Shakira Cook (right), a program director for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, moderates a discussion on racial and social equity in the cannabis industry at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 49th Annual Legislative Conference in Northwest on Sept. 12. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Shakira Cook (right), a program director for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, moderates a discussion on racial and social equity in the cannabis industry at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 49th Annual Legislative Conference in Northwest on Sept. 12. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

In order for fair and equitable treatment in the cannabis industry, those in the business and social justice advocates want the federal government to make sure equity would be included in federal laws.

“Everyone knows legalization of marijuana will happen,” said Maritza Perez, a senior policy analyst with Center for American Progress in Northwest. “Lawmakers agree that marijuana legalization needs to happen, but we need to push for them to do it the right way.”

Perez and five others spoke on a panel Thursday, Sept. 12 at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 49th Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.

One item summarized for current legislation in the House called Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement, or the MORE Act (HR 3884).

The provisions include: remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances; hold expungement hearings for those previously convicted of marijuana charges; force government to collect data on diversity of the industry; and not deny people federal benefits because of marijuana use.

Stanley Andrisse, an assistant professor at Howard University’s College of Medicine, runs a nonprofit organization, From Prison Cells to PhD, to help disadvantaged youth and returning citizens. He also speaks from experience as a convicted felon sentenced in 2006 by a Missouri judge for drug charges.

“We need to be letting people like myself and … folks in our program into this industry … because we have all the talent and potential to push this field in a new direction that is fruitful for everybody,” said Andrisse, also an adjunct professor at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Gia Morón, president of Women Grow, which seeks to help women prosper in the cannabis industry, said minority communities should reap the plant’s monetary and health benefits the same as white business owners.

“This is an industry that has reached billions [of dollars],” she said. “We need to normalize this.”

Those sentiments were echoed Friday, Sept. 13 particularly during a segment focusing on the question, “Could cannabis licensing be reparations?”

Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor at Georgetown University in Northwest, summarized his thoughts based on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. book, “Why We Can’t Wait?”

“Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963, ‘A nation that has done something special against the Negro must now do something special for the Negro.’ So, we’re clear on that,” Dyson said. “Talking about the transfer of wealth and capital to a degree, and the transfer of opportunity and the granting of licenses, is absolutely a gesture of reparation.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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