Los Angeles Times

She embodied the hopes for Los Angeles' cannabis program. Can she overcome its stumbles?

LOS ANGELES - When Cat Packer was chosen to head a Los Angeles city department that would help usher in the legalization of marijuana, then-Council President Herb Wesson billed her appointment as a bold example of what Los Angeles stood for.

Packer had been an activist with the Drug Policy Alliance who was firmly focused on how the war on drugs had battered communities of color. She was young, black and openly gay, with tailored suits, hair cut in a fade, and the cool, deliberate speech of a lawyer, and she had wowed Wesson at City Hall when she laid out statistics about racial inequity.

The Department of Cannabis Regulation, her new agency, was not just going to hand out permits for pot shops. It was supposed to do something much more ambitious and radical: Ensure that the communities hit hardest by the criminalization of marijuana would benefit from its legalization. Many saw the effort as a kind of reparations for the drug war.

Two years later, Packer would face a furious and disappointed crowd of cannabis applicants and activists in the marble chambers of City Hall and tell them that she was disappointed too. That the city had ended up hurting hundreds of people who took financial risks as they tried to nab a limited number of licenses. That she routinely told other cities not to do what

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