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County Administrator's Office

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Cannabis Equity Program awards $635,000 to advance economic justice and reduce industry barriers

SANTA ROSA, CA | May 01, 2024

The Board of Supervisors authorized grant agreements for 20 Sonoma County cannabis operators who were impacted due to cannabis-related offenses that occurred between 1971 and 2016, including arrest for or conviction of the sale, possession, distribution, use, manufacture or cultivation of cannabis, or other non-violent cannabis-related crimes, or were subject to asset forfeiture.

The funds are being awarded through a $687,561 Cannabis Equity Grant for Local Jurisdictions the County received from the California Office of Business and Economic Development. One-quarter of the funding will be distributed evenly in the amount of $7,937 for each of the 20 recipients while the remaining funding will be distributed based on the extent to which applicants meet the program’s eligibility criteria. Eligible program applicants also include the parents, siblings, spouses, children or guardians of those arrested for non-violent cannabis-related offenses.

The smallest amount granted will be $18,520 and the largest amount will be $50,270. Approved uses of the grant funding includes but is not limited to paying permit fees, state license fees, consultant fees and tax liability.

“Through the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the Sonoma County Local Cannabis Equity Program will award $635,000,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “This grant program aims to serve socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals navigating the cannabis permit process.”

The statewide grant funding program aims to reduce or remove barriers to enter the newly regulated cannabis industry as well as to aid the state in its goal of eliminating the illicit cannabis market by bringing more operators into the legal market. Since 2020, the state has awarded approximately $107 million to 35 local jurisdictions throughout the state including cities and counties.

In 2021, Sonoma County conducted a Cannabis Equity Assessment that showed small cultivation operators, particularly those in the Penalty Relief Program, have been disproportionately impacted by bottlenecks, program requirements and subsequent costs in the County’s permitting process. The analysis also determined that state classification of cannabis as an agricultural product rather than as agriculture creates a more expensive permitting process than is required for other agricultural businesses.

Other issues identified by the assessment include rural neighborhood opposition, ordinance volatility and high capital barriers to entry, such as high real estate values in the county, resulting in limited opportunities for small cannabis operators. Sonoma County’s Latinx and low-income individuals, families and communities were also found to have suffered a disproportionately negative impact due to pre-Proposition 64 enforcement and the war on drugs.

Materials from today’s update to the Board of Supervisors regarding the Sonoma County Local Cannabis Equity Program and grant program authorization are available at:

For more other questions related to cannabis operations in Sonoma County, please email or visit:

Media Contact:
Dan Virkstis
(707) 565-3040