States have taken it a step further than legalizing marijuana: some are actually encouraging minority marijuana entrepreneurs to enter the market for legal marijuana sales and start their own marijuana businesses! Could we be living in better times for the cultivation, sale, and us of marijuana?
The kind of healing of old wounds and restitution for past injustices inherent in these policies is incredibly encouraging for the burgeoning legal marijuana industry. This is especially true after decades of drug prohibition laws that were enforced with a disproportionate effect of violence and repression on black and Hispanic communities in the United States.
In the Associated Press report on this welcome development for minority marijuana entrepreneurs, the AP featured a photograph of Andre Shavers and told his story.
Shavers, a black minority marijuana entrepreneur who runs a marijuana delivery business in Oakland California, is a living, personal example of the positive changes that have been set in motion by the ascendancy of the legal marijuana movement in American politics.
He was once sentenced to five years of probation on felony charges after police authorities broke into his house (in an area of Oakland with some of the most heavy-handed police enforcement) and found a quarter ounce of the harmless plant.
Now Oakland and other cities and states with legal marijuana laws presently on the books are making an effort to make amends to minorities for the damage marijuana prohibition has done to their families and communities.
According to statistics gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, African-Americans accounted for 5.6 percent of the Golden State’s population, but made up a disproportionate 16 percent of marijuana arrests in 2015.
Oakland officials have now approved a policy that sets aside half of the city’s marijuana licenses for low-income residents who have been convicted of a marijuana crime or who live in a neighborhood ravaged by the fallout from the heavy handed prohibition enforcement.
In Washington state, where recreational marijuana businesses were legalized by ballot proposition in the 2012 election, Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, said the board is looking at ways to ensure minorities are well represented among licensees, including the use of targeted outreach to ethnic communities to diversify the licensee pool.
Just about 3 percent of retail marijuana license holders in Washington are African-American, roughly tracking the percentage of the population in the state where 3.5 percent of Washington residents are black. Like California, in 2015 African-Americans made up a disproportionate share- 11 percent- of marijuana arrests.