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Status of Social Equity in Cannabis

A Voice For The Voiceless

Long pie-in-the-sky goals for activists, calls for social justice and social equity measures in the cannabis industry are growing, and that change can’t come fast enough.

The movement to incorporate initiatives that redress the devastation experienced by vulnerable individuals and communities as a result of America’s drug war has blossomed on both coasts. Social justice policies decriminalize cannabis, expunge records of minor, non-violent offenders, facilitate early release and spur workforce development for the formerly incarcerated. While social equity initiatives center on small business development and ownership for those from vulnerable communities.

These measures offer states the opportunity to rebuild and renew the communities that were ground zero for the country’s racism fueled war on drugs. Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, says equity is about “creating a level playing field where everyone has a chance,” Many states are addressing disparities through a combination of restorative justice and social equity moves such as setting aside licenses for impacted groups and offering expungement to those with non-violent drug convictions. These measures, while not perfect, represent real opportunities to promote fairness and inclusion in the industry.

However, there is still much work to be done. Program applicants still face major hurdles as equity initiatives, like those in California are underfunded, making the promise of licensing, support and funding out of reach for far too many applicants.

As engaged consumers and members of the industry, it’s up to us to demand equity measures from both the public and private sectors. If we speak to our legislators and demand regulations and financial support for them, if we demand that the companies we patronize include hiring measures for those whose lives were devastated by drug laws and policing, then we can ensure that the cannabis industry offers opportunity for all, and not just those with money and power.

And, what a wonderful world that would be.

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