By Javier Hasse
A recent Dope Magazine article by this author looked into the exclusion of black people from the legal cannabis industry. Blacks were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, with The Brookings Institution estimating that they have been 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for weed-related crimes than white people — even though consumption levels have been pretty similar, per ACLU data.
As several states have legalized marijuana, giving birth to very successful and profitable businesses, black people weren't part of the picture: only 4 percent of cannabis businesses are African American-owned, according to Marijuana Business Daily.
Seeking to address this racial inequity, major cities in California, Maryland, and Massachusetts have either started or are looking to start social equity programs. These programs strive to provide people of color with opportunities to enter the multibillion-dollar legal cannabis industry.
Oakland was the first to kick off an equity permit program, and Los Angeles and San Francisco followed suit almost immediately. Massachusetts launched the first statewide social equity program in the country and recently closed its round of applications for businesses looking to train those disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.
“Social equity is defined as social policy that is concerned with the concepts of justice and fairness. It is by no means a new concept, but in recent times the application of social equity to policy has been garnering more attention to communities that feel underserved by their public administration," according to Cannabis Real Estate Consultants.
A program rooted in social equity is about increasing opportunities for those who haven’t been given a fair shot at success in the past. The California cities mentioned above, for instance, are helping people by waiving application fees and allocating many of their license approvals to social equity applicants.