With hundreds of applicants waiting for approval to open cannabis-related businesses in Long Beach, the city is trying to cut down the time it takes to process their paperwork, and it’s getting some help from the state.

Long Beach is one of 17 cities and counties to be awarded a cut of $100 million in grants from the California Department of Cannabis Control. The money is meant to speed approvals for provisional cannabis-business licenses. Pending approval from the City Council Tuesday, Long Beach is set to get $3.9 million to hire consultants and staff who can process applications, handle permits and perform inspections.

The additional staff could both speed up the process and allow more one-on-one help for the 498 applicants waiting for approval from Long Beach, according to Emily Armstrong, the city’s cannabis program manager.

Long Beach has already issued 252 licenses for all sorts of cannabis businesses including the 32 storefronts along with many other operations such as cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and testing.

Of the 498 pending applications, the majority are for medical cannabis with cultivation (88), distribution (87) and manufacturing (86) making up over half of the unprocessed licenses. The city allows the sale of both medical and adult-use cannabis products.

At its current pace, the city is issuing about 50 licenses per year and another 150 provisional licenses per year, Armstrong said.

The new state funding will “likely reduce the time it takes an applicant to get through the licensing process by half, while also providing better customer service throughout the process,” Armstrong said in an email Thursday.

Some of the $3.9 million is intended to help equity applicants, who are those with lower net wealth, who live in underserved parts of the community or who have prior criminal cannabis convictions.

Long Beach has told the state that it intends to use the grant for other things as well, like website design, technology improvements and training to assist equity applicants. Automated emails, clear step-by-step instructions and workshops for how to fill out application paperwork are also included in the city’s plan.

Long Beach is currently looking at expanding the number of dispensaries in the city by adding eight additional storefront licenses that will be set aside specifically for equity applicants.

Measure MM, the voter initiative that legalized cannabis sales in the city in 2016, created 32 dispensary licenses, but all of those have already been claimed.

To date, the city has issued just one equity license (distribution) but has another 12 equity applications pending, according to city data.

Cannabis tax revenue has generated millions of dollars per year for the city’s general fund, which pays for everything from police and fire department salaries to parks and road repairs.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.