Up In Smoke: Cannabis Promises Made

By Mario

Top political consultants were worried. The ballot initiative that would provide for the legalization of cannabis in California was on the ropes and looked as if it would not pass. The biggest block of seemingly attainable votes needed to push the initiative over the top would have to come from Latinx voters who had been polling against legalization. The word went out: the cannabis industry needed to convince a critical mass of Latinx constituents to vote for Proposition 64.

At the most critical period of the campaign groups that championed legalization like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) fanned out and met with reluctant Latinx elected officials and community leaders to discuss the benefits of the initiative. Latino elected officials were unwilling to endorse cannabis legalization because of the social stigma and misinformation attached to the plant.

In addition to legal relief to scores of the state's pot prisoners, the advocacy groups promised the Latinx influencers that the new law would provide much needed local tax revenue based on an unprecedented ground floor business opportunity for scores of entrepreneurs from communities of color.

The organizing effort proved successful, the dial moved, and the initiative passed with the necessary Latinx support.

However, the promises made have not been achieved and much like a carnival that quickly leaves town the groups that sold the initiative have moved on to other territories.

While the big promise of a surge in Latinx cannabis businesses was key to the organizing effort, a recent survey from the Marijuana Policy Project indicated that racial and ethnic minorities own only 19% of cannabis businesses. While Los Angeles has attempted to create a "social equity" program, it is widely seen as watered down and weak. Even if the LA effort were robust, it would only be an asterisk compared to the majority of cities that are yet to approve any cannabis efforts and or prove to be open to assisting minority entrepreneurs.

Latinx legalization advocates are anywhere from extremely disappointed to wildly angry that the groups like DPA are now unreachable to most and no longer interested in assisting in reforming the regulation or helping in working with local municipalities in an attempt to deliver on the promises made during the campaign.

While the story of policy pump and dump is instructive, it may not yet be over. As one early legalization advocate told me recently " the next time these groups come to call they may find their support, like their promises, has gone up in smoke".


Mario Wire