History Made: SF Planning Commission Approves African-American Leader for First Equity Program Dispensary


Backed by a community that turned out in numbers to voice their support, yesterday Shawn M. Richard and his proposed dispensary at 1685 Haight St. was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Planning Commission, giving the green light for the City’s first Equity-Owned cannabis shop to move forward.

“We did our due diligence, the community came out to support us, and it showed today,” said Shaw M. Richard. “We got a unanimous vote from the commission, and getting a unanimous vote tells a lot.”

Shawn is a San Francisco native, founder of the anti-violence group Brothers Against Guns founder, and a founding member of SFEG. But his role as CEO of Cole Ashbury Group, the partnership behind the Haight Street location, may have the most significant impact on generations to come. The approval demonstrates that there can be real paths to ownership for Equity Applicants under the San Francisco Equity Program. And for the first Equity dispensary to be located on the iconic Haight St., a place with strong connections to activism and the cannabis movement, and just blocks away from where Shawn grew up, is particularly fitting.

While the application process was a complex and rigorous one that has been criticized at times, multiple Commissioners made sure to explicitly praise Nicole Elliott, the Director of the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, for creating a program that can serve as a model for other municipalities, and for the Cole Ashbury Group for putting together an exemplary application.

Nicole Elliott has done an excellent job with this process and with the SF Office of Cannabis. It’s an example for the rest of California to follow.
— San Francisco Planning Commissioner Rodney Fong

The approval is certainly cause for celebration, and SFEG is honored to have had the opportunity to help support Shawn in achieving this milestone. At the same time, there’s an enormous amount of work yet to be done in San Francisco and across the nation. The War on Drugs has disproportionately targeted people of color and devastated communities for decades, creating damage that will take years to heal.

While the SF Equity Program was established to correct the wrongs done by the War on Drugs by prioritizing those impacted for licensing and permitting, the fact that it took well over a year from the program’s creation to reach just one Equity-Owned business points to how many barriers remain.

That’s precisely why the SFEG was created. We’re dedicated to providing the advice and resources that Equity Applicants need to achieve real ownership, and we won’t rest until there are hundreds of success stories like Shawn’s.

So keep an eye out for updates on the opening of this Haight St. location - we promise we’ll make it a special event - and if you’re an Equity Applicant, contact us now to learn more about how we can help.