LA Is Trying to Help People with Marijuana Convictions Get Into the Cannabis Industry

Marijuana prohibition has disproportionately hurt minority communities. Data shows that black and hispanic people are arrested and convicted for cannabis-related charges at a much higher rate than the general population. But with recreational marijuana becoming legal in California in 2018, the city of Los Angeles is hoping to reverse those punishments.

The city of Los Angeles is working on creating a program that would help people affected by anti-marijuana laws in the past enter the cannabis industry when recreational legalization takes effect in 2018. While California law prevents the city from giving preferential treatment to people based on race, Los Angeles can help the poor (who are disproportionately minorities) to enter the industry. The people who would benefit from the program are poor people who have been convicted of a marijuana crime, poor people whose immediate family members were convicted of a marijuana crime, people with low incomes that live in areas that were heavily affected by marijuana convictions and companies who hire disadvantaged applicants. While many of the people who would benefit form this arrangement are minorities, the program is not about race as much as it is about helping people who've been hurt by unjust marijuana laws.

“This is not about race,” said Donnie Anderson, cofounder of the California Minority Alliance. “This is about communities that were hurt by the failed war on drugs.”

People who enter the program would receive help on how to enter the industry. This includes assistance in applying for licenses, help for training employees and access to rent free or reduced rate properties to open businesses. There would also be an avenue to help expunge marijuana possession chargers from a person's record.

The city's policy is for every person or business in the general population who receives a license in the industry, a license will be given to someone in the social equity program. Another proposal under consideration would set aside 20 percent of LA's marijuana tax revenue to help beautify lower income neighborhoods in the city.

This is program is just a reminder that marijuana legalization alone cannot make up for all the damage the War on Drugs has done in the past.

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