In San Francisco, the nationally-renowned CityBuild job training program has helped economically disadvantaged and formerly incarcerated people find rewarding, sustaining work in the construction industry. In twelve years, CityBuild has graduated more than 1,400 workers, and the program has built productive relationships with employers, non-profits, unions and colleges. And now, city Supervisor Ahsha Safaí wants to expand that program into a new industry: the cannabis industry. The new initiative, dubbed “CityGrow,” will provide hands-on cannabis cultivation, job training, and job placement in California’s rapidly growing industry.
San Francisco’s CityBuild Program to Offer “CityGrow” Cannabis Apprenticeships
Supervisor Safaí’s Cannabis Apprenticeship Ordinance, “CityGrow” for short, is already generating excitement and enthusiasm. The program is a pre-apprenticeship program to provide industry-level job training. But it will also seek partnerships with California’s cannabis industry to secure job guarantees for CityGrow graduates. And that’s where the state comes in.
While the greenrush is undeniable, California’s cannabis businesses do struggle with the uncertain regulatory terrain and economic realities of the nascent industry. Therefore, cannabis businesses owners may not feel ready to participate in the CityGrow program. CityBuild service providers argue that the best way to incentivize the industry is through state-approved apprenticeships.
State-approved apprenticeships are commonplaces in the construction industry and actually, in any industry where there is significant public interest in highly trained workers. State apprenticeship policy ensures that workers receive living wages, job security and benefits while they develop their skills for the industry.
Many in the industry are already supporting the apprenticeship initiative. On September 18, California’s Statewide Industry Employers Joint Apprenticeship Committee applied to officially establish the CityGrow program. The apprenticeship program will train pharmacy technicians, cannabis nursery (greenhouse) specialists, manufacturing technicians and cannabis transporters. The industry and labor organizations will have a direct hand in shaping training curricula And it will benefit the industry in other ways, such as ensuring businesses meet certain equity obligations under California law.
CityGrow Models What Cannabis Workforce Equity Looks Like
In addition to ensuring highly trained workers go into entry-level positions in the cannabis industry, CityGrow will contribute substantially to the ongoing struggle for equity in the legal cannabis industry. For decades, cannabis users, sellers and producers have been harshly criminalized in the U.S. In many places in the U.S., they still are. Yet states that have legalized cannabis are witnessing the meteoric rise of a new billion-dollar industry. Cannabis is creating wealth and opportunity everywhere, but not for everyone, equally.
The so-called war-on-drugs, or more accurately its devastating failures, make a compelling case for the end of criminalization. But legalizing cannabis, by itself, cannot repair the ongoing legacy of destruction. That’s why states across the country are taking efforts beyond criminalization and legalization to redress the harm of the war-on-drugs. In many states, district attorneys are calling for expungement of criminal records for cannabis charges. Some are establishing policies not to prosecute any new or past minor cannabis charges.
But one of the most significant components of cannabis equity is ensuring that previously criminalized groups have access to the wealth and opportunity generated by the legal industry. In addition to the life-long consequences of incarceration, racially disparate cannabis enforcement has also siphoned tremendous wealth away from communities of color.
California Lawmakers Called on to Approve Cannabis Apprenticeships
Recognizing this legacy and the need for equity, federal lawmakers drafted a Marijuana Justice Act. And in California, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed the California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018, funding it with $10 million. Furthermore, Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsome, who could succeed Gov. Brown, is a CityBuild founder. He also led efforts to legalize cannabis. Newsome is pushing for half a million new cannabis apprenticeships by 2029.
The immediate future of CityGrow, however, will be up to lawmakers. They’ll have to approve Supervisor Safaí’s Cannabis Apprenticeship Ordinance. And if they do, the Governor’s office has vowed to fast-track the program’s implementation.