Letters to the Editor

Open Letter to City Council from Pasadena Community Coalition

– Courtesy photo

In regards to cannabis licenses, fees and profits

Let me open this letter with my first inquiry to the Council and the City Manager on this subject. Who is looking out for the community in this process?

First, the city has collected close to $2 million in fees for the right to apply to the city for a license for a retail, cultivation or testing lab(s) to create profit making cannabis businesses in Pasadena. The city manager hired a consultant to evaluate the applications (City Manager Mermell vouched for their expertise), basically grade them based on the city’s expressed statement that the businesses be modeled on an Apple Store concept. This by its very nature (not totally understood by applicants), pushed out a majority of applicants the moment they applied period.

Furthermore, the merit based system used for rating candidates again pushed out a major portion of applicants due to an unfair advantage going in. When you select businesses that have multiple locations in other jurisdictions and the ratings for points are based on prior business experience in this area who really stands a chance to compete! Money wasted!! It expressly eliminated the possibility of any small community based applicants to have any chance of getting a license.

It further appears after the applications were graded, the top six scorers were pronounced the winners with no individual interviews of the top 10 – 15 contenders or any serious scrutiny of the social equity piece of the winning proposals.

At the outset we made it clear that the community (and the City Council) should be involved in the evaluation of the appropriateness of the social equity component and the merging of the new businesses into the fabric of the existing communities including but, not limited to:

  1. Employment opportunities for those most affected by “the war on drugs.”*
  2. Clear path for equity partnerships and training for people and the communities most affected by “the war on drugs.”
  3. A clear Community Lead structure that would allow and mandate that the new businesses donate a significant portion of their proceeds to the communities most affected by “the war on drugs.”*

(Make no mistake the Department of Justice statistics demonstrate that communities most impacted are black and brown even though cannabis use was equal with whites).

None of this was done! Once again we will have the rich get richer and the community begging for the crumbs from the weak social equity component that gives a pittance of money to the community.

Yes, the people get screwed again!! The power structure which passed the laws that created the “New Jim Crow” prison system and funded the prison industrial complex off the backs of the black & brown community get rich as we sit in the “fields” working hard with no access to the money or expertise to be a part of the biggest money making enterprise in Pasadena in years.

As we started our review of the winning candidates it was no surprise that in the social equity piece we found the executive director of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, a former city councilmember and a favorite chamber foundation as the named fiduciaries to direct funds to those most affected by “the war on drugs.”* The consultant a land use attorney with links to the city. Are you kidding? Is this the good ole boy Pasadena way?

This is an insult to the black/brown and underserved communities.

To add insult to injury, another member of the top six has a slew of unresolved allegations against them including but not limited to: overt racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia. What kind of review was done by the consultants? What else has not been revealed? Another slap in the face with the expectation we will bow down and turn the other cheek.

Mayor, City Council halt this fiasco now and let’s get a hold on what social equity really means and looks like in our community. We must make sure we have a shared vision and a concrete process that will allow us a quotom of the enormous amount of wealth that will be made in our communities. “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

“Where there is no hope, trouble is sure to follow!!”

As a first step and an example to the winning applicants, the city should earmark 1/2 of the $2 million collected to be given to the community to fund the gang intervention programs at Jackie Robinson Center (and other viable intervention, training and jobs programs), and to fully fund the city’s Ambassador Program for young people which provides great opportunities for our young people to develop and grow (and which always has a huge waiting list due to lack of funding). Lead by example.

Mr. Mermell and City Council, you cannot just take the money and run. You owe a debt to your constituents “the people who elected you” and you must look out for us too! You must stop throwing money into the community to a few and ask them to find people jobs, train them, get them housing, better education and the like without being an active partner. This new potential stream of revenue can help us develop new avenues of success in all of these areas. But, we must act now. If the rich get richer and the community continues to be ignored this failure is truly yours, including the resulting consequences.

As to those who will finally be given a license, you too must reach out to the community most affected by “the war on drugs.* This is not done by a fancy lawyer consultant negotiating with some fat cats in a suit both of whom have little or no sense of our community.

Last but not least, be transparent! Move this discussion to City Council and put it on the agenda for discussion. Let’s start talking to the people who have been most affected by “the war on drugs”*

I look forward to sharing your responses with the entire community!

U.S Government documents:

* Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the U.S. population; they comprise 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.

* African American and whites use drugs at similar rates, but, the imprisonment rate of African Americans on drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.

* If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rate as whites, the prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.

– Martin A. Gordon, Chair


July 2, 2019

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