Green & White: Are People of Color locked out of the Marijuana Industry?
It would seem so. Although marijuana has now been decriminalized in some states, made completely legal for recreational use in others and made accessible as medical marijuana in even more states, including Massachusetts, the new “Green” economy has left mostly Black people out of the mix. The industry itself is booming with career opportunities for botanists, chemists, farmers and additionally the service end of the industry which includes delivery, customer service, retail, quality control and more. Here in Massachusetts after recent legislation making medical marijuana available went into effect the state issued 20 licenses for dispensaries all of which are white owned and operated.
The process itself seemed to purposely create insurmountable barriers for small, local businesses owned by women and people of color to get involved in any significant way. The state set the financial requirements so unreasonably high with stipulations like $1 million minimum amount in the bank, $1 million in insurance it put the opportunity to compete out of reach to most would-be entrepreneurs of color. Who really won out in the end is the out of state corporations who were already in the marijuana industry and had the capital and mechanism to expand to new fertile and profitable territory. These corporations had the ability to secure very pricey high-powered lawyers and lobby all the proper legislators and play nice with all the right people.
The criminalization of marijuana has also had a disparate effect on young Black & Latino men in the criminal justice system. Young Black & Latino men are several times more likely to be arrested, tried and convicted on marijuana possession and distribution charges than their white counterparts. These charges ultimately lead to criminal records which would also now preclude them from employment in the green industry. Despite recent CORI laws the marijuana industry will have very stringent criminal background checks per order of the state. Many young men who sold marijuana illegally will be blocked from ever taking part in the legal marijuana industry and this will be one more opportunity for a legitimate career that will elude them. The marijuana industry is a very fast growing billion dollar industry and has already reportedly provided $184 million in tax revenue to the state of Colorado. It is unfortunate that this seems to be one more industry which people of color for whatever reasons are unable to participate in.