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Legalization Alone is Not Enough, How We Create A New Market Matters

  • by Aubrie Odell, NORML Junior Associate November 5, 2017

    In March of this year, Oakland City Council implemented the Equity Permit Program for aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs in the new green economy. This program is designed to address the past disparities in the cannabis industry by giving priority to the victims of the war on drugs and minimizing barriers to entry into the industry; ultimately trying to level the playing field within the medical cannabis arena. The Oakland City Council found that the Black community has been dramatically overrepresented in cannabis-related arrests in the past 20 years, accounting for 90% of these arrests at times.

    The city is including an incentive for non-equity applicants by fast-tracking permits from property owners who offer free rent to equity applicants as a way to assist the entrepreneurs who have had little access to capital. Additionally, tax revenue collected from this new licensing process will be used to establish an assistance program for equity applicants, offering no-interest startup loans, exemption from the permit application fee, and technical assistance.

    To qualify as an applicant and receive this assistance, the individual must be an Oakland resident with an annual income that’s less than 80 percent of the Oakland Average Medium Income and either has a past marijuana conviction in Oakland or has lived for ten of the last twenty years in police beats that experienced a disproportionately higher amount of law enforcement.

    Although the program may not perfect, Oakland is setting an example of how to begin to address marijuana-related oppression that has impacted historically marginalized groups. Other states that have legalized marijuana, or are in the process of doing so, should look to the Oakland model because legalization alone will not address the historic injustices perpetrated by law enforcement under prohibition.

    However, as states both decriminalize and legalize the recreational use of marijuana, researchers still find enormous racial disparities within arrest rates. From a 2013 ACLU report, researchers found that although marijuana use rates are almost equal among Black and White individuals, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to their White neighbors. Even with decriminalization, most states still have outrageous fines in lieu of jail time—$5 worth of marijuana can result in a $150 fine in Ohio. For most people, that is a large portion of their paycheck that would otherwise go towards rent, food, and other basic necessities. And, most importantly, the same racial disparities within arrest rates of marijuana possession are likely replicated in civil offenses for marijuana possession. Even with decriminalization, police are still going to be targeting Black people at the same rate. In Washington, DC last year, arrests for public use of marijuana nearly tripled just one year after marijuana use (but not marijuana sales) became legal in the city. Many of these arrests directly impact poor people and minorities, especially because it’s only legal to consume marijuana on privately owned property. Individuals who rent or are in public housing cannot enjoy private consumption.

    So, even when more states begin to legalize marijuana, Black individuals are still going to be less likely to be able to thrive in the regulated marijuana market because of the copious amount of fines, prison time, and harassment from law enforcement. Not to mention, even when fines are replaced for minor marijuana possession instead of jail time, those that are unable to pay the fine may be arrested or forced to appear in court–raking in additional fines to pay. However, not even programs similar to Oakland’s are enough to resolve these discrepancies. A number of states have laws that don’t allow those with past convictions to apply to open a marijuana business, which disproportionately discriminates against minorities that have been targeted for marijuana possession offenses prior to legalization. To rid of this disparity, states with legalization laws should be issuing automatic expungements of prior marijuana-related arrests.

    The enforcement of marijuana prohibition has gone out of its way to marginalize the Black community, so it’s only right that each state work just as hard to remedy this problem. A great place to start is with a program that allocates a certain amount of funds, resources, and applications for minorities who want to start a marijuana business, in states that have legalization laws. Without these programs and without recognizing these injustices, racial disparities will continue and Black people will not be given a fair opportunity to thrive in a regulated marijuana market.

    18 Responses to “Legalization Alone is Not Enough, How We Create A New Market Matters”

    1. Scott says:

      People who work to keep the country productive will not stand for bums in the woods taking a break from doing nothing by getting high while we get drug tested for marijuana. If legal weed is legal, why can only bums, and people fortunate enough to be taken care of by outside sources use it, not on my watch.i do everything I can to help keep your selective legalized product away.?

    2. Mark Mitcham says:

      I agree.
      I would also like to add, another important way to fight the injustices under discussion above will be to fight against RE-scheduling, and to fight for DE-scheduling, of cannabis.
      Big Pharma is looming, I suspect a move to schedule II is in the works. This is bad, because it will entrench the injustices described above.

      • Two Bears says:

        legalization is not the answer. there will always too many rules.

        Decriminalizing weed IS

        • Julian says:

          In the words of the NORML Women’s Alliance that convinced Trudeau to legalize marijuana in Canada,

          “Al Capone would have loved decriminalization.”

        • Julian says:

          Decriminalization is not a priority its a compromising stepping stone to legalization as we wean ourselves from the teet of Big Pharma, Big Agriculture and all the Big Toxic Bull$#!+ we can grow much better ourselves.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          @ Two Bears,
          Legalize it.

