In California, the Oakland city council unanimously approved the Equity Permit Program, which ensures a more diverse cannabis industry from the get go, including former weed felons. Approved last month, the new program will reportedly issue 50 percent of all licenses for medical marijuana facilities to people who would otherwise be unable to obtain a shot at owning a slice of the cannabis market due to previous felonies or lack of start up funding.
The system Oakland is implementing sets the licenses aside for weed felons, or people who are low income and either have a marijuana conviction or have lived in certain Oakland neighborhoods for at least 10 of the past 20 years. USA Today reports that the city will also give priority to other applicants if they partner with equity applicants by giving them free space to operate a competing business.
There’s been an outcry from advocates for this update for a while. John Legend, for example, even asked then-President Obama for leniency when it comes to non-violent offenses like drug crimes.
“I am asking you to bring justice to thousands of families by granting as many clemencies as possible before you leave office,” the singer asked then-president Obama in a letter.
Some of he biggest hurdles that have prevented a diverse group of marijuana business owners is that the regulations favor people with clean criminal records, and startup money is harder to come by, and they are too often unable to afford application fees. Yet under the new Oakland program, weed felons and residents applying are still required to go through what is described as a ‘rigorous’ application process.
Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harborside Health Center in Oakland added, “This city has a tremendous amount of overlooked and underutilized talent. Hopefully, that gets unlocked with the equity program.”