Coalition Seeks Social Justice, Equity in Cannabis Market

SACRAMENTO -- Can California create social justice and equity in the regulated cannabis marketplace?

That question is the focus of the California Growers Association Legislative Day at the State Capitol, Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

The CGA Social Justice and Equity Committee is working in coalition with the California Minority Alliance to raise awareness about the need to put community first in California cannabis.

"There are neighborhoods across California where every household was impacted by the war on drugs with incarceration, violence and worse," Donald Anderson, Cal Growers board member and Equity Committee chair, said. "In many cases, all a person was trying do to was feed his family. With equity and social justice, the cannabis marketplace can create tens of thousands of jobs in communities where they are needed most."

The group will focus on three action categories for legislators to help promote and create opportunities for residents and neighborhoods victimized by drugs and law enforcement:

-- Protect legacy California businesses with residency requirements during a transition period to ensure that our local businesses have an opportunity to get established

-- Promote cooperatives and community-owned enterprises with unique cross-licensure allowances to ensure that efficiencies of scale can be achieved without displacing small business owners

-- Reduce business entry barriers for non-violent drug offenders and small businesses 

"People and communities represented by our organization were the biggest victims in the war on drugs," Hezekiah Allen, Cal Growers executive director, said. "As we build the regulatory landscape for medical and adult-use cannabis, we must guarantee that those victims are safeguarded and given opportunities to participate and benefit in the new marketplace." 

As CGA members meet with legislators to promote social justice and equity, they will underscore their support for Assembly Bill 1578 by Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles). The legislation prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from assisting federal authorities in investigating or arresting cannabis suspects without court orders.

"It's critical that we let the federal government know we will not help them if they choose to revive the war on drugs, which was failed policy for decades and caused tremendous damage to countless communities in California," Anderson said. 

Anderson was among several civil rights activists who helped frame social justice and equity language in Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act passed by voters last November. The law decriminalizes or reduces many activities formerly considered felonies or misdemeanors by state and local authorities.

The CGA believes local and legacy California entrepreneurs need time to transition before the tidal wave of new businesses interests flood the marketplace.

"Many businesses in the cannabis marketplace are not engaged with the community. All they care about is making a profit," said founder and vice chair of the California Minority Alliance Virgil Grant. "Communities are best served by businesses operated by people with deep local roots who love where they live and have made a commitment to stay and contribute."

CGA members will encourage legislators to establish level playing fields for local and legacy entrepreneurs.