Why Data Matters for LA's Nascent Cannabis Industry

January 09, 2019 by Melissa Crowe

Why Data Matters for LA's Nascent Cannabis Industry

What happens when an established industry in the informal economy is decriminalized and enters the formal economy?

In Los Angeles, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure M, to tax and regulate the cannabis industry. Now, the city has to tackle the issues that ensue alongside legalization, including garnering buy-in from businesses and consumers.

At Socrata Connect, Juan Vasquez, Data Program Manager in the Los Angeles Office of Finance, spoke with Jessica Carsten, Director of Client Success at Tyler Technologies, about how data is helping the city handle this newly regulated industry.

As cannabis legalization spreads across the U.S., more and more cities, counties, and states are facing similar challenges.

"If you're not already grappling with this topic, you soon will be," says Vasquez.

Data Gives Departments a Common Language

The marijuana policy affects 30 LA agencies. The Office of Finance focuses on managing complaints from the public, community activists, businesses, or anyone in government.

"We've used Socrata Data Lens technology to automate portions of the Q&A process — the digging for answers, the understanding what really matters to different departments, [and to identify] trends for us to poke at," says Vasquez.

Keep in mind, just as regulation is new for the industry, it's also new for the city.

"By using Data Lens technologies, all of our 30 departments now have a common language to rally around," says Vasquez.

This is tremendously helpful during meetings with the mayor, city council, and in internal department conversations.

Legalization Is an Opportunity for L.A. — and a Challenge

Cannabis regulation presents a big opportunity, says Vasquez. The revenue generated ties to major city concerns, such as affordable housing and homelessness relief.

"We need business owners to want to be regulated and we need consumers to want to purchase from people who are legally licensed," Vasquez says. "If those things don't happen, then there won't be a reason for people to follow the law. Everyone loses in that case — we as a city lose money and the industry is going to find itself torn in a variety of ways. We need people to trust in the process."

That's why noting concerns — and tracking them through Socrata tools — is vital. It gives all participants a voice, and also allows the city to know, and address, concerns.

Watch the Full Presentation

Learn more about the opportunities — and challenges — that arise with the decriminalization of marijuana by watching the full presentation, which also features a look at how Memphis created an internal dashboard to steer monthly mayoral meetings and how Michigan uses R and Socrata Open Data API (SODA) to consolidate data from different portals.

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