Cannabis Opportunity Agenda: A Pathway to Equity and Inclusion

The 2020 election season marked a transformative period for cannabis policy in the United States, particularly concerning racial and social justice. As the conversation around cannabis legalization evolved, it became evident that the War on Drugs disproportionately affected targeted communities. Now, policymakers and legislators have an extraordinary opportunity to establish a policy context that fosters inclusive economic opportunities alongside responsible investments to address longstanding harms.

The Racist Roots of the War on Drugs

For decades, drug criminalization led to missed opportunities for people of color who bore the brunt of unequal criminal enforcement. In 2013, police officers were 3.73 times more likely to arrest people of color for cannabis possession than whites. In some communities, Blacks were 8.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession. The racist origins of the War on Drugs left a lasting impact, saddling young men and women of color with drug convictions, often before age 30, and setting them on a path of institutionalized disadvantage due to the collateral consequences of criminal records.

Today, despite a thriving state-legal cannabis industry, those most harmed by the drug war face significant barriers to participating in the emerging cannabis economy. As elected officials consider cannabis law reform, they must prioritize protections, corrective actions, and inclusive opportunities to reverse the generational ills of the War on Drugs.

Designing a Comprehensive Cannabis Opportunity Agenda

We propose that 2020 is an opportune moment to create a comprehensive, pragmatic Cannabis Opportunity Agenda. This set of policies aims to address the social harms of marijuana prohibition and rehabilitate impacted communities, focusing on equity, opportunity, and inclusion. Here are the critical features of this agenda:

  1. Expungement of Cannabis-Related Criminal Records: Clearing criminal records related to cannabis offenses is essential to providing a fresh start for those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
  2. A Well-Defined Class of Beneficiaries: Ensuring that those harmed by cannabis prohibition have access to economic opportunities and resources.
  3. Protections for Communities Most Ravaged by the War on Drugs: Targeted investments and support for communities disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.
  4. Enabling Minorities to Enter and Persist in the Cannabis Economy: Removing barriers and fostering inclusion for minorities in the cannabis industry.
  5. Equity and Opportunity: Prioritizing equity in licensing, business ownership, and employment within the cannabis sector.

By implementing these features, we can create a more just and inclusive cannabis landscape that rectifies past wrongs and promotes economic empowerment for all. Let’s seize this opportunity to build a better future.

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