The establishment of a program meant to provide marijuana permits to people who have been affected by the war against drugs in Los Angeles has been marred by delays, scandal, and bureaucratic blunders. This has resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars for some of the intended beneficiaries.
Speaking to the Guardian, black entrepreneurs and marijuana activists said that the beleaguered social equity program had left potential business owners on a list whose approval timeline is uncertain, and this has resulted in irreparable damages to the finances of the businesses in question. It has also prevented them from opening cannabis retail outlets they have been planning on for several years.
Estimates from advocates of the social equity program indicate that out of the one hundred businesses on track to receive licenses, less than twenty of them are from black communities. The advocates further said that black communities are among the disproportionately affected communities that were targeted by marijuana arrests and discrimination. They also noted that applicants for the social equity programs are facing precarious futures even now.
In the meantime, white business owners are currently leading the booming Los Angeles marijuana sector.
Lanaisha Edwards asked how the other people who were not affected by prohibition are awarded licenses and make millions of dollars out of their suffering. Edwards is a South LA native who had applied for a marijuana retail license through the social equity program. She noted that prohibition led to the destruction of many families, and it would be beneficial if they managed to end prohibition and create wealth in the process. However, there is a possibility that the businesses are not going to reap any benefits from the program.
The social equity program was launched in 2018, to right the wrong of criminalization by awarding licenses to people impacted by the war against drugs, while eliminating barriers hindering people from opening small businesses. Residents from disproportionately affected communities would be eligible for marijuana licenses also if they were low-income and had previously been convicted for marijuana crimes.
Rabin Woods, a 57-year-old male previously arrested for marijuana offenses in 1983, said that the program was supposed to be their compensation, but currently, he is struggling to open a marijuana retail outlet in LA.
Blacks and Latinos have been victims of profiling by law enforcement in the U.S. with data consistently showing that blacks were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than whites.
According to the owner and co-founder of the California Minority Alliance, Virgil Grant, only six out of the 200 permits previously issued in LA were owned by black people, and even fewer were Latino-owned.
There was hope among LA residents that the social equity program would bridge the racial gap after recreational marijuana legalization, but it is evident that it is not happening any time soon.
The applicants for marijuana licenses complained that most of the candidates who made it to the top 100 were not representatives of people impacted by prohibition. They also said that eligibility was not based on race or geographical boundaries, which allowed a large number of applicants who were not directly affected war against drugs to benefit at the expense of the intended beneficiaries.
Analysts believe that the entire cannabis industry, including Lexara Biosciences Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP), would like to see the complaints of the social equity program investigated and resolved if mistakes were made during the implementation of the program.
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