Newsom taps head of SF cannabis office for state role

San Francisco’s top cannabis official is about to vanish in a puff of smoke, even before her fledgling department finishes ushering its first “equity permit” applicant through the approval process.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he’s appointed Nicole Elliot to be his senior advisor on cannabis in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Though she’s led San Francisco’s own Office of Cannabis since its creation in 2017, that’s an interesting qualification, as that department has struggled to award pot permits to equity applicants, a key part of The City’s pledge to right injustices to people of color targeted in the War on Drugs.

SEE RELATED: SF appoints director to head new Office of Cannabis

In fact, the very first equity applicant reached their first Planning Commission hearing only just today. That’s Cole Ashbury Group LLC, in part led by anti-gun violence advocate Shawn Richard, and also in part by Mayor London Breed’s former aide Conor Johnston.

Those are some connected folks, and allegations from a rejected applicant revealed in the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday point toward an unfair process highlighting exactly that.

And whether that process has been the process was ethical or not, it’s also been a year’s wait just to get to the applications this far.

That may not be entirely on Elliot, as insiders have griped to me about the office’s lack of resources, but either way, she isn’t exactly leaving the Office of Cannabis ship-shape. Perhaps she’ll have more juice to help equity applicants under Newsom’s stead.

Elliott, who has worked in the mayor’s office under Mayor Ed Lee and Newsom since 2008, has served as the director of government affairs and liaison to the Board of Supervisors for the late Mayor Ed Lee.

Elliot’s new gig does not require Senate confirmation, according to the governor’s office, and the compensation is $150,000.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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