On New Year’s Day, Colorado became the first state to allow the legal retail sale of recreational marijuana as long as the customer is age 21 or older and the store is licensed, taxed, and regulated by the state. Recreational marijuana is now also legal to cultivate, sell, and consume in Washington state and so too are Oregon and the District ofÂ Columbia as of November. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and 23 states and DC allow medical marijuana with roughly a dozen other states having limited medical marijuana laws.
The U.S. market for medical and recreational use is expected to grow more than 70% from roughly $1.5 billion in 2013 to approximately $2.6 billion in 2014. Legal marijuana is projected to become an $8 billion to $10 billion industry by 2018.
That’s good news except for those who have historically found themselves affected by drug laws. Decades of statistics show that African Americans are disproportionately targeted for criminal convictions. Drug use and sales happen consistently at around the same rate across racial lines. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, even though African Americans make up 13% of the country’s population, they comprise 31% of those arrested and more than 40% of those incarcerated for drug offenses.
The consequences of a marijuana arrest can be severe and often lead to loss of employment, child custody, business loans, professional and driver’s licenses, student aid, and public housing.
There’s a Catch-22 in that in most states the only people allowed to grow or sell weed retail are people who have maintained good standing and were previously in the medical marijuana Delivery LA industry, which leaves out millions of African Americans with drug convictions. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow (New Press; $19.95), notes, “After 40 years of impoverished black men getting prison time for selling weed, white men are planning to get rich doing the same thing.â€
Investors are poised to cash in on weed’s swift shift from contraband to commodity. Former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively, whom some are now calling the “Bill Gates of Cannabis,â€ has gone public with a biotech company that plans to corner the market. The ArcView Group is a San Francisco-based network of 300-plus high net worth investors, including billionaires, technology entrepreneurs turned angel investors, venture capital firms, and real estate moguls all trying to find and fund the next deal in the burgeoning green industry. In the last year, ArcView invested more than $12 million in 17 cannabis startups.