Cannabis on JPR

A Fight Is Brewing Over Diversity in Washington's Legal Weed Market

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      Washington’s weed industry is owned overwhelmingly by white people, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention—the industry was designed that way.

      Unlike other states with legal weed, Washington’s government has never even attempted to boost diversity in cannabis with any social equity programs. People with felony convictions are blocked entirely from owning businesses and the emerging industry itself is unfriendly to anyone without independent wealth.

      But there’s finally a movement from Washington’s leaders to change that. Five years after legal pot first went on sale, lawmakers and the state’s top pot regulator are mounting an effort to create the state’s first pot equity program. It’s an attempt to send some of the benefits of the legal weed industry to the communities of color who were most victimized by the War on Drugs.

      There’s no proven method for improving diversity in the legal weed industry, which is dominated by white-owned companies across the country. The pot industry is a precarious market in which you need large amounts of cash to survive low prices, huge taxes, heavy regulations, and a hostile federal government that still considers pot illegal. On top of that, creating any kind of system that gives racial preference for benefits can face legal challenges, especially in a state like Washington where affirmative action is illegal.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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