Here in Oakland, those convicted of marijuana trafficking are getting a new opportunity to launch California cannabis businesses under the city’s Equity Applicant system. The goal is provide longtime residents, typically those who live below the poverty level – including those who have prior convictions for marijuana sales – get assistance in starting a cannabis business.
City leaders say the goal of the Equity Applicant system is to right the fallout of many years of a failed “War on Drugs,” which hit poor minority communities especially hard. As USA Today recently reported, nearly 80 percent of those arrested for marijuana crimes in 2015 were black. Conversely, whites made up just 4 percent of those arrested. Meanwhile, the city’s population is evenly divided – 30 percent black and 30 percent white. What this shows, officials say, is a clear bias in policing, especially because we know that blacks and whites use marijuana at rates that are comparable.
Police received formal orders in 2004 to make the majority of marijuana offenses – particularly possession – the lowest priority in terms of enforcement. It’s even lower than jaywalking. Still, businesses that cultivate, manufacture and distribute the drug are overwhelmingly white. That’s true in Oakland and across California. City leaders want to change this. Continue reading