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News | 11.04.2021

Here’s Why Social Equity Programs Are Not Working In Cannabis

Black entrepreneurs in cannabis are having no problem getting licensed, but there's more than what meets the eye.

All seemed to be on the right track when California voted to legalize recreational cannabis back in November 2016. However, nearly five years later, many states, cities, and counties are still trying to wrap their head around how to regulate such a booming industry.

Obstacles in the cannabis industry have been far more challenging for Black entrepreneurs, who were basically promised a head-start with the many social equity programs. Still, unfortunately, they’ve seen little progress. The many social equity programs have been popping up all over the country following states who’ve regulated cannabis use; these programs were put in place to help entrepreneurs in communities most affected by the war on drugs.

It’s more than disheartening to see how Black cannabis users have been wrongfully criminalized over a plant, especially those who are still serving time when marijuana is more legal than it’s ever been. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, although Black and white people roughly use cannabis at the same rate, Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis violations.

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The many social equity programs were meant to aid people of color and those previously incarcerated for cannabis crimes to get fully licensed in order to run their cannabis business, whether it be cultivation, manufacturing, delivery, or retail.

Christine De La Rosa, co-founder and CEO of cannabis company The People’s Ecosystem planned to apply for a social equity license in Los Angeles but didn’t see much help at all. She explained to The Guardian, “Many people got totally burnt. I can’t think of one program that has been good for women or for people of color. It has been a failure.”

De La Rosa continued to explain that she and many others’ main issue is how they’re not getting enough help in terms of finances. And this is more than true; she continues to explain that without cannabis being federally legal across the country, banks won’t offer loans, and for people of color, they’ll have much more trouble getting venture capital.

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“This has been the farce of social equity,” De La Rose explained. “You tell a bunch of formerly incarcerated people of color, ‘we’re going to give you a license.’ So now you have the license, but you don’t have the money.”

She concluded that Black entrepreneurs face challenges that other entrepreneurs don’t understand, especially those who have money and funds to fall back on. Unfortunately, in affected communities by the war on drugs and a lack of finances to put things into action, it looks like California is failing the Black cannabis community once again.

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