The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that racial minorities are underrepresented in Ohio’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry. As Ohio’s medical marijuana program progresses, there is growing concern among advocates and industry insiders that racial minorities will be under-represented in marijuana businesses.
Currently, racial minorities hold 9 of the 56 dispensary provisional licenses, 2 of 29 cultivation provisional licenses, and none of the 39 processor provisional licenses. What’s more, the minority-owned businesses who were fortunate enough to receive provisional licenses have been subjected to over a year of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of laws designed to help them.
Advocates are concerned that racial minorities – who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs – will be excluded from employment and ownership opportunities in this new industry without meaningful safeguards. Historically disproportionate rates of arrest, conviction, and sentencing among races, creates new employment barriers for racial minorities in an industry with mandatory background checks. On the economic side, would-be marijuana startups cannot borrow from federally regulated banks, and industry access is often limited to large, established companies with liquid capital to invest.
Organizations like the Minority Cannabis Business Association, National Cannabis Industry Association, and Drug Policy Alliance have met with stakeholders and created model laws to promote social equity through priority licensing, access to capital, and technical assistance for confirmed equity applicants, as well as general applicants incubating a cannabis business owned by an equity applicant. Hopefully, with future collaboration and review, inclusion and diversity in this industry will be the norm in Ohio.