Rep. Blumenauer Vows Cannabis Reform To Include Equity

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The chair of the US House Congressional Cannabis Caucus and representatives from the Minority Cannabis Business Association held a press conference on Tuesday outside the US Capitol to call on state and local governments to play a more active role in ensuring the cannabis industry supports people of color who want to own a cannabis businesses or work in the industry.  

Representative Earl Blumenauer, the Cannabis Caucus chair from Oregon who is spearheading Democrats’ push for legalization in Congress, touted the effort by the MCBA to push for model legislation around issues of equity, or ensuring that communities most impacted by the war on drugs benefit from cannabis legalization.

Blumenauer promised the same for congressional efforts. “We’ve got lots of pieces of legislation floating around, but I will vow that no comprehensive reform is going to take place without speaking to equity,” Blumenauer said.  

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act), which was reintroduced in the new Congress last week, and a bill aimed at providing banking services to the existing industry have the most early momentum in the new Congress. Both measures, aimed at harnessing bipartisan support, provide more narrow versions of cannabis reform and lack specific provisions that would diversify the industry or benefit communities of color.

These bills also have the backing of the cannabis industry, which is spending an increasing amount to lobby Congress.

Shanita Penny, the Association’s president, said at the news conference that “any legalization bill [members of Congress] support needs to address our concerns in our community.” The MCBA has endorsed the Marijuana Justice Act and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, but not the STATES Act or the SAFE Banking Act.

“We look forward to creating a better industry, not just another industry,” Penny said.  

MCBA’s proposal for state and local governments mandates businesses put forth a “good faith” effort to hire a workforce made up of 25% of those who meet specific criteria — such as being from a family impacted by cannabis prohibition — as part of their workforce. It also puts money toward efforts to expunge past cannabis convictions, among other provisions.

MCBA said in the proposal that it used California Democratic Representative Barbara Lee’s resolution called the Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) and draws on local California policies in the model legislation.

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