Economic justice

“Can we say economic justice? Said Malaki Seku Amen.

“Can we say economic justice? Malaki Seku Amen told his partners as they stood on the western steps of the California Capitol last Monday.

Malaki Seku Amen is the Executive Director of California Urban Partnership, a Sacramento-based organization that works to create economic opportunity for communities of color.

Seku Amen stands in solidarity with the California Cannabis Equity Alliance, a coalition of cannabis equity operators, advocates and social leaders from Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno and Los Angeles.

A month ago, Amen stood with the members of Sacramento CORE program because they opposed the freeze on cannabis permits in northern Sacramento.

Together, they all share a vision of fairness in the California marijuana industry. The alliance calls on the state to establish an equity monitoring commission with key community stakeholders.

They want the commission to have the power to review grant agreements related to social equity with local jurisdictions, conduct recipient audits and force local jurisdictions to disperse grant funds received, letter says. that the group sent to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

They also called on the state to cut taxes on social equity businesses to 5%, prioritize processing applications for businesses eligible for capital, and allow businesses to apply for grants directly from the company. social equity authorized by the California Cannabis Equity Act.

California has made progress in reinvesting cannabis tax revenues to support youth programs and tackle severe trauma, but the state continues to ignore the business development challenges created by its legacy of enforcement. of the racialized marijuana policy, ”said Amen.

Data from the California Department of Justice shows that from 2006 to 2015, black Californians were twice as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses and five times as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses as Californians. white.

During the same period, Latino Californians were 35% more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses than white Californians.

Lawyers claim that despite legalization, a new war on drugs is plaguing operators of the cannabis business because companies are not receiving what they have been promised – a fair opportunity to enter the cannabis industry. marijuana.

Alex Grate, owner of Ness Culture distribution, an Oakland-based distribution company, says cannabis operators can no longer rely solely on their cities.

“We need the state to step up and help fund this transition of people from the illicit market to the legal market,” said Grate.

State Senator Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, joined the California Cannabis Equity Alliance and drafted Senate Bill 1294 which calls for regulating cannabis in such a way as to “reduce[s] barriers to entry into the legal and regulated market.

This includes a grant to help local equity applicants and local equity licensees through that local jurisdiction’s equity program.

“To date, more than $ 55 million in cannabis capital grants have been awarded,” Bradford said at a press conference Monday at the State Capitol. “Sadly, most of those dollars never went to the communities and individuals they were entitled to.”

Advocates say the Golden State needs to lead the way and set a precedent for what a fair distribution of opportunity looks like, as other states are mirroring California’s legalization plan.

“The fight in San Francisco, the fight in Oakland had a ripple effect throughout the state. LA and Sacramento, ”said Nina Parks, chair of the San Francisco Cannabis Oversight Committee. “But what we all experience is that there is always a lack of implementation.”

This story was originally published May 24, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

Marcus D. Smith covers black communities for The Sacramento Bee. Marcus is an alumnus of Texas Southern University in Houston. Marcus grew up in Sacramento and is delighted to be back home following his passion for journalism.

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