placer County, only Colfax allows sales.

Marysville is the only place in Yuba County that allows retail sales.

Sutter and Amador counties both have no places that allow the legal retail of cannabis.

The Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant represents “the first time a state has offered grants to provide access to retail cannabis licensing at the local government level… to expand access to regulated cannabis products to underserved areas,” the Department of Cannabis Control said.

Only cities and counties that don’t currently allow any retail are eligible to apply for their share of the $20 million in grant funding.

Learn more about the grant HERE.

“The illegal market was and continues to be swathed in criminal activity,” now-former Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said last year at a news conference about the challenges facing the legal market. “The illegal market growers are not following the health and safety regulations that are required for legal cannabis industry."

In 2016, California voters approved Prop 64, thereby legalizing recreational marijuana and giving state leaders the green light to launch the legal marketplace, which they did Jan. 1, 2018.

Watch: California may ban forced prison labor, servitude

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