As Cannabis Becomes Legal, Oakland Now Giving ‘Reparations’ to Ex-Cons Arrested for Selling Weed

Monday, July 31, 2017
By Paul Martin

Half of all permits for cannabis businesses are going to those arrested for pot possession or living in communities unfairly targeted by police. But is it government overreach?

By Justin Gardner
July 31, 2017

Oakland, CA – Oakland is beginning an experiment that can be considered both laudable and questionable. As cannabis businesses are set to spring up across the city, following California’s legalization of recreational cannabis, Oakland is providing reparations to victims of the drug war.

They’re not doling out money, though. They’ll be doing it through the normally mundane permitting process, in accordance with ordinances passed in March.

“The ordinances require the city to give at least half of all available cannabis permits to individuals who were convicted of a marijuana-related offense in Oakland and earn an income less than 80 percent of the city average. “Equity applicants” can also qualify if they lived in an Oakland neighborhood for 10 of the last 20 years that saw a disproportionately high number of cannabis arrests.”

Since permitting began in May, 72 applications have been received, and, somewhat surprisingly, almost half of them (31) are equity applicants.

There was plenty of doubt and controversy about the program, with many saying it wouldn’t work and others calling it unfair government overreach. And now, some would-be equity applicants are finding it impossible to sign up due to what they call unrealistic qualification requirements.

Another part of this strategy involves incentivizing “general applicants” to help out “equity applicants,” which is certainly strange in that a business owner would be providing a large benefit to his or her competitor.

“Someone who doesn’t qualify under either definition — a “general applicant” — can move up in line by giving an equity applicant at least 1,000 square feet of free rent through an “incubator” relationship.”

The motives of Oakland lawmakers and their constituents who supported the move are certainly noble, and a welcome sign that governments can recognize the injustice of the drug war.

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