Don’t Kill the Cannabis Industry Before it Starts

Oakland leaders say they want a thriving, equitable medical-marijuana industry. But the city’s new policies are poised to smoke out the biz — and, despite best intentions, still negatively impact minority communities.

Sadly, this is status quo: Last month’s report by Oakland’s newly founded Department of Race and Equity reminded that, as long ago as 1998 (just two years after the legalization of medical weed with Proposition 215), Black residents comprised more than 90 percent of marijuana arrests in the city. As recently as 2015, that number was 77 percent.

(City leaders talk about wanting equity, but perhaps they should just do a better job stopping cops from arresting Black people for possessing or selling a small amounts of cannabis.)

In response to this legacy of racial injustice, Oakland will allot half of all new dispensary and pot-biz permits to War on Drugs victims, such as Oaklanders arrested for pot crimes, or residents who live in police precincts that were adversely impacted by cop bias. These are all good things.

But … officials have delayed implementing the new laws, and have introduced dubious eleventh-hour tweaks to the rules. Such as one addition last week, which requires that all canna-biz owners be Oakland residents — an absurd condition that will cripple business, encourage below-the-board “enterprising,” and screw over existing operators (of which there are an estimated 130 in the city).

It’s not as bogus as the city demanding an ownership stake in local businesses. But why set the bar so low?

What a buzzkill, this past year of Oakland pot policy. When will city gatekeepers realize that there won’t be any opportunity for equity if they kill the industry before it starts?

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