One of the biggest problems in the cannabis industry is the racial disparity that occurs in marijuana arrests and incarcerations. More African Americans and Hispanics are arrested in connection with marijuana and subsequently jailed than Caucasians. However, according to the US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) 76% of the people that consume marijuana are white.
These arrest records are also keeping minorities from owning businesses in the cannabis industry. Most states and municipalities have included in their rules and regulations, a ban on business owners having a criminal record. On the surface, it seems like a given that the industry doesn’t want criminals opening cannabis businesses, except when the arrest is related to cannabis. San Francisco recently decided to dismiss prior marijuana misdemeanors and review felony charges, but the arrest will still remain on a person’s record unless it is expunged.
The National Diversity & Inclusion Alliance (NDICA) is an association that was created to assist disadvantaged entrepreneurs in gaining access into the cannabis industry. NDICA hosted an Expungement Clinic and Job Fair last month to provide entry-level education about cannabis industry in Los Angeles, California. The group will also help disadvantaged groups apply for cannabis business licenses.
“Integrity and strong ethical core form the foundation of NDICA, and we are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive industry to keep integrity with promises made to people of color and others negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition,” says Bonita Me. Money, Founder of NDICA and Women Abuv Ground. She added, “There have been many attempts to include people of color in the cannabis industry, but nothing meaningful, and more like exploitative attempts to win licenses or improve optics versus real empowerment. This exposed many issues surrounding ethics and integrity, so we wrote a code of ethics to help guide our mission and the cannabis industry as a whole.”
On November 8th, 2016, California passed marijuana legalization opening opportunity to own legal cannabis businesses in the state. As a part of the new legislation, disadvantaged groups will be given priority consideration in being awarded cannabis business licenses. The state will award these licenses at a rate of 2:1 privileging disadvantaged groups and will cap licensing at 145 for general licenses.
“California has taken a great first step in ensuring that disadvantaged groups will have access to business ownership. We now need to make sure that those that apply are supported and do not fall into predatory business traps that plague the industry.” stated Co-founder of Minority Cannabis Business Association and NDICA VP of Diversity and Education Strategies, Tiffany Bowden, M.A., PhDc
NDICA’s inaugural event featured Cat Packer, Lanese Martin, and Rick Ross who spoke on how the social equity plan would impact the communities, the qualifications and how to get involved as applicants and investors. The Expungement clinic offered tips for participants on how to remove marijuana convictions from their records. The job fair featured information on how to land a cannabis job in the LA area. Finally, there were strategic tips offered to individuals interested in applying for a cannabis business license.
NDICA frequently partners with local experts and activist groups who want to move the industry forward. Additional information about the event and the organization can be found soon as the website is currently under construction. Participants interested in learning more can reach out to Bo Money at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NDICA’s next events will be in Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta.