On Tuesday, Oakland’s City Council unanimously passed a revolutionary new program in which Oakland residents who have been jailed for pot within the last 10 years will go to the front of the line to apply for legal weed permits.
This first-in-the-nation concept seeks to redefine the terms of reparations in post-drug war America.
The Equity Permit Program is the brainchild of Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has stated publicly that she wants a form of economic reparations for people and neighborhoods that have been affected by the war on marijuana.
“When we look at the eight dispensaries, we have one that is owned by an African-American,” she explained. “One out of eight… everybody ought to have an opportunity to compete.”
Bucking national trends in pot policy wherein convicted drug felons are barred from entering the legal cannabis trade, this program will reward them.
Recent reports have underscored the fact that Blacks have been shut out of the pot boom for many reasons, the main one being that African Americans are nearly four times more likely to get arrested and convicted for weed offenses than their white counterparts.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s police department has come under intense criticism for prioritizing drug crime arrests over homicides. The result is a decade-long backlog of more than 650 murder investigations with unexamined evidence, yet law enforcement processes 95 percent of drug cases in just 24 hours.
This seems to be an odd policing practice considering Oakland is known as one of the most violent cities in the nation, in large part because of its high murder rate. Yet, there these cases sit, unsolved, unprocessed.
And of the prolific drug arrests in Oakland, one report noted that 20 percent of them were cannabis-related, despite a city law that supposedly makes pot the lowest law enforcement priority. After all, MMJ has been legal in California since 1996.
Supporters of the Equity Permit Program say it’s a first step in getting minorities involved in the legal pot industry.
“We are the last ones to get access (to permits),” said Oakland resident Tom Coleman. “We can be the help or the consumers but we never had the access. It gives us a fair shot.”
(Photo Courtesy of Lochfoot)