At precisely 4:20 p.m. yesterday the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti sent out an email announcing that the city has its first marijuana czar.
Garcetti appointed Cat Packer as the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, which is tasked with ensuring that dispensaries, producers and growers are following city rules being finalized this year. The proposed regulations include licensing for shops and other weed businesses, although it's still not clear how many retailers will be allowed.
The rules and Packer's position were created in the wake of voter-approved Proposition M, which would fully legalize collectives ahead of recreational pot sales scheduled to begin statewide in January. Packer worked as a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Cat is a true leader, and today is a step forward for the city of Los Angeles and the entire cannabis industry,” Ruben Honig, executive director of the nongovernmental Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, said via email. “Thank you to Mayor Garcetti for this appointment. The cannabis industry is in great hands with Cat.”
In a statement, City Council president Herb Wesson said Packer is “a trailblazer with deep policy knowledge and enthusiasm.” In her own statement, she vowed “equitable cannabis policies that will serve as a model for the rest of America.”
Garcetti also used the word “equitable” in his statement about Packer.
Proponents of full legalization in Los Angeles and statewide have argued that this will return some justice to a marijuana market where minorities have been disproportionately arrested and prosecuted. The so-called green rush expected to result from recreational legalization under California's Proposition 64 is being spun by some decriminalization proponents as an opportunity for people of color who want to get into the cannabis business.
“Taxing and regulating legal cannabis in Los Angeles will be a complex process,” Garcetti said. “We need someone leading the effort who understands and can navigate those nuances. Cat’s experience makes her an excellent fit for this new role. I am confident that her work will help us implement new regulations in a way that is fair and equitable for all of our communities, respects our neighborhoods and raises valuable new revenue for city services.”