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Can the Cannabis Industry Achieve Equity?

Equity Program Oakland Cannabis Now

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Can the Cannabis Industry Achieve Equity?

Photos Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now

Can the Cannabis Industry Achieve Equity?

A participant in an Oakland, California program designed to provide opportunities to community members impacted by the War on Drugs explains why he chose to get involved. 

As California opens up to adult use, I feel it is crucial to discuss and highlight how one county has attempted to equalize the playing field by including locals, victims of the drug war and people who otherwise might not have had access to this burgeoning industry. That county is Alameda County and, specifically, the great city of Oakland. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people young and old who have in some way been affected by the War on Drugs and who are eager to enter this emerging industry, but who need support after being knocked down to stand out in the crowded field. Diversity is an important part of life and is a spark that helps create innovation. This is the best reason to have an inclusive industry and the main reason I support the Oakland equity program. As we know, the War on Drugs has ripped through and affected many communities in cities like Oakland, so it’s only fair that reparations are made.

In Oakland, there are two ways to participate in the equity program. One is via direct investment into an equity eligible candidate’s business and the other is to provide an incubator space for a member of the equity program for three years. This gives the member a chance to operate their business with a major cost reduction. The program is set up so that equity candidates will receive four dispensary permits out of the city’s eight total permits.

Adult-use will mean many amazing things to this great state — not just in the form of the additional tax revenue, but also in the way in which it will change and affect lives.

In the past, as we have seen from incarceration records that were recently released by the City of Oakland, the vast majority of the people incarcerated for cannabis in Oakland are African American. It is my great hope that this program, coupled with adult use laws that allow anyone over the age of 21 to have an ounce on their person, will eliminate most of these petty arrests. Hopefully it will be this legalization that will lead us to further reconciliation.

Oakland California Cannabis Now

In the light of what’s on our horizon, I thought I would directly relate how this program effects an operator, namely myself and my mobile dispensary, URB Delivery. We have chosen to participate in this program and are currently meeting with several equity eligible delivery services in order to provide an incubator space for their business. Our offices will be in the massive cannabis community/distribution hub in Oakland called Cannaplex, run by its CEO Scott Bonagofsky.

This complex is an over 100,000 square foot warehouse that will house numerous cannabis businesses, including many equity-eligible businesses. Both Bonagofsky and I believe in the power that this program has. With him allowing us to use his space, we even hosted about 45 members of the local community, giving them an overview of the industry and the various products and roles that will be out there in the emerging marketplace. We will be hosting more of these events with the goal of teaching as many new people from the local community as we can about the many benefits of cannabis.

Oakland is one city on the cutting edge of cannabis law and has been for years now. It’s only fair that it would also be a pioneer as this great state develops cannabis legalization. One person that really fought for this program was Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks. She was an outspoken proponent of the equity program and has really paved the way for minorities to gain access to this amazing industry. I support any county initiatives like this, as the cannabis market should be a diverse field, representing the best of humanity. It is a democratic plant in that way; anyone can grow it. I strongly believe the more diverse our community is, the stronger it will be going into a heavily regulated future.

As a participant, I can attest that this program really provides the community with a platform for adding diversification and reconciliation to already amazing future that this great plant has paved.

Originally published in Issue 29 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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