California announces $30 million grant to help communities harmed by marijuana prohibition enter legal industry

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced a $30 million grant to support individuals from communities targeted by the War on Drugs to enter the legal marijuana industry. 

GO-Biz, which facilitates economic development in the state of California, is preparing the grant in partnership with the Bureau of Cannabis Control. 

Dubbed the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions, the scheme will allocate at least $23 million in the form of low/no-interest loans to applicants from communities identified as having been harmed by decades of the criminalization of cannabis. 

“These Cannabis Equity Grants reflect California’s desire to lead our legalization efforts with equity and inclusivity,” California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Senior Advisor on Cannabis, Nicole Elliott, said.

Elliott went on to state that the Newsom administration applauds the jurisdictions’ participating in the program, which include Los Angeles and San Francisco, for assisting in creating new opportunities for those disproportionately harmed by prohibition, as well as for “doing so in a thoughtful way that seeks to uplift all communities.”

Elliott concluded by expressing hope that the marijuana industry in California, which boasts the largest legal pot market in the world, will serve as an example of true diversity. 

The recreational marijuana bill which passed the ballot in California in 2016 contains a social equity provision designed to help create equal access to the newly-legal industry.

In California, as in many other U.S. states, people of color have borne the brunt of anti-drug policies, which continue to hinder economic development in these communities despite cannabis’ legal status. 

According to the report published by GO-Biz, “during the era of cannabis prohibition in California, the burdens of arrest, convictions, and long-term collateral consequences arising from a conviction fell disproportionately on African American/Black and Latinx/Hispanic people, even though people of all races used and sold cannabis at nearly identical rates.”

As a result of a lack of capital and other vital resources, these individuals find it more difficult to enter the legal weed business, which in turn led to the adoption of social equity initiatives as part of legalization efforts in 5 other states (aside from California). 

However, most of the early states to legalize adult-use weed in the U.S., such as Colorado and Washington, did not include provisions to ensure equal opportunity in the newly-established industries.  

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