The economic benefits of the cannabis industry garner a vast majority of the headlines, but those of us that have put in years upon years fighting the Drug War know that keeping people out of prison, along with helping sick and disabled patients, remain the foundation of the legalization movement. Unfortunately, too many victims of the War on Drugs are now unable to enter the cannabis industry, either due to their convictions or because of the financial toll that their arrests, prosecutions, and convictions have placed upon them. It is good to see that some localities and states are trying to make amends.

I’m proud that my home city of Portland, Oregon, despite the criticisms that I have about its local regulations, has done something to step up to the plate as The Skanner reported:

As one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, cannabis is still largely leaving African Americans out of the race – with only one percent of dispensaries owned by a Black person.

Some, however, are adamantly trying to change that statistic. In March 2017, a group of cannabis business owners, policy makers and activists drafted the first-ever cannabis bill that would assist those harmed by racial disparities in drug law by providing them opportunities within the cannabis economy – through business ownership, certification, and even record expungement.

Locally, the city of Portland passed a milestone last year when voters approved a three percent tax on recreational cannabis, a portion of which will help fund programs that support workforce development and minority-owned cannabis businesses.

It’s awesome to see Sacramento, California, also joining the fight, according to The Sacramento Bee:

The Sacramento City Council took a big step Thursday toward giving minority business owners and residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods better access to the billion-dollar cannabis industry.

The Council unanimously approved the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program after months of fine-tuning.

Council members said the program would allow those impacted most by the “War on Drugs” to open a cannabis business without paying thousands of dollars in permit fees. It also will provide support to entrepreneurs to help them navigate the permitting process.

And Massachusetts is leading the way with statewide social equity and economic empowerment programs, led by activist Shaleen Title, who was named the Bay State’s top regulator, as detailed by Tom Angell in Forbes:

Participation in the social equity program is available to people who have a past drug conviction or are married to or the child of a person with a drug conviction. It is also open to residents of “areas of disproportionate impact” under the drug war and whose income is sufficiently low. Those who qualify can receive training and technical assistance in employee recruitment and management, accounting, tax compliance, raising capital and other areas.

Regulators also launched a separate economic empowerment program that gave priority application review status to businesses that met criteria such as majority ownership of people of color or a majority of whose employees have drug convictions.

At a recent meeting of the commission, Title laid into municipalities that, in her view, are requiring marijuana business license seekers to pay excessive fees, a situation which she says creates “obstacles to the commission’s mission statement, which is to safely, equitably and productively implement the law.”

All of us at the International Cannabis Business Conference are activists first, while we want to see businesses thrive, we want to end the Drug War and assist those that have been hurt by the disastrous War on Drugs. At the upcoming ICBC in Portland, this September 27th-28th, we’ll be hearing pitches from some local mom-and-pop businesses for a chance to win $10,000 no strings attached. One of the factors in naming a finalist is what they have done to help in the Drug War. As all of us participate in the cannabis industry, as advocates, entrepreneurs, investors, or consumers, let’s all keep in mind the underlying foundations of our movement. Let’s use our talent, voice, and dollars to help end prohibition and do our best to fix decades of Drug War injustices.