Social equity has been a major part of America’s state-level cannabis reform over the past decade. People of color were significantly more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses and receive harsh sentences compared to White people throughout the entirety of the drug war despite similar use rates.
As a result, entire Black and Brown communities were decimated, sending multitudes of parents and breadwinners to prison for relatively tame offenses and saddling them with criminal records that made it difficult to integrate back into society. Furthermore, entire generations of children were forced to grow up in poverty as their parents were either incarcerated or couldn’t secure proper employment due to their criminal records.
Most states with cannabis programs now have social equity provisions that give applicants from communities that were disproportionately affected by the drug war a slight advantage in the growing cannabis industry. Whether it’s directing a percentage of cannabis taxes to these communities or giving them a leg-up in the cannabis sector, these provisions are meant to alleviate some of the harms caused by the drug war.
In New Jersey, cannabis regulators are looking to boost social equity by allowing only people with prior cannabis convictions to receive certain marijuana licenses for 12 months. This move is meant to increase the number of social equity applicants running retail marijuana establishments in the state, especially individuals with prior marijuana-related convictions or those residing in economically disenfranchised regions of the state.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission announced last week that from September 12, 2023, it will only accept applications for wholesale, distribution and delivery licenses from social equity applicants for an entire year. According to Commissioner Charles Baker, the regulator made the move to support social equity applicants because the state has done little to support these individuals since New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market launched in April 2022. He noted that businesses run by people who were disproportionately affected by the drug war don’t seem to be making it through the license application process.
During last week’s meeting, agency officials noted that less than 250 applicants out of 947 social equity applicants had received approval by the start of the year. For 12 months starting on September 27, license applications by individuals who don’t qualify for social equity status will be automatically rejected. However, this will not include individuals applying for manufacturing, retail or cultivation licenses as well as businesses owned by veterans, women and minorities.
As these social equity license applicants obtain approval by the state, they could have a chance to deploy modern equipment such as the microgardens made by Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) to optimize their cultivation and increase their chances of turning a decent profit from their state-legal cannabis businesses.
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