Fair and Square: How to Effectively Incorporate Social Equity Into Cannabis Laws and Regulations
Ohio State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 672
Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, 2021
13 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2021 Last revised: 27 Jan 2022
Date Written: December 6, 2021
As states and local jurisdictions implement new laws legalizing marijuana, many have charged regulators with the worthy goal of remedying the injustices of the drug war, a concept known as social equity. Broadly, social equity falls into a few core policy categories: criminal justice reforms, including automatic expungement of past cannabis offenses; reinvesting a percentage of marijuana tax revenue into the most impacted communities; and—the focus of this paper—creating a cohesive cannabis industry licensing framework with special considerations for people affected by the war on drugs.
So far, no program has successfully achieved its social equity goals as originally envisioned. But as each new state studies and incorporates the experiences of those that previously tried, we are seeing remarkable progress with respect to the involvement, inclusion, and support of people who have experienced disproportionate harm from prohibition. This paper is designed to equip readers with practical advice about how to implement social equity. There are three large policy areas regulators have to address as they begin to design a comprehensive social equity policy for their state’s cannabis industry: policies around what makes an individual or an entity a social equity applicant, policies around what benefits a social equity applicant should have access to, and licensing policies that will support your community’s social equity goals.
Keywords: social equity, cannabis regulations, marijuana industry, lessons learned, creating a social equity program, diversity in cannabis, marijuana legalization
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