Oakland California City Council Member Desley Brooks successfully secured first-in-the-nation Equity Amendments
Oakland, CA - April 14, 2017 - Long a leader of legal cannabis regulation, Oakland City Council voted unanimously for Council Member Desley Brooks’ equity amendments which ensure ownership opportunities for people historically locked out of the largesse of the cannabis industry, provide equity applicants an incubator program, and minimizes economic barriers as a way to start undoing some of the injustices faced by residents targeted and locked up for selling cannabis before it became legal in California.
Last year, the legal marijuana market in the United States was estimated to be worth $7.2 billion, and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 17%, according to a new report from a business intelligence firm, New Frontier Data. The report projects that the legal cannabis market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020, exceeding the projected job growth from manufacturing, utilities, and government jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In California alone, New Frontier estimates that California alone will account for more than $6.59 billion — more than one-quarter — of the legal marijuana market.
The “equity amendments” will guarantee that 50 percent of the legal cannabis permits go to persons formerly convicted of marijuana offenses out of Oakland, and Oakland residents in certain police beats. Councilwoman Brooks stated “Black and Brown people were arrested at disproportionate rates even after voters decided to make marijuana a low-level police priority.” Brooks has served as a Councilwoman in Oakland for 16 years, representing many residents who now face a number of economic barriers for having been incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses.
According to the “Race and Equity Analysis Report Regarding Medical Cannabis Regulations from the City’s Department of Race & Equity, the Councilwoman’s amendments will “promote... equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities of color and to address the disproportionate impacts of the war on drugs in those communities.
Key report findings include:
• Certain low-income communities and communities of color have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by disparate enforcement of cannabis laws;
• Police arrest data showed disproportionately higher arrests for cannabis offenses in certain neighborhoods;
• Individuals arrested and previously incarcerated for cannabis related offenses face significant barriers to obtaining employment, financial aid, housing, and other economic opportunities; and
• Individuals who have been operating unfettered by regulation and law enforcement have a significant advantage related to real estate acquisition and leasing that could lock members of negatively impacted groups out of being able to start up a cannabis business.
“If we look around our country, it’s mostly the white men who are making millions and millions in cannabis industry yet people of color were the ones locked up for selling cannabis,” said Brooks. “While we can’t undo all of the injustice to people of color resulting from the war on drugs, going forward we can establish a fair and equitable process that provides opportunities for those who have historically been left out. This is why I fought to get the equity program enacted into law.”
The key elements of the new Cannabis Equity Program include:
• Encourage Equity Incubators by giving permitting priority to General Applicants that provide Equity Applicants with free rent or real estate
• Phased Licensing - ensure at least half of initial licenses go to Equity Program qualified individuals, until Equity Assistance Program is operational
• Require at least half of dispensary permits be issued to Equity qualified applicants