Essential Businesses, Essential Voices

Cannabis, Hemp, Justice, Legalization, Social Equity -

Essential Businesses, Essential Voices

by Rashida Bartley 

As the world battles the global pandemic of Covid19 aka Novel Coronavirus more cities, states and countries order stay at home or shelter in place for residents. In most cases only essential businesses are allowed to operate. Essentials businesses can be banks, transportation, grocery stores, restaurants (for delivery or pickup) and a few other proprietors. From a United States paradigm, certain states that have allowed the legal use of marijuana/cannabis have deemed dispensaries as essential businesses.

Which brings up a glaring point of discussion.

It is not lost on cannabis warriors fighting for full legalization, that there are countless people locked up because of nonviolent marijuana convictions and the War on Drugs (a US policy which began in 1971).

It is imperative for companies; dispensaries, distributors, product lines and anyone who is benefitting from the newfound understanding of marijuana/cannabis (and hemp) to call for continued expunging of records, release of persons convicted of nonviolent marijuana charges and allow entry into the cannabis space (if applicable). Make no mistake the cannabis industry today was built on the backs of many folks who are still serving time for what is now the hottest investment market in the world. Specifically built on the backs of black and brown people disenfranchised and targeted by the War on Drugs. Hopefully celebrities, former athletes, entrepreneurs and even newcomers to the cannabis and hemp space, will continue to be just as loud about expungement of records and social equity as they are about announcements of new products and business ventures.

There are 26 states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana/cannabis for personal use. Meaning there is no jail time and not a state crime, but could be seen as civil or local infraction.

The states that have completely legalized medical and adult use of marijuana/cannabis are: Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.

The states that have legalized medical marijuana/cannabis only use are: Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Hawaii. 

States that have legislation that allows for the expungement and or sealing of records for nonviolent marijuana charges and or convictions are: Illinois, New Hampshire, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Missouri, Colorado, Vermont and New Jersey.

Expungement legislation can range from immediate clearing of records, to cutting down the time one has to wait for applying for clearing and or sealing of records to automatic clemency. The laws and aggressiveness of reform varies from state to state. 

Ways for the cannabis business community to continue to help:

  • When state and local governments place marijuana/cannabis topics on the meeting agenda send a representative to not only advocate for business opportunities but for the release of those and the expungement of records for nonviolent marijuana offender/offenses.
  • Hire those who have been affected by the War on Drugs due to marijuana convictions.
  • Support organizations that are on the frontline fighting for social equity in the cannabis space.
  • Shine a light on legislative bodies that are not holding up the principles of social equity that was promised once legalization was enacted.
  • Remove the stigma of marijuana convictions by talking openly and honestly about the War on Drugs and the irony of those now benefiting from those who got caught up in racial and disenfranchising policies.
  • Vote for candidates who support social justice policies particular to the cannabis industry. 
  • Lastly continue the fight for all who need it and choose it to have access to this plant.

Yes as business owners look at the bottom line of profits and losses, sending orders to customers, and developing new products - business voices are crucial to help those who have been and continue to be lost in unfair and targeted policy. Speaking meekly, remaining silent or out and out turning a blind eye to those who sacrifice their freedom whether it was to get access to this plant for whatever reason, is complacent. Our businesses are essential and so are our voices.


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