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Cannabis Activism Post-Prohibition: Concrete Steps Forward

cannabis regulation

[Note: This article is part of an exclusive series about how cannabis activists can add value to today’s cannabis industry – by Amanda Reiman, cannabis activist and VP of Community Relations with Flow Kana. You can find other installments here.]

Over the past several weeks I have addressed various ways in which activists can stay engaged after cannabis legalization.

As anyone who has witnessed the transition from prohibition to legalization can attest, legalization does not solve problems so much as changes the conversations and strategies around the problems.

Shifting cannabis from a criminal justice to a public health paradigm invites opportunities that were not in play before, and also creates growing pains and transitional challenges.

However, at no other point during our lifetimes have we had such a chance to effect sustainable social and environmental change.

The eyes of the world are on cannabis, and it serves as an effective megaphone to amplify allied messaging.

However, we cannot do it alone, and to fully maximize the opportunity to change long-standing institutional paradigms, we need to connect with our allies and instill in them that this is their fight too.

What does this look like?

When allies, legislators and would-be supporters want to know what concrete steps they can take to help ensure the values from the movement endure, what do we tell them?

I have come up with some “best progressive practices” if you will, that cannabis reform advocates can share with allies and with those who want to work on the issue at the local, state and federal level.

Components of “advocate-approved” cannabis regulation:

  • A method for the automatic expungement of cannabis records for acts that are no longer criminal, including all offenses committed by minors.
  • The release of all persons currently incarcerated for acts which are no longer criminal, or who have served time past the amended punishment for their crime.
  • A stipulation that having a cannabis felony does NOT prevent a person from either working in the industry or holding a license in the industry and that the state explores employment requirements around hiring those with prior cannabis convictions.
  • A way to create inclusion zones for small farmers and grant opportunities for land ownership, including the creation of farmer co-op opportunities for small producers subsidized by the state with production hubs made of up of many small landowners.
  • Equity programs that provide a free training component and ongoing free business coaching for participants and that include all of those impacted by the drug war across the supply chain and including urban and rural areas.
  • State-dedicated funds to supporting mindfully created equity programs including staffing, technical assistance, and program management services for localities administering such programs and businesses involved in such programs.
  • Compassion programs as a way of providing tax-free medicine to patients who need it and as a way for low-income patients to have access to low cost and donated cannabis products.
  • Provisions for home cultivation and collective gardening projects.
  • A strategy for providing banking services to the industry focused on the needs of small and rural businesses, including a strategy for providing free business coaching and low-interest start-up loans to small businesses and equity applicants.
  • Tax revenue from cannabis sales that is earmarked for a community reinvestment fund that will grant monies to communities most impacted by the drug war for service creation and provision.
  • Production-based taxes for cultivation and perhaps manufacturing of oil, with small producers receiving a substantial tax break based on the amount of cannabis and/or oil produced.

The activist demand from across the progressive issues that cannabis touches concerning racial, environmental, gender and economic justice is very much alive.

Although the message may have changed, the role of activists post-legalization is more nuanced and varied.

Activists have a vital part to play in the private sector, the regulatory world and the non-profit world in ensuring that this industry does not go the way of other American industries.

If successful, activists can help ensure that the movement lives and thrives and that the mission does not get lost to dollar signs and the promise of economic windfall.

It’s up to us.

– This article was originally posted at Green Flower

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