Commissioner Lara Clears Licensing Individuals with Cannabis-Related Convictions
Source: CA Department of Insurance
Commissioner Ricardo Lara today announced the Department of Insurance will use its discretion in deciding whether to issue licenses to those with cannabis-related convictions in support of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, approved by voters in 2016. This action will clear obstacles to becoming an agent, broker, or other licensee for those whose past convictions are eligible to be dismissed or reduced under the current law.
“When voters approved Proposition 64, they wanted to clear obstacles for those with prior convictions, and that is what my Department is doing,” said Commissioner Lara. “My Department is committed to creating opportunity for Californians while protecting consumers from fraud and abuse by agents and brokers.”
Commissioner Lara has directed the Department’s staff to use existing authority to carefully consider whether an applicant’s prior convictions fall under the provisions of Proposition 64 when reviewing applications for an agent or broker license. Prior to the passage of Proposition 64, individuals with a cannabis-related conviction may have been denied an agent or broker license. Under Commissioner Lara’s directive, these individuals will be considered for licensure consistent with the goals of Proposition 64, even if the court has not yet granted formal reduction or dismissal of the conviction.
“Eliminating barriers and creating economic opportunity for people with cannabis convictions is critical to repairing the harm caused by the War on Drugs,” said Marc Philpart, principal coordinator of the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and managing director at PolicyLink.
“Commissioner Lara’s actions will ensure that communities of color, which were disproportionately impacted by cannabis arrest and prosecution, can fully participate in one of California’s largest industries—advancing racial equity and providing a career path for thousands of Californians.”
Proposition 64 permits an individual previously convicted of specified cannabis-related offenses to petition a court for a reduced conviction or sentence, referred to as redesignation, or to have the prior conviction dismissed and sealed if that offense is no longer deemed to be a crime under current law. While the courts and counties have taken steps to provide relief under Proposition 64 to tens of thousands of Californians, many individuals have not yet pursued formal reduction or dismissal of eligible convictions. In support of the spirit of Proposition 64, the Department’s discretion applies to those eligible individuals who have not been granted relief by the courts.
“We applaud Commissioner Lara’s leadership in ensuring individuals with prior marijuana convictions can apply for insurance or broker’s licenses, thereby providing access to economic equity,” stated Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “DPA is convinced that this furthers the intent of Proposition 64 by reducing barriers and beginning to repair the extensive damage of the war on drugs, especially for those individuals who may be excluded from employment opportunities, affordable housing or educational access because of the burden of a past conviction.”
The Department has created a web page where individuals with prior cannabis-related convictions can find more information about Proposition 64 as well as resources for seeking relief from the courts. In addition, the Department’s website provides general information related to producer licensing requirements and considerations.
“Using our discretion in evaluating applicants will not affect our oversight of agents or brokers, we will continue to protect the public from insurance fraud and financial crimes, but believe in honoring the spirit of Proposition 64 and allowing people to pursue a career in insurance,” added Lara.
Commissioner Lara has long been a leader in expanding access to professional licenses and career opportunities for underserved communities and has addressed the disproportionate impact of criminal sentencing.
This is the latest step by the Department to comply with voters’ will in approving Proposition 64.
Commissioner Lara has led the way in promoting a safe and legal cannabis market with access to insurance. The Department of Insurance has approved nearly 10 carriers to write insurance products for the cannabis industry, and Commissioner Lara is chair of the Cannabis Insurance Working Group within the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.