In 2015 legal marijuana sales hit $5.4 billion in the United States. That’s a 17% growth from the previous year, and that’s with marijuana being fully legalized in only 4 states (Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska). The sales numbers are truly astronomical with Colorado ($996 million) and California ($1 billion) leading the way. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from this new found fortune.
There are two main causes for a lack of wealth distribution in the marijuana industry: 1) Rules of qualification and 2) Capital requirement.
In Colorado for example, according to state law “one of the requirements for getting a license to sell medical or recreational cannabis is that you don’t have a controlled substance felony conviction on your record — including any involving marijuana.” From 2001 to 2010, black people were 3.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in the state. This law already limits the ability for blacks to join in the $996 million industry even if they have experience in the field.
For the second case, suggested capital requirements are all but unrealistