Overview. The legalization of medical and adult-use marijuana has become widespread in the United States and has stimulated an urgent discussion about creating social equity programs to benefit individuals and communities damaged by the long-running War on Drugs. The National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) has examined current state and municipal social equity plans to understand their diverse approaches and identify their keys to success. We believe our work is timely and will give policymakers a roadmap to leveraging the legal marijuana industry to create new minority-owned businesses, thousands of jobs, and substantial tax revenues to strengthen their own communities.
The goal of social equity laws is to ensure that people from communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and discriminatory law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry. Policymakers are working to address criticisms that outsiders are setting up legal cannabis businesses and profiting by doing the same things their less fortunate neighbors were arrested and given jailtime for just a few years ago.
Qualifications for social equity licenses. In most states, individuals eligible for equity licenses must live in(or have recently lived in) a designated geographical area where there has been a high rate of arrest and incarceration for marijuana-related activity that is no longer illegal. These areas must have higher than average poverty and unemployment rates. Applicants who themselves have been arrested or convicted, or who are hiring employees who have been arrested or convicted, may receive priority for their social equity license application.
Benefits for successful social equity applicants. Priority consideration in the licensing process, reduced application and licensing fees, technical assistance, and low-interest loans to under-capitalized license holders. An applicant who has been awarded a social equity license may also be eligible to set up shop with an established cannabis firm to learn the ropes in what some states refer to as “incubator” programs. Some consider it a form of apprenticeship.
Judicial reform is also a critical part of social equity success which increases the employability of previous offenders and helps remove barriers to housing and other benefits. NACB strongly advocates automatic expungement of marijuana-related crimes, particularly those not involving sales to minors, operation of a motor vehicle, or violent offenses.
Reinvestment in Disproportionately Impacted Areas. Twenty percent of cannabis tax revenue should be invested in the impacted communities to enhance education, legal aid, youth development programs and violence prevention.
Decades of arrests, convictions and incarcerations from cannabis-related crimes have inflicted structural, financial and emotional harm on areas throughout the country. These guidelines address the impact that cannabis enforcement policies have had on those marginalized communities and individuals. The proposed social equity program and policies are designed to benefit those who live in geographical areas adversely affected by the criminalization of cannabis. Through opportunity, training and investment, these guidelines will help those Disproportionately Impacted Areas achieve sustainable improvement.
Establish a Cannabis Social Equity Board through a transparent appointment process led by the Governor and the state agency governing cannabis. The Board will be held accountable through public voting and monthly hearings. It will be comprised of approximately 12 members with bipartisan representation from the state legislature; representatives from related state agencies such as the department of economic development, the small business administration, and the cannabis control commission; licensed representatives from the state's cannabis retail, wholesale, processor and cultivator sectors; and a representative from a Disproportionately Impacted Area who is experienced in community development.
51% ownership and control by one or more individuals who must meet the following criteria:
Currently reside or resided in a Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA) forat least five of the last ten years, defined as a geographic area with:
AND one of the following criteria:
At least every three (3) years, state commission will publish study of extent of disparate impact and burden based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or country of origin by persons with prior cannabis-related convictions
Automatic expungement of record if arrested or convicted of cannabis-related crime if the arrest meets the following criteria:
The National Association of Cannabis Businesses is the only organization in U.S. cannabis whose members are vetted as being responsible, trustworthy and compliant.