As it relates to black leaders or leading blacks in Michigan, there was a cry to vote ‘no’ for recreational cannabis (marijuana). But when the vote from the citizens was a resounding ‘yes,’ there were crickets. When I say ‘crickets’, I’m referring to silence amid action, in which a large portion of the population in Michigan and across the country will define as progress. Yet, for minorities within this region, silence does not promote progress.
I believe that Michiganders are missing out on a critical conversation – a conversation involving two vital elements: one’s opinion and one’s perspective on the use and the business of marijuana. We have noted time and time again, the challenges that arise in positioning a disadvantaged group of citizens to reap the benefits of an emerging industry due to someone else’s opinion and platform, which we have allowed to shape our narrative.
Did you know that the marijuana industry is an emerging market that has taken the world by storm?
On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, the House Financial Services Committee under Honorable Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D- California) discussed H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019, which would provide safe harbor and guidance to financial institutions that wish to work with legal cannabis businesses. It was noted during the conversation that some 47 states have passed legislation in support of cannabis – either medicinal, recreational, or both. It is projected that the sales value for marijuana in Michigan for 2019 will be $725.6 million and will reach $883.9 million in 2025. Therefore, with such growth, you must ask yourself who is benefiting from the cannabis industry?
I have overheard conversations such as, “Black folk will never have a dispensary because we can’t afford it,” or “It’s not designed for us to make money from the industry.” But I ask you, “Why not? Why aren’t low-income, previously-incarcerated citizens or people of color positioned to benefit from the business of cannabis?” Perhaps as with all things, it boils down to leadership.
Why haven’t the minority state, county and city leaders done their research on how to make this industry work for all? It isn’t hard. There are shining examples from other states whose processes we can surely discuss and hopefully adopt.
As reported by MJBizDaily and the Sacramento Bee, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a legislation in 2018that established a state-run program aimed at widening participation among minorities and economically-disadvantaged individuals in the marijuana industry, either as business owners or employees. This has become known as the social equity program.
Senator Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena, sponsored a state programcalled Senate Bill 1294to assist municipalities with equity ordinances in providing loans, grants and technical assistance to would-be entrepreneurs and employees. Lawmakers then allotted $10 millionfor the assistance. Some of the Bill’s provisions include:
- Development of a model equity ordinance with experts, which will be published on the California Bureau of Cannabis Control’s website by July 1, 2019.
- Assistance with administration and raising capital for local equity programs. Several municipalities in California already have social equity programs for the marijuana industry.
- Distribution of loans or grants to local equity applicants or licensees for startup and ongoing costs, such as rent, application and licensing fees, equipment, capital improvements and workforce training.
- Direct technical assistance offered to local equity applicants and licensees.
The bill stipulates that the legislature’s intent is to “ensure that persons most harmed by cannabis criminalization and poverty be offered assistance to enter the multibillion-dollar industry as entrepreneurs or as employees with high-quality, well-paying jobs.”
This is a progressive policy with the intent of effecting positive change in the lives of those that have an interest in the cannabis industry but have barriers to entry. We, too, need a social equity program in Michigan; we deserve more than a ‘no’!
Collette R. Ramsey is an entrepreneur, weekly TV talk show host of “Coffee & Conversation with Collette” on WHPS TV33/Comcast 91(7am Thurs & Fri), and founder/chief conversationalist of Kanna Biz TV. Kanna Biz TV, a weekly talk show that addresses the business of cannabis, launches April 24, 2019, on TV33.