Social Equity Support for Boomers: Talk is Good, Action is Better
Patricia A. Patton
Cannaboomer | Writer, Speaker & Wellness Educator
This new decade will mark the rise of support for equity programs funded by the tax revenue generated from the sale of legal cannabis. Baby boomers, gifted with the possibility of twenty-five more years of life than the generation preceding them, must now factor themselves into the allocation of equity benefits derived from these sales. Boomers, particularly those from Black and Brown communities, rightfully expect inclusion in these programs. Historically, we have lived in high arrest communities, and many of us have permanent criminal records because of drug law violations and targeted over-policing.
To understand how equity programs could practically incorporate our age group, I spoke with Brett Berning, former Social Equity Director for Vangst, a recruitment platform for the legal cannabis industry. He identified criminal justice involvement, housing insecurity, income, and residency as qualifying conditions by which his recruitment company will identify impacted individuals for work in the industry. Age, however, is not one of these conditions, despite the fact that baby boomers have borne much of prohibition’s harshest punishments and should also be among legalization’s biggest beneficiaries.
Vangst’s qualifying conditions mirror those of places like California, Massachusetts and Illinois. Each state must be commended for identifying a need in the market and for seeking a reparative solution to this business opportunity. However, overlooking the primary segment of the population responsible for driving widespread acceptance of cannabis via the health and wellness sector is a non-starter.
As a nation, we are beginning to normalize cannabis for its medical health and wellness benefits. Part of the reason for this sea of change stems from the advocacy of baby boomers like Denis Peron, Alice O’Leary Randall, Steve DeAngelo, and Brownie Mary Jane Rathbun who fought for decades for decriminalization and legalization. This list of baby boomers does not include the many unnamed boomer activists of color who lived in the disproportionately impacted communities that no one affluent or “respectable” would enter except perhaps to sell or buy drugs.
In formulating equitable policies, legislators and activists have not identified people over 60 as part of vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis, despite the rates of Black and Brown baby boomers incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. These people must work once they have done their time. Since older people will continue to work to live, we must transform our knowledge and experience to a changing landscape. The best way to do this is to be at the table, to give input on how equity can or should be distributed to ensure we are included in all social equity support programs.
We cannot allow what happened with affirmative action to happen with social equity support programs. “Affirmative action ... created to protect minorities and women against discrimination in education, employment, and social benefits” was flipped on its heels by the opposition redefining who a minority is and who deserved to be protected. The same cannot be allowed to happen with social equity support programs. Baby boomers do not want to risk or restrict access to the cannabis industry because of non-compliance loopholes in the policies, laws, and regulations, as happened with the Civil Rights Act. Instead, we call upon businesses and leadership to speak specifically to Black and Brown individuals over the age of 60 and incorporate us into the social equity equation from the beginning.
No equity support measures can be truly inclusive without the baby boomer generation. We must have a seat at the table, not just because we have paid dues but also because we are integral to driving the growth of the legal cannabis market. Boomers deserve to participate in the creation of social and economic policies that will allow them to take care of themselves as they age.
About Guest Contributor
Patricia A. Patton, aka CannaBoomer, is a writer, speaker, and educator with a mission to educate older people on the science behind cannabis so as to increase their options in living longer lives. She consults in the Wellness industry to help businesses better communicate to this audience on the emerging cannabis and hemp space. Find her on LinkedIn or on her blog.