A new California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown eases the way for those impacted hardest by the failed “War on Drugs” to launch a budding marijuana business. Senate Bill 1294 aims to counteract the disproportionate impact of the misguided drug ware on minority communities, allowing local jurisdictions in California to apply for a grant from the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control to aid entrepreneurs who are also minorities in a number of ways, including providing financial support via waiver of license fees, providing technical assistance and more (with $10 million allocated to provide this support).
The new law, supporters said, will directly go to helping those who have been more profoundly impacted by the criminalization of marijuana.
The California Cannabis Equity Act was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, noting that cities that have local marijuana equity programs (Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento) will have access to the grant funds. Some opponents of this law argued prior to passage that giving marijuana growers a license and access to grants despite a prior marijuana conviction, something even some proponents of legal marijuana argue harms legitimate businesses because some would-be cannabis business owners got their prior convictions growing marijuana unlawfully on land that wasn’t designated for it, thereby harming the environment.
But supporters, like Sen. Steven Bradford (the man who wrote it) paints this as the first “social equity cannabis law” in the U.S. Funding from the grants may also go toward business loans, capital improvements and regulatory compliance assistance. Some of these things may fall under the umbrella of legal assistance, which our L.A. marijuana business lawyers do provide to burgeoning cannabis companies.
The executive director of the L.A. Department of Cannabis Regulation voiced his support, saying the new law will allow for more equitable ownership and employment opportunities within the California cannabis business community.
How War on Drugs Impacted Minority Communities
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the U.S. claims less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and yet holds 25 percent of all incarcerated people on earth, with an incarceration rate that is 666 inmates per 100,000. Russia, the country with the second-highest incarceration rate, is 430 inmates per 100,000 people. In a single recent year, there were 1.5 million drug arrests in this country and more than 80 percent of those were just for possession.
At every single phase of the judicial system, people of color are more likely to be:
- Harshly sentenced
- Handed a lifelong criminal record
Prosecutors are twice as likely to impose mandatory minimum sentences for black offenders compared to white offenders for the exact same offense. We have substantial evidence now this was by design. An interview recently published by Harper’s Magazine, based on a 22-year-old interview of one Richard Nixon top adviser, indicated that in 1968, Nixon’s campaign targeted, “the antiwar left and black people.” They enacted policies expressly to alter public opinion and suppress those communities. Some of those policies still haunt to this day.
One in every 13 black person of voting age in the U.S. is denied the right to vote due to a prior felony conviction. Nearly 3 million children are growing up in U.S. homes where one are more parent is incarcerated and more than two-thirds of those are for non-violent offenses (including a substantial number of drug possession violations).
So the question is: Should cannabis business owner hopefuls of color be further prejudiced by that prior conviction and lack of capital? SB1294 seeks to remedy that.
Legal Advice Imperative for New Cannabis Business Owners
Marijuana business owners – those existing and looking for a means to break into the market, must secure legal representation if they hope to successfully navigate marijuana laws and regulations, both in California and L.A. We can help.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Legalize It All, April 2016, By Dan Baum, Harper’s Magazine
More Blog Entries:
New L.A. Bud Businesses Can’t Ignore Legal Snares, Sept. 28, 2018, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog