California has been at the forefront of marijuana for decades. In 1996, it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. And throughout the years, Oakland has been one of the most cannabis-friendly cities in the Golden State.
Oakland’s pro-marijuana culture is so strong that the city is now suffering from the growing pains of legal recreational cannabis. According to a story from Darwin BondGraham in the East Bay Express:
The number of entrepreneurs trying to start a cannabis business in Oakland has overwhelmed the city staffers who are in charge of evaluating and doling out permits, according to a recent city report. To accommodate the industry’s dramatic growth, Oakland is now planning to spend an additional $307,000 to hire more staff members in order to process the flood of business applications.
The growing pains are good news for Oakland, which is hoping to remain a hub in California’s multibillion-dollar cannabis industry. One report prepared last year for the city by the Marijuana Policy Group found that statewide cannabis cultivation and manufacturing could turn into a $4.2 billion economic engine employing as many as 36,000 workers, not including retail workers selling pot. The same report estimated that Oakland’s share of the overall market could generate as much as $16 million in tax revenue annually and employ about 12,400 people in the city’s legalized dispensaries, grow warehouses, bakeries, delivery services, and testing labs.
According to the story, more than 800 companies have applied for permits to grow, manufacture, distribute, deliver, and test cannabis products in the city. And 116 businesses applied for eight marijuana dispensary permits the city granted earlier this year.
“Staff has been inundated with daily phone, email, and drop-in inquiries regarding the cannabis permit process and the equity permit program,” wrote Oakland Assistant City Administrator Gregory Minor in a report presented to the city council last week. Minor oversees Oakland’s cannabis permitting program.
There are only two city employees in charge of processing cannabis business applications for all of Oakland. They’ve been working overtime, and the city has been forced to hire a temporary clerical worker to keep up.
Approving cannabis permits is a complicated task, depending on the type of business. Some kinds of activities require not only city approval, but coordination with county officials. “For example, edible manufacturers need to be approved by county health, and cultivators need to be approved by county agriculture,” explained Minor in an email to the Express. “Similarly, it’s typically easier for the building department to approve a delivery service, which may consist of a simple open office space, than a cultivator that’s done numerous improvements to a building.”