    3. Julian says:

      Left with no other recourse I have begun my own study on myself with smoked/ingested/topically applied marijuana vs. homeopathic herbal therapy (aloe vera, more marijuana) vs. presciption meds (dicoflenac gel) on my condition of meralgia parathesthetica.

      Meralgia Parasethetica is a chronic nerve condition from the compression of the femeral lateral cutaneous nerve, which is the nerve that rides right over the hip down to the outer side of the thigh.

      I identified the pain only by smoking marijuana.

      Alcohol never helped locate the origin of the pain. Only drown it. I deliberately refused opioids. I suspected nerve damage after a decade of using tool bags for framing houses caused the scar tissue that compresses on the nerve in question. I confirmed it was scar tissue and not abnormal bone growth from x-rays in Mexico (Yes, where you get to keep the x-ray copies).

      What makes the study of myself even more interesting is that I just traveled to Mexico paying ca$h to an orthopedic surgeon, a homeopathic doctor, a radiologist and healers (curanderas) from both sides of the border. I asked Mexican doctors (both orthopedic and homeopathic) about marijuana’s herbal ability to reduce inflammation. They surprisingly confirmed what I had learned before from Mexican “curanderas” or “healers.” Despite decades of violent marijuana prohibition upon the Mexican people they continue to use marijuana in alcohol tinctures to rub into the flesh where nerve and muscle damage occurs. (Personally, I mostly smoked it)

      I will catalogue the results of my studies here on this blog. We have beautiful whole plant marijuana solutions hidden underneath a gigantic wave of synthetic opioid problems… on both sides of “the wall.”

      The Sacklers are targeting their oxycontin in Mexico and Colombia now. Lets use marijuana to stop them.

      • Two Bears says:

        I use MMJ two ways.

        a 90 mg/ml super tincture on my hot tea in the morning.

        When I have unexpected pain during the day I hit my cannabis Ejuice a few times to deal with the pain.

        here is how I make my super tincture.

        10 ml dropper bottle with 1 gram Rosin (can also use shatter,or crumble) fill with 190 proof grain alcohol. put lid on bottle. when concentrate dissolves shake well.

        this super tincture is literally 4.5 mg cannabinoids per drop.

    4. Dain Bramage says:

      Corporations are not people.

      As The Oracle once said on this blog, I’ll believe corporations are people on the same day Texas executes one by lethal injection.

      People have a right to medicine; corporations do not.

      Marijuana legalization is not about commerce; rather, it is about social justice. Thus, the progress of the cause is not measured by the rights of corporations to sell cannabis products to consumers. Instead, it is measured by the rights of cannabis consumers to grow, trade, and consume cannabis without fear of legal repercussions.

      We always knew corporations would try to cash in, once marijuana became legal. That is not the goal, but that is a reasonable price to pay for legalization, given the fact of living in a capitalistic society.

      But to RE-schedule cannabis (say, to schedule II, instead of fully DE-scheduling it, and regulating it like alcohol) is to make it legal for Corporate America to grow, buy and sell weed, and yet still NOT for actual PEOPLE!

      I say, Hell No!

      A move to schedule II may be on the horizon. But whatever the merits of such a move may or may not be, please don’t let the proponents of such a move get away with calling it “marijuana legalization.”

    5. Julian says:

      Cannabis consumers get more and better sex:

      https://www.marijuana.com/news/2017/11/we-know-sex-and-weed-are-a-perfect-pair-but-why/

      Put THAT on a petition to legalize recreationally.

    6. Paul Pot says:

      Legalize. Apologize. Compensate the Victims. Expunge Criminal Records. Prosecute the Perpetrators.

    7. Premiumking says:

      I don’t believe states or counties should start programs to help those that have been previously been prosecuted for marijuana offenses to try and help them get into the green economy. With the idea of equal opportunity in mind I would suggest to allow them to have a chance to prove the justice system that they are willing to abide by the rules being formed through a means of educating them and the consequences they may suffer if in fact the try to take advantage of the policies in place. A one year probationary period to show they are in accordance with marijuana policy and sales tracking so their product is not being sold off the radar. Then dismiss any prior marijuana convictions as long as there aren’t any concurrent criminal charges against them. This will prove they are attempting to do right. This just keeps everyone honest about what they’re doing. And if they can’t obide by these standards then they shall be revoked of permit and any previous charges shall stand for two years. Just an Idea for Oakland and any one else thinking of this proposal..

      • Julian says:

        Who on this blog do you truly think believes that the majority of people busted for marijuana offenses are in jail and court for anything other than possession, not trafficking?
        And the majority of those busted are targeted in minority communities. Clearly youve never done time for a marijuana offense.

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