Race to the Top

Race to the Top

San Francisco recently announced that they plan to reduce or end sentencings for all criminal convictions, misdemeanors, and felonies, dating back to 1975, related to cannabis. Those who have served time or currently serving time will have their cases reviewed, clearing the way for people to be released from jail and be allowed to look into housing, jobs, and other areas of life previously unavailable due to their convictions. The city is expanding upon Proposition 64, a state law that allowed amnesty for marijuana-related crimes as a condition to legalize cannabis in California.

Cities across California and other states are following suit, creating what seems to be a race to achieve true racially and economically inclusive outcomes. Oakland was the first city to launch a cannabis equity program, designed to help people lacking the capital needed to start a business, or being restricted to do so, because of past weed crime convictions. Twenty-nine cannabis businesses in Oakland will not have to pay rent and will have security costs covered for three years under the program. The city revealed the names of several people who will be receiving permits to open a cannabis dispensary the same day San Francisco made their announcement. Six of the eight permits were awarded to people that either fell under the line of individuals making less than the average Oakland median income, which is $56,300 in a one-person household, or who were convicted for weed dating back to 1996. Some of the companies have also admitted to employing half of their staff with formerly incarcerated people.

Los Angeles is another city with a cannabis social equity program. Business permits are prioritized for people that lived in cities ravaged by drug wars, have criminal records for marijuana, and who will employ half of their staff from residents. Both cities are also willing to help finance or lease spaces to applicants that don’t fall under the two programs criteria.

Sacramento also imposed a Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Equity Program. The criterion is similar to other programs and is also looking to help business-seekers with past drug convictions have their records expunged. Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have equity programs but are having problems with the roll-outs.

One Oakland organization, Hood Incubator, is coming into the race to help formerly incarcerate blacks and Latinos prepare to work in the cannabis industry. They announced a $1 million partnership with the cannabis technology company Eaze. This is allowing Hood to include clinics and business workshops, and developing progressive policies for cannabis-friendly cities to adopt. Their first joint project will be “Cannabis Equity Strategy Manifesto” which will build upon practices from jurisdictions with an equity program, to create a model policy for future cities and states wanting to get into the cannabis market.

Though regulations for the cannabis market have been heavy, profits and revenue have still grown substantially. In the 2017 Cannabis Industry Annual Report from New Frontier Data, the market was estimated to be worth $6 billion in 2016 but is expected to grow to $24 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 16%. This statistic is right now solely based on states where weed is legal, so it is expected to dramatically change.

 

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