cannabis social equity

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) released a report focusing on cannabis Social Equity across the state markets.

They did so with support from the Arcview Group, Weedmaps, and the cannabis company Parallel.

According to the report, only 15 states have social equity programs, including New Jersey. However, none have created an equitable cannabis industry across their industry, justice, community, and access metrics.

The Equity Map is a digital tool to gather and track policies that will explain and analyze the numerous barriers to entry for minority operators on a state and municipal level. As new state cannabis markets open, the Report and Map will be continuously updated to reflect the progress made or lost on cannabis social equity in the United States.

“We created the Equity Report and Map to empower advocates and industry with data and tools to address barriers to entry and create real equity in the cannabis industry,” said MCBA Executive Director Amber Littlejohn. “Through the collected data, we can now take a closer look at what is being done, and where there is room for improvement to advance social equity efforts.”

The MCBA identified seven conclusions in their cannabis social equity report. They found:

  1. The number and effectiveness of social equity programs do not reflect the expressed commitment to achieving equity through cannabis.
  2. The use of non-race criteria in the social equity qualifications has not created diverse cannabis markets.
  3. Many states continue to utilize state-level license caps to limit state cannabis markets leading to a lack of diversity and the proliferation of the legacy market.
  4. Few social equity programs provide funding, but fewer still provide access to timely funding for social equity applicants and licensees.
  5. Requirements to secure premises before applying for a license present a significant barrier to entry for social equity operators.
  6. Bans on ownership for individuals with past cannabis convictions remain prevalent in state-legal cannabis programs.
  7. Inequities in existing medical cannabis markets create inequities in adult-use markets. 

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) seems aware of some of these issues, which is why those with cannabis convictions are going to be prioritized in licensing. In addition, the conditional license was created allowing people to apply for a license without a location first, being a minority creates prioritization. However, towns might require a location first.

While there is only one cap on large-scale growers that expires next year, the majority of New Jersey towns refusing to allow cannabis companies in their borders has created a de facto cap.

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NJCRC Chair Diana Houenou said they are working on a solution for access to capital, which is the biggest issues cannabis entrepreneurs face.

The MCBA’s social equity report in its New Jersey section notes that taxes from sales of adult-use cannabis are supposed to be used towards this end in the legalization implementation law.

The report also notes the power of towns to limit cannabis markets, which is a significant issue not only in California but New Jersey as well. Democratic-leaning cities and suburbs have been more receptive in general to allowing cannabis within their limits.

“For years, policymakers have been haphazardly throwing social equity provisions against the wall to see what sticks, albeit with good intentions,” said David Abernathy, Principal-Arcview Consulting and MCBA Board Member. “With this seminal work, we can finally start to account for what’s worked and what hasn’t and use that knowledge to create more well-crafted and effective social equity provisions to make the shifts that are essential as we move forward.”

Parallel, one of the largest privately held Multi-State Operators (MSOs) cannabis companies said they are eager to address the harms of cannabis prohibition and create a more diverse cannabis industry.

“At Parallel, we understand the responsibility companies like ours have with our position and expertise in the industry to use cannabis as a tool for restorative justice and economic empowerment,” said James Jackson, Senior Director for Social Equity at Parallel.

“We pledge to commit our resources to help advocate for the fundamental changes the report highlights, as necessary for the cannabis industry to become truly equitable and sustainable moving forward,” he added.

The MCBA is the largest trade association dedicated to serving the needs of minority cannabis businesses and their communities. MCBA represents more than 300 minority and allied cannabis businesses and industry and community leaders who share a vision for an equitable, just, and responsible cannabis industry.

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The Arcview Group is a vertically integrated company servicing the cannabis and hemp industry that funds promising companies.

Weedmaps is a website connecting cannabis consumers, patients, retailers, doctors, and brands since 2008.

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