One of the biggest arguments for legalization is the entirely unbalanced number of minorities being negatively impacted by the War on Drugs and particularly the prohibition of cannabis. There are around twice as many black or Latino’s being arrested for marijuana possession than there are white people – and it’s still happening, even in states that have legalized the plant.
A California City Council has created a program that they hope will help to start to repair some of the damage done to these people and their communities. The Equity Permit Program is the first of its kind and was passed with a historic unanimous vote. While in most states and counties, those with previous drug convictions would be excluded from applying for a license in the cannabis industry, Oakland will actually be encouraging it.
Those who have recently been incarcerated due to marijuana related offenses, as well as residents of six police beats in East Oakland, will specifically be eligible for permits in the medical marijuana industry. The city will award eight new licenses each year and half of those will be reserved for those who fall into this category.
There are many who believe that this move will create problems in the long term for Oakland’s hopes for expanding their cannabis industry. The program was opposed by the cities Cannabis Regulatory Commission who have spent the last 18 months redesigning the city’s cannabis industry – but it was generally well received by the public and passed the vote after it was added in at the last minute.
“We are the last ones to get access (to permits),” said another resident, Tom Coleman. “We can be the help or the consumers but we never had the access. It gives us a fair shot.”
Some who spoke at the meeting Tuesday requested that they expand the number of beats (currently 6 of Oakland’s 57) to the list that is covered by the program. The city council has made it clear that amendments will be made to the law in the future and that this is not where it will end. This means that with community input, this law could end up benefiting communities that need help to be built back up.
While there are always people who will be against such proposals, this is an interesting approach to take and, if executed properly and amended to change with the industry, this could be a very helpful thing for minorities and felons who would normally be unable to work in the cannabis industry. It will definitely be interesting to see how this plays out and how it will benefit these neighborhoods over the coming years.