Cat Packer has resigned as executive director of the Department of Cannabis Regulatory (DCR) in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest and most challenging cannabis markets in the world. It is with gratitude that we thank her for her service as the first “cannabis czar.”
Packer served nearly five years, as the first person to assume the role of executive director of the DCR. The department is responsible for administering the cannabis licensing and regulation program established by the Los Angeles City Council.
The DCR processes all applications for thousands of cannabis licenses in the city of Los Angeles, makes licensing decisions or recommendations to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, and regulates the operations of licensed cannabis businesses in the city.
Under the title, Packer advised Los Angeles officials on cannabis legislation, policy, and regulation, and oversaw the city’s commercial licensed cannabis market. It was a difficult position for anyone to approach. Over 1,200 commercial licenses have been granted with Packer at the helm.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti first announced his departure on Twitter. “Under Cat’s leadership, DCR has issued more than 1,200 licenses, including more than 350 granted to social equity applicants,” Garcetti wrote in a Tweeter. “DCR has generated over $320 million in tax revenue since 2018. Cat’s tenure at DCR has made the department a national model in establishing and implementing fair cannabis policy.
Packer wrote a resignation announcement on March 14, outlining some of her accomplishments during her tenure as chief executive. “I am confident the city will continue to deepen its commitment to addressing cannabis policy reforms and the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs, and to enhancing existing efforts that make cannabis policy public. more responsible and equitable cannabis,” Packer wrote. “Furthermore, I am confident that DCR will continue to keep equity at the center of its mission, and to expand and improve cannabis programs and services.”
Removing Licensing Obstacles
garcetti appointed Packer to the post in August 2017after city voters approved local regulations and adult-use cannabis taxation earlier that year.
Packer faced overwhelming odds and pressure during his reign, with challenges one would expect in America’s second-largest city. Licensing processes were under constant fire. In 2020, for example, cannabis business license plaintiffs in Los Angeles sued the cityclaiming that the license application process is flawed.
A lawsuit has been filed by the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association, demanding that the city consider all applications on a first-come, first-served basis or come up with a new, more fair and transparent system.
Virgil Grant, co-founder of the California Minority Alliance, said Packer is the “fall personwho took responsibility for various issues early on, according to The EUR/electronic urban reportwhile others cite other issues.
“It took us a long time to get the resources, whether staffing or otherwise, to get our licensing program in place,” Packer said. Recount Highlights last July. Packer’s staff was eventually tripled to meet growing needs. Since last year, his team has grown from a small team of five people to a more manageable team of 15 people.
Initially, Packer sought to become a civil rights attorney focusing on LGBTQ rights. But things changed in 2012 when Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis for adult use. Although aware of the problem, she did not think critically about the subject for another few years.
But then, in 2015, her senior year of law school, Cat Packer began taking classes about the law’s impact on everyday people. Once she was introduced to The new Jim Crow by civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander, a university professor, she said her eyes were opened. She agreed that nothing has contributed more to the systematic mass incarceration of people of color in the United States than the War on Drugs.
In 2016, while working with Californians for responsible marijuana reform, Packer campaigned for Proposition 64 with the Roll Up the Vote party with The Game and DJ Nitrane. It was around this time that Highlights received emails from her and her campaign, urging volunteers to call voters and get to work.
Meanwhile, Michelle Garakian, deputy executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Department, has been named acting executive director. Garakian was also a frequent correspondent for cannabis-related media.
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