As the world’s largest regulated cannabis market, California is for many the pinnacle of participation in the legalized marijuana industry. For decades, the state has had a rich tradition of cannabis culture, supplying much of the country and beyond with prime bud bred and cultivated by underground growers. But getting into the game isn’t easy. Most of the local governments in the state have banned commercial cannabis, and many of the jurisdictions that welcome the industry have strict caps on the number of licenses issued.
In concert with pervasive social constructs, these barriers to entry have resulted people of color being strikingly underrepresented in one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Efforts to address the issue have so far failed to produce solid results. A social equity program in Los Angeles designed to ensure participation in the cannabis industry by members of communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, for example, is mired in controversy and delay. And previous rounds of cannabis company licensing in the city resulted in only six of the nearly 200 medical marijuana retailers being operated by Black entrepreneurs, according to Virgil Grant of the California Minority Alliance.
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