By Morgan Fox
June 14, 2018

Rep. Barbara Lee Introduces Measure Supporting Equity in the Legal Cannabis Industry


Resolution urges state and local governments to institute policies to increase access to cannabis business licenses for communities most harmed by prohibition


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A resolution decrying the racial disparities in cannabis enforcement and urging improved access to cannabis business licensing for marginalized communities in states where it is legal was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

The Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution brings attention to the racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana prohibition, and recognizes that the people most harmed by prohibition benefit the least from some of the state and local policies regulating the cannabis market.

The resolution urges state and local leaders to implement a series of practices when granting licenses for legal cannabis businesses to improve access for these communities to the nascent industry, such as minimal application and license fees, no caps on the number of licenses, increased local control of the licensing process, and removing broad felony and cannabis convictions as automatic disqualifiers for participation. It also suggests methods to help undo some of the harms caused by prohibition, including a cost-free process for expunging past marijuana convictions, using cannabis tax revenue to benefit small businesses and marginalized communities, ensuring local cannabis regulatory bodies are representative of their communities, and creating legal spaces for social consumption.

“We commend Congresswoman Lee for bringing attention to the unjust and racially disparate harms caused by prohibition enforcement and the need for equal access to opportunities created by the burgeoning cannabis industry as more and more states move away from the old policies of prohibition,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA).

On May 23, Rep. Lee joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers for a press conference at the U.S. Capitol hosted by NCIA to speak about the need for the cannabis industry to be treated fairly and regulated in a manner that encourages participation by people of color.

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