In 2017, I was tasked with the challenge of establishing the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) that would be responsible for administering the City’s first commercial cannabis licensing process in response to state-wide cannabis legalization. For almost 5 years, I have served in this role, boldly leading the nation’s second largest city through the implementation of a myriad of complex and widely-impactful cannabis policies and regulations. In this role, I have envisioned cannabis policy reform not only as a responsibility, but also as an opportunity to promote harm reduction and advance equity and social justice.
During my tenure, I have established and managed the day-to-day operations and long-term priorities of the Department, and led the Department’s growth from one employee with no office space into a public service organization with more than thirty hard-working staff seeking to establish a safe and equitable cannabis marketplace. I have had the opportunity to lead the City through three phases of licensing, which has resulted in the issuance of more than 350 licenses to Social Equity Applicants and 1,250 licenses in total. I have led the City through several comprehensive revisions to its Cannabis Procedures Ordinance and Rules and Regulations to continuously improve and streamline our application and licensing programs and services. Because of these various efforts, the City has collected over $320 million in tax revenue to fund essential City services.
Throughout my time at DCR, I have intentionally engaged with, learned from, and collaborated with, hundreds of diverse stakeholders — patients, consumers, business owners and employees, local and state elected officials and public administrators, law enforcement, public health organizations, and academics — collectively working to advance equitable cannabis policy reforms. Together, we have replaced prohibition with something better, and the positive results of our efforts have proven to be a model across the country.
Although there is still a lot more work to be done, I am proud of the Department’s progress in its mission to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry. In addition to issuing more than 350 licenses to Social Equity Applicants – the most of any jurisdiction in the country – we have designed several business and workforce development programs to lower barriers to entering the legal cannabis market, including making retail, delivery and cultivation licenses available exclusively to Social Equity Applicants until January 2025, providing over 200 Social Equity Applicants $6 million in financial assistance through the SEED Grant Program, giving over 1,600 Social Equity Applicants access to over 100+ hours of technical assistance through the Business, Licensing and Compliance Assistance Program, and offering over 200 Social Equity Applicants access to Pro Bono Legal Services.
It is in light of this and many more accomplishments, and with an eye toward more to come, that I am announcing my resignation from my role as Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cannabis Regulation. My trusted colleague Michelle Garakian will serve as Acting Executive Director effective March 12, 2022.
I am confident that the City will continue to deepen its commitment to address cannabis policy reforms and the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs, and to improve upon existing efforts that make cannabis public policy more responsible and equitable. Furthermore, I trust that DCR will continue to keep equity at the center of its mission, and expand and improve cannabis programs and services.
As I transition out of this role, I want to offer my sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the Mayor, City Council, Cannabis Regulation Commission, Department staff and each of you who have made my time here one I will treasure. Please know that as I pursue opportunities to advance equity and social justice beyond the City of Los Angeles, I will continue to advocate for our shared priorities. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to serve the City and help create a more fair and equitable future.
Cat Packer, Executive Director