LONG BEACH, Calif. — California legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana in 2016. Since then, many counties and cities throughout the state have struggled with making the most of the cannabis market.
In Long Beach, one of the biggest problems has been about bringing equity to the industry. It's a challenge that plagues Edgar Cruz every single day.
"There are 75 plus equity applicants, and only one has been approved. It needs to be more," Cruz said.
Equity and specifically equity in the cannabis market has been Cruz's fight since 2018 — when he became one of the first participants in Long Beach's cannabis equity program.
Since then, the program's incentives have not been enough to push the vast majority of applicants through the ownership process.
It's what pushed him and several others, such as board member Justin Castillo, to create a Cannabis Commerce Council to help bridge the gap.
"We still haven't even paved the way," Cruz said. "But the fact we're able to be a voice for equity applicants, it's not about me at all. It's about people like us."
So far, their push for policy change has been effective,
This month, Long Beach approved shared manufacturing ordinances and is in talks over approval for non-storefront delivery. Both changes would significantly lower entry barriers for equity applicants.
Cruz and Castillo also work with established brands such as Catalyst with the hope they can serve as incubation spaces.
"It provides a pathway to get over hurdles equity applicants can't get over," Cruz explained. "These are steps in regards to progressing the equity model, but the job is not done still."
For Cruz, this fight is personal, he said.
He hopes that by working with the city in Long Beach to open up doors for equity applicants, they can begin to bring new opportunities closed by the war on drugs.
"Now is the time to strike, especially with what's going on in 2020," he said. "All the riots and turmoil going on, it was a big wake up call for morality."
He said he believes change is coming, but with the knowledge that there is still plenty of work to be done.