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Chances for African Americans to Benefit in Budding Cannabis Industry Go up in Smoke


African American Californians are looking forward to having a stake in the state’s medicinal and the adult recreational-use cannabis industry as dispensary owners are being locked out of the big cannabis business machine once it revs up in 2018.

As a devoted member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and one of the few African Americans in the cannabis industry, I want to bring attention to the dilemma facing African American entrepreneurs – in Los Angeles especially – in the wake of Prop 64’s passing last November, which legalized adult-use of cannabis beginning in 2018. African Americans will be left out of the dispensary owner side of the medical and recreational cannabis industry since there is no one on the Los Angeles City Council (excluding the three African American council members)  or the State that is sensitive to the effect law enforcement’s crackdown on medicinal cannabis sales have had on the African American dispensary owners in Los Angeles. An abysmal, fruitless future is for certain unless African American entrepreneurs are allowed to participate in the legislation of prioritized licensing of the cannabis activity permit process, described in Article 5.2 of Measure M.

The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation is now accepting applications for the Cannabis Advisory Committee to advise the Bureau on matters concerning the medical and recreational use of cannabis for Californians 18 and up. I feel most of those committee members should be African American cannabis entrepreneurs and cultivators.

Before medicinal and recreational cannabis became legal in multiple states across the nation, 80% of all citizens penalized and jailed for selling cannabis were African American men. African American males are approximately 12–13 percent of the American population, but we make up 35 percent of jail inmates, and 37 percent of prison inmates of the 2.2 million male inmates as of 2014. African American men and their families sacrificed and paid the price to have representation on the advisory committee. The body is supposed to make recommendations about creating regulations that will ensure an organized cannabis market is fair and supports California’s interest. Now that the cannabis industry is becoming legit, African Americans should have a seat at the table directing how Los Angeles directs its cannabis industry.

In Los Angeles, the biggest cannabis market in the world, it is imperative the African Americans need to advise and participate in the prioritized licensing permits process. With over 1.6 million African American citizens in Los Angeles County, more than all the African American citizens in all other recreational STATES combined, it goes to reason that Los Angeles is the African American cannabis Plymouth rock and we need to build colonies to benefit our communities.  If not, African Americans will be left out of the brick and mortar side of the cannabis industry. Two measures on March 7 Primary Nominating Election ballot – Proposition M and Initiative Ordinance N – both are focused on who gets FIRST licenses to operate dispensaries that sell medical and recreational cannabis. Ordinance N organizers petitioned voters’ signatures to give prioritized licensing for cannabis permits to 135 medical cannabis dispensaries already in “potential” compliance to L.A. City laws. Measure N was a document created to give the 135 Pre-ICO (Interim Control Ordinance) dispensaries a monopoly on dispensaries or store fronts in Los Angeles.  In closed-door meetings, the architects of Ordinance N were able to manipulate Measure N detractors and the Los Angeles City Council to reframe Measure M and put into law the 135 Pre-ICO dispensary monopoly.  Today the United Cannabis Business Alliance (UCBA), the force behind Ordinance N, publicly supports Measure M letting their Measure N go to the wayside. The UCBA represents the majority of the 135 Pre-ICO owners.

I have no problem with the city prioritizing licensing to medical cannabis dispensaries first to ensure safe access for the sick. However, the transition to recreational use and the new tax code shouldn’t allow a select few cannabis businesses to advise on the participation and regulation of themselves. That is a monopoly. If African American entrepreneurs in Los Angeles are unable to get prioritized licensing initially, they won’t be able to qualify for state licensing. African American entrepreneurs must participate in the transition from day one. How will we be able to compete with the 135 Pre-ICO dispensaries if we too don’t experience the growing pains of a booming industry? The 135 dispensaries already have made millions of dollars of medicinal revenue, and now the city council lays down and created Measure M to give the 135 dispensaries an unfair advantage and a year head start.

Eighty percent of the 135 Pre-ICO cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles are already in poor African American and Latino neighborhoods, but it’s unknown whether these businesses have black or brown ownership. The city attorney has kept the “official” Pre-ICO list close to his vest and an ambiguous list that litter the internet.

Black and Latino stakeholders in the medicinal cannabis industry has always been the status quos “black market fall guys” and consumers. It is in the 135 Pre-ICO dispensaries financial interests that Blacks and Hispanics remain only consumers never empowered store front owners and producers. I don’t think the Los Angeles City Council and the State realize how the African American community is being legislatively disenfranchised, yet again.

I grow cannabis, and I understand the nuances of the industry. I founded and funded the only cannabis tissue culture laboratory in Southern California ( I am not the best or worst grower in the Golden State. However, I’m African American, so I am a unicorn in the state’s budding and lucrative cannabis industry.