Thursday, September 29, 2016

Oakland Giving Out Marijuana Convictions Reparations

The Oakland City Council convened to hammer out legislation to help boost the expansion of the city's legal medical cannabis industry. When plans for new licenses for bakers, farmers, hash-makers, and delivery services came up for a vote, as well as a proposal that would be passed to ensure that the applications of those who've been locked up for cannabis related offenses are moved to the top of the pile.

The move was heavily disputed by proponents of the cannabis industry, who predict that such a measure will slow growth.

The proposal won the favor of thousands of critics of the 'War On Drugs.' It promised to serve as a testing grounds for what the impact might look like, if the state afforded typically poor people of color the opportunity to open up a cana-business as a means of reparations.

Medical and recreational marijuana is projected to grow into a $40 billion industry by the year 2020. And while millions across economic and racial divides will find themselves celebrating the boom, there will be many across the nation who won't be able to grab a piece of it. The vast majority of states still uphold rules that refuse licenses to drug felons, and where they don't, there are often authorities who request that lawmakers bar those with past felonies from investing in the industry. Opponents of outdated drug war policies see such restrictions as a form of institutional racism, considering the distabilizing effect drug war era policies had and continue to have on communities of color.

“Slowly abolishing marijuana prohibition will eventually shrink a racially biased legal system, but more needs to be done to change the economic dynamics that favor one race over another. Only by promoting economic access can we correct the discrimination of a failed legal system. Legal reforms must be coupled with economic considerations that ensure fairness and diversity in business,” said African-American cannabis entrepreneur, Dr. James E Sulton Jr., about the kinds of measures being innovated by places like Oakland. Sulton Jr. is known for demanding that legislators do more to empower communities that have been criminalized and railroaded into poverty by such social campaigns as the 'war on drugs.' 

Federal law mandates that a small percentage of government contracts go to economically or socially disadvantaged owners – essentially minority-owned businesses ... state and local governments that have some form of legal pot should go a step further in identifying opportunities to be more inclusive regarding industry rules governing past drug offenders,” he said, in speaking concrete solutions.

While his perspective provides a segue for lawmakers to become pro-active in enabling those with drug-related arrests to pursue legal pot enterprise effectively, the Oakland model would go a step further than regulating the industry in the manner Sulton Jr. champions. He advocates leveling the playing field by ensuring that locals are not excluded from the opportunity to exploit the industry, with the recommendation that residency requirements be written in as one of the determinants of who is afforded a license. It is a suggestion that he offers in tandem with stipulations to be in place that mandate licenses be given out across the diverse spectrum of neighborhoods. 

He also recommends that the boards that are facilitating the growth of the industry have leadership that reflects the demographic of the communities they oversee. In Oakland, on the other hand, officials have created what they've dubbed their Equity Permit Program. The program which is essentially an entitlement whereby residents living within the vicinity of select police beats, or drug sellers convicted within the past ten years, can apply for "equity permits" prioritized for cannabis businesses that are majority owned by "drug war victims."

Policies in the U.S. have been designed to allow certain people to flourish and others to perish,” says Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance, who acknowledges Oakland as the first place in the world to institutionalize a response to the racial and economic disparities that her research reveals to be sustained by legal barriers born out of the drug war. We have a chance with the newly legal cannabis industry to flip the script, not only by providing opportunities specifically to those most often denied them, but by showing the world that people are not their pasts.”

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