A group of black entrepreneurs has banded together to fight for more opportunities for minority business owners in the burgeoning U.S. marijuana industry.
Real Action for Cannabis Equity launched on Thursday in Boston after expressing frustration that 182 of 184 marijuana business licenses in Massachusetts have gone to white people. Co-founder Richard Harding told AP that many communities are deliberately excluding people of colour as they license marijuana businesses.
The group will aim to promote greater fairness and equity in the marijuana industry, not just in Massachusetts, but across the entire country.
Harding is president and co-founder of Green Soul, which aims to provide disadvantaged populations with economic opportunities by removing barriers and providing workforce development. He is described a prominent figure in Cambridge politics and he has sought to address structural racism in education, employment and policing across Boston.
He runs the Men of Color Health Initiative of the Cambridge Public Health Department, while he has also campaigned for marijuana to be regulated like alcohol across Massachusetts.
The group could find an ally in Indian-American drug policy activist Shaleen Title, who currently serves as one of five commissioners on the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Before that she co-authored the Massachusetts marijuana legalization referendum, and she is also a founding board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
Title is currently in the UK, where she has just hit headlines for advising the British government to recruit and train drug dealers to run any future recreational cannabis industry.
The UK legalized medicinal marijuana last year, although the industry has barely got off the ground yet. Politicians say they hope to see a legal adult-use cannabis introduced within five years, and Title said Britain should follow her state’s example of recruiting ex-drug dealers and people from communities previously involved in the illicit marijuana trade.
She said that Massachusetts has thus far recruited 150 people that are either ex-dealers or hail from areas of the state where drug arrests have been the highest.
“It is a way to give people and the voters that backed legalization in our referendum what they wanted,” she said, adding that it prevents giant corporations from exploiting the nascent industry.
Title is one of three U.S. marijuana experts that addressed the House of Lords this week. They urged the UK government to follow in the footsteps of several U.S. states by permitting recreational marijuana sales.