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Los Angeles’ First Cannabis Czar Cat Packer Steps Down

Cat Packer has retired from the role of executive director of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, (DCR). This DCR is home to the biggest and most complex cannabis markets around the globe. It is with gratitude that we thank her for her service as the city’s first “cannabis czar.” 

Packer spent nearly five decades in the position of DCR executive director. It is charged with administering the Los Angeles City Council’s cannabis licensing and regulation program. 

DCR reviews all application for cannabis licenses within the City of Los Angeles.

Under the title, Packer advised Los Angeles officials on cannabis law, policy and regulation, and oversaw the city’s licensed commercial cannabis market. This was an extremely difficult position to take on. Packer was in charge of over 1200 business licenses.

Eric Garcetti was the first Los Angeles mayor to announce her retirement on Twitter. “Under Cat’s leadership, DCR issued over 1,200 licenses, with over 350 granted to Social Equity applicants,” Garcetti wrote in a tweet. “DCR has generated over $320M in tax revenue since 2018. Cat’s tenure at DCR made the department a national model in establishing equitable cannabis policy and implementation.”

Packer made a March 14 resignation announcement, highlighting some of her achievements during her term as executive director. “I am confident that the City will continue to deepen its commitment to address cannabis policy reforms and the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs, and to improve upon existing efforts that make cannabis public policy more responsible and equitable,” Packer wrote. “Furthermore, I trust that DCR will continue to keep equity at the center of its mission, and expand and improve cannabis programs and services.”

Eliminating Licensing Efforts

Garcetti named Packer as the new position after the approval of the taxation and regulation in the area for adult-use cannabis by city voters. 

Packer faced overwhelming odds and pressure during her reign, with challenges that could be expected in America’s second-largest city. There was constant criticism of licensing processes. ​​In 2020, for instance, cannabis business license applicants in Los Angeles sued the city, claiming the process for applying for a license is flawed.  

A lawsuit was filed by the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association—demanding that the city vet all applications based on a first-come-first-served basis or come up with a new system that is more equal and transparent.

Virgil Grant, co-founder of the California Minority Alliance, said Packer is the “fall person” who took the blame for various problems from the get-go, according to EUR/Electronic Urban ReportOthers cited different issues.

“It took a considerable amount of time for us to get the resources, whether it be staff or otherwise, to put our licensing program forward,” Packer told Chronic News last July. Packer’s staff was eventually tripled to meet the growing needs. Her team has grown from five people to 15 since last year. 

Packer originally wanted to work as a civil-rights attorney, focusing on LGBTQ rights. In 2012, adult-use cannabis was legalized by Washington and Colorado. While aware of the issue, she didn’t think critically about the topic for a few more years. 

Cat Packer started taking classes on the impact of law on everyday life in 2015. This was her last year at law school. After being introduced to The New Jim CrowMichelle Alexander is a university professor and civil rights lawyer. She said she was blown away by her experience. She said that the War on Drugs was the most significant factor in mass incarceration of persons of color in America. 

While working alongside Californians For Responsible Marijuana Reform in 2016, Packer campaigned to pass Proposition 64 at the Roll Up the Vote Party with The Game, DJ Nitrane. Around that time, it was that Packer began to campaign for Proposition 64. Chronic NewsI received email from her campaign, asking for volunteers to contact voters to get involved.

Michelle Garakian (assistant executive director of Department of Cannabis Regulation) has been named interim director. Garakian used to be a frequent reporter for media related to cannabis.