In November 2012, Colorado voters passed an amendment that taxed, regulated or legalized marijuana for adult use. So not only is it decriminalized when it comes to possession – but people are able to purchase it legally – as long as they’re over 21 – at stores that are regulated by the state.
But the business and the industry was closed off, for the first nine months beginning January 1, to only medical marijuana owners. That deadline expires in October when the market opens up for qualified dealers.
So now that a nationwide legalization is looking increasingly imminent, how can blacks profit legally? Especially after being disproportionately targeted during marijuana prohibition.
There’s a catch-22. The only people allowed to legally sell weed are people who have maintained good standing and were previously in the medical marijuana industry. Which leaves out millions of African Americans across the country with drug convictions.
According to Way, “In Colorado, if you had a felony within the previous five years of applying to be an owner, that felony will bar you. If you had a drug felony within the previous 10 years that felony will bar you. Simple possession of marijuana within the last 10 years won’t bar you. Previously any drug charge would prevent people from taking part, but we’ve refined it and made it better over the years.”
For those within the black community that do qualify to get a license, there are several ways to engage in this emerging market.
Interested black business owners can apply to own a dispensary, or to become a grower and own a grow house – or you can get involved in the marijuana infused products industry. These include the edibles, and the tinctures, the salves and drinks that are marijuana infused. Or you can simply become an employee within the industry. There is also the collateral industry which employs carpenters, electricians and laborers.
Way and other members of the Drug Policy Alliance are appealing to black small business owners to engage in the emerging market. Especially those above the age of 50.
“Are those in a good position to become owners and become engaged in the industry willing to? Given the fact that many of them probably do not supportÂ legalization?” asks Way. “Those who are able financially without the criminal background to prevent them, that’s the specific demographic that were trying to reach.”
In order to reach them, Way says they’ll have to help erase the stigmas.
“We need to educate members of our communities. Let them know that the opportunity is available for those of us who are able to engage on a higher level or to be at the level of ownership. We need to talk about the potential harms of marijuana and actually base that conversation on science as opposed to the propaganda we’ve had under prohibition.”