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Promising Practice: Direct Grants

Promising Practice: Direct Grants

Photo of Reese Benton

“For me, equity is big. There’s a lot of people who have been arrested, but there’s not a lot of people who have a license. Families have been totally wiped out. A license is real equity.”

– Reese Benton, Posh Green Cannabis Boutique

Owner Spotlight: Reese Benton

Posh Green Cannabis Boutique

Jurisdiction: San Francisco

Reese Benton is sole owner of Posh Green Cannabis Boutique in San Francisco; a well-loved community business. As the first Black woman to open a dispensary in San Francisco, Benton worked with the Office of Cannabis’ equity program to obtain a license and open her boutique. As an advocate for cannabis equity, Benton has turned Posh Green Cannabis Boutique into a hub for knowledge and products from other equity businesses.

San Francisco has distributed more money to equity applicants and licensees, in the form of direct grants, than any other jurisdiction in California. Equity businesses may receive between $55,000 and $65,000 if they meet certain eligibility and documentation requirements. As of December 2021, San Francisco has distributed over $3 million to cannabis equity businesses.

Eligible expenses for grant funds include:

  • Rent
  • Capital improvements
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Fixtures and equipment
  • Fees
  • Legal assistance
  • Banking and accounting services
  • Packaging and materials
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Taxes

“I wish there were more people like me, sole owners that didn’t need to find a partner or work with venture capital firm.=. Equity should be equity. You shouldn’t be forced to partner with a bigger partner just to be seen. Grants help with that, but more needs to be done.”

– Benton

Businesses may request grant funding by providing either an estimated budget or a request for reimbursement for past expenditures. Grantees are required to provide progress reports reflecting the amount of grant funds expended and any changes to their estimated budget. San Francisco explains the steps to become grant eligible, submit questions, and get reimbursed in plain language on a dedicated webpage.

Since grant funds may be subject to local, state, and federal taxes, free technical assistance is available from the Bar Association of San Francisco, Golden State Law School’s Cannabis Law Clinic, and some local law firms. Information is housed on the city’s cannabis webpage.

“At first the grants didn’t cover a lot, but now the eligible expenses cover a lot of things which has been very helpful. I even get reimbursed for my marketing costs and CDTFA taxes which is big for us.”

– Benton

San Francisco’s grant program was adopted in January 2018. Continuous improvements are made to the program through an iterative and collaborative process with local licensees. As a result, grantees may now receive funds electronically or by check to accommodate differing financial situations. Together, city officials, applicants and licensees continue to expand and develop San Francisco’s cannabis equity program.

“Equity is great if it’s implemented right. It needs to be structured in a way that protects the equity partner from bad actors pretending to be consultants and make sure that investors are real people that want to help.”

– Benton