Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 19, 2020

Equity in all things

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

Hopefully folks can spare some of their righteous indignation over the systemic and deep seated issues in law enforcement and we can help address moving forward.

One of the major topic in the last few years was cannabis and the approval of cannabis related businesses in Alameda. It’s a pretty widely known fact that during the war on drugs, Black people were being arrested and incarcerated three times as often as white people even though the usage was similar.  When marijuana became legalized in California (and other states) Black cannabis owners were systemically shut out of the industry, from NBC:

[M]any African Americans across the country are concerned that a lack of access to capital and systematic economic racism will exclude them from the burgeoning marijuana business the way they’ve been excluded from other business opportunities in the past.

The numbers are disturbing. Less than a fifth of the people involved at an ownership or stake-holder level were people of color, a 2017 survey found; black people made up only 4.3 percent.

“In the beginning there was the feeling that the rush was to legalize and people felt that the social justice and equity elements would be added after the legislation had passed or that these organizations or companies would do the right thing,” [Tracey Henry] said.

“We’re seeing that is not the case,” she added. “This is all tied to economic justice as well. There are a lot of Jim Crow Cannabis laws, that either by design or by circumstance, keep certain communities out of the industry. Depending on the state you might need a license to cultivate, a license to extract, a license to sell. These fees run into the thousands. Also, in some states, if you have a cannabis conviction or felony, you can’t be a part of the industry.”

In Alameda, in our rush to push through the cannabis ordinance, we failed to put into the ordinance anything to address this systemic bias.  While there were some noises made about initially wanting an equity program, that — somehow — got left by the behind on the steady march toward an ordinance.   It is something that Alameda, with its not-so-great legacy with BIPOC, should not have left behind.

According to the data that was provided Black and Latino individuals were arrested for felony marijuana possession at percentages that were way higher than the percentage of the Alameda population for those races.

black

latino

Compared to White and Asian individuals the stark contrast is evident:

white
asian

And based on what information I could find about the owners of the approved dispensaries, there may be one person of color with ownership stake in any of the approved businesses.  I could be wrong because I’m only going off publicly available information and some of the owners are really well hidden.

Of course we can’t go backward only move forward.  Before we go through another opening up of the cannabis business process in Alameda we really need to examine whether or not Alameda should restructure its cannabis ordinance to reflect equity in an industry where Black individuals took the brunt of the punishment prior to legalization.  Oakland has created an equity program which uses some of the money collected in taxes from cannabis businesses to provide start-up loans to eligible businesses.

1 Comment »

  1. The cannabis tax funds designated to be returned to communities is being directed to law enforcement and not youth prevention education. Time to look at how those tax dollars should be allocated. https://www.phi.org/thought-leadership/california-cannabis-tax-revenues-a-windfall-for-law-enforcement-or-an-opportunity-for-healing-communities/

    Comment by Serena T Chen — June 20, 2020 @ 5:56 pm


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