The aggressive enforcement of arbitrary drug laws continues to destroy the lives of many, despite growing acceptance of medical cannabis. Unfortunately, even in states where cannabis is legal for adult use, POC wind up with the most negative impact. California has some of the most lenient possession laws in the United States, yet almost 500,000 arrests for cannabis occurred between 2006 and 2015.
In addition to unfair prosecution of nonviolent crimes, the legal cannabis markets often leave out those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and those who can’t afford expensive application and licensing fees. California has made strides to change this with the Cannabis Equity Act of 2018, which is trying to reverse the damage caused by prohibition. With funding for technical and capital assistance, there will be more opportunity for disadvantaged business applicants to take part in the emerging legal cannabis industry.
There remains a lot of work to be done, so it is invaluable to have organizations who are making moves to change the equity ownership in this space.
Business Accelerator to Tackle Inequities in Cannabis : A partnership between Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM), Oaksterdam University, and Green Rush Consulting resulted in a Cannabis Business License Bootcamp (CBLB) program, which will focus on helping minority and women-owned cannabis business applicants obtain licenses. The CBLB is slated to begin in April, and the multi-week course will offer a layered opportunity for business license applicants.
Open to 150-200 applicants, the program will go through the process of applying for a license, so participants have a clear understanding. Additionally, they gain access to educational tools, networking resources, and specialized training. The program also offers pre- and post-license support.
MCBA Model Municipal Ordinance: MCBA released their latest guidelines for true equity in the cannabis industry and recommended that local government adopt this model countrywide. Drafted by attorneys, stakeholders, drug policy reform advocates, and other big players in policy change, the Model Ordinance aims to serve areas looking to create equity programs.
The ordinance calls for priority licensing, technical assistance, and access to capital for confirmed equity applicants. Additionally, it calls for municipalities adopting equity programs to participate in social impact studies that will show the cost of the war on drugs. Those studies will better inform future reinvestment in those communities most negatively impacted.
National Cannabis Diversity Awareness Convention (NCDAC): Recently held in Oregon, this inaugural event set out to make diversity and inclusion the mission by connecting POC entrepreneurs and business owners with resources in the cannabis space. By focusing on providing access to tools that will allow minority business owners to grow and be profitable, this event was full of opportunity for newcomers. The convention also provided tools for displaced community members and business owners to transition into the cannabis industry.
These are only a small sampling of the efforts surrounding equity in the cannabis space, but they are valuable resources for people looking to support inclusivity and diversity. With efforts like these, we can inch closer toward repairing some of the socioeconomic damage caused by the War on Drugs. As the industry moves forward with legalization efforts, equity programs and opportunities need to remain at the forefront.
Diana-Ashley Krach is a freelance writer, journalist, and content creator whose work can be found on Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, and Playboy. She is the co-host and creator of Your Highness Podcast and founder of Good Vibes Marketing Agency. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.