How Some States Are Planning to Compensate the Communities Most Devastated by the War on Drugs
(Photo: Brett Levin/Flickr)
Shanel Lindsay is excited. The Boston-based marijuana legalization advocate and owner of Ardent LLC, a medical cannabis device company, is confident that her home state is laying the groundwork for the first statewide marijuana marketplace that will truly compensate communities that were most devastated by the War on Drugs.
“This is an industry that presents a high opportunity to build wealth, probably one of the few brand new industries that will come along in our working lifetimes,” says Lindsay, who is part of a small but growing network of marijuana entrepreneurs of color. “The idea is to take cannabis prohibition and the damage that has been done and turn that into economic opportunity for people to own businesses that will, by their very nature, give back to these communities.”
Massachusetts voters approved recreational weed back in November of 2016. But it wasn’t until this April that the state began accepting applications for recreational marijuana business licenses. During that year and a half, advocates like Lindsay, a member of the state’s cannabis advisory board, were fighting for regulations that would set aside a piece of the budding industry for affected communities. In Massachusetts, two groups of applicants will have their recreational marijuana licenses processed first: pre-established medical marijuana dispensaries, most of whom Lindsay says are overwhelmingly white; and so-called economic empowerment applicants—companies that are owned by, and employ large numbers of, people who have either been convicted of marijuana-related crimes or live in the communities with the highest number of marijuana arrests.
After just one day of accepting applications, over 100 potential entrepreneurs applied for economic