by Catherine Brinkman

The US has a new industry that has been around forever. Marijuana.

As of January 14, 2018, eight states in the US are legally selling cannabis for recreational purposes. Profit projections are into the billions annually when you look at medical and recreational marijuana sales combined. For an industry that is thriving there are very few people of color who are business owners. Marv Washington is working to bring attention to this fact.

Washington, an NFL alumnus, is involved in marijuana companies as a stakeholder but, his true passion is to get more people of color into the business. Social equity programs is one way to get more people within the African American community comfortable with the marijuana industry.

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2001 to 2010 there were over 8 million marijuana arrests. When you do the math that is one arrest every 37 seconds. Each year law enforcement spends over $3.6 Billion making marijuana arrests. Statistically when you look at marijuana users they are historically Caucasians and African American. African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians. This translates into a vast section of the population in African American communities that have been incarcerated for possession of a drug that is now legal.

The marijuana industry is thriving and like anyone starting a business those with more access to support tend to be awarded business licenses. If you are a person that is interested in owning the business or being an employee that will be in contact with the plant, you better have a clean record.

While eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, there are strict guidelines pertaining to people that apply for licenses. For the African American community there are two major road blocks that hinder chances for being awarded a license; funding and LiveScan results.

Social equity programs are in place throughout various cities in “Colorado, Oregon and Arizona. And those populations happened to be predominantly white. Now that California is on board with legal recreational marijuana sales, cities like Oakland and Los Angeles are putting social equity programs in place. Communities like these suffered the worst from the war on drugs.”

Many municipalities that allow recreation marijuana sales, do not allow anyone that has a felony to be affiliated with the business in any way. Those in the African American community “that have a non-violent conviction for something they did in their early 20s still haunts them. Non-violent charges disqualify a lot of people.”

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Washington wants to level the playing field. He is speaking at local churches and business organizations to let them know social equity programs exist in their community and lobbying for other cities to put such programs in place. He is also making sure the community knows there is, or will be funding set aside for legal counsel to help those with previous marijuana convictions.

It is a fact that as soon as the background checks pass, suddenly opportunities for funding appear. “It’s not a “free giveaway”. There is criteria you must meet, including a good business plan and some involvement within the local community. Many cities want to make sure that people have been living in the community for five years, prior to them applying for a business license. “All I want to do is create an even playing field and put money back into our communities.”

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About the writer: Catherine Brinkman has a sales career spanning 2 decades. She has won numerous awards including Rookie of the Year and Silver Sales Associate for Dale Carnegie, a global training company. In early 2016, Catherine started her own consulting business, partnering with sales and marketing teams to increase revenue. She works with everyone from Silicon Valley giants to small startups. She has a fun, comic approach to her consulting, having studied satirical writing at The Second City. She can be found at cb@bhyconsulting.com and on Twitter @catbrinkman

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