It’s common knowledge that people of color have been disproportionately punished for decades by cannabis prohibition laws, but these same policies have created restrictive rules in many states, which block communities that have been targeted by the war on drugs from participating in the legal cannabis industry. A new resolution filed in Congress on Thursday seeks to end discrimination in the cannabis industry.
“The communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefiting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace,” reads the measure, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “The House of Representatives encourages States and localities to adopt best practices and take bold steps…to address disparities in the cannabis marketplace participation and to address, reverse, and repair the most egregious effects of the war on drugs on communities of color, in particular to those who now hold criminal records for a substance that is now legal and regulated.”
The resolution highlights several areas where states with legal marijuana can do better, including by keeping licensing and application fees low, moving to automatically expunge cannabis convictions, eliminating restrictions on industry participation by people with marijuana arrest records and using tax revenue to fund community reinvestment, among others.
“There’s no question that there is growing momentum – both within Congress and nationwide – for cannabis legalization,” Lee said in a press release. “However, as we move into this new era, we must learn from the failed War on Drugs and ensure that entrepreneurs of color are included in this expanding industry. Due to unequal criminalization rates and disparities in access to capital, people of color are being locked out of the new and thriving legal cannabis trade.”
The measure is titled the RESPECT Resolution, short for Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades.
“As more and more states dial back the war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive criminalization are able to see previous harms remedied and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML. “It is absolutely crucial that future legalization efforts include avenues to expunge prior criminal convictions for actions which are now 100% legal.”
Earlier this week, a separate resolution was filed, demanding that Congress apologize for the failed war on drugs and the discrimination in the cannabis industry. We will be holding our breath in anticipation of the apology.