Pa. Legislative Black Caucus advocates for social equity in any legislation to legalize cannabis

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The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday called for any potential cannabis legalization bill to include equity elements.

“It is time that we invest in the restoration of communities that have been impacted, we return incarcerated persons to their families, and we provide entrepreneurs with a pathway to lead in this emerging marketplace,” Rep. Napoleon Nelson (D-Montgomery), chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said during a press conference in the Capitol rotunda.

The group of Black legislators called for any legalization bill to include expungement for prior cannabis-related arrests and reimbursement for anyone who has had assets forfeited in cannabis-related arrests.

The group is also pushing for legalization legislation to include social equity elements to encourage Black Pennsylvanians and others from marginalized communities to enter the emergent cannabis industry.

“We’re in a commonwealth that has a number of dispensaries, none of which I believe are owned by Black folk — zero — unacceptable,” said Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia). “The origins of the racist war on drugs and cannabis prohibition have been directly and insidiously connected to Black folk and to any number of people who have been marginalized over generations,”

Similar policies attempted in other states have been discussed by a House subcommittee on cannabis legalization. In many of those states, results have been mixed, and the legal cannabis industry remains predominantly white.

Potential policies include giving priority status to applicants for licenses to open legal cannabis businesses to minority applicants or businesses that have mentoring programs. It could also mean prioritizing applicants who have been arrested for cannabis-related charges, or have family who were.

Advocates from the groups Free My Weedman, Black Cannabis Week and PA Prison Society were in attendance to support lawmakers.

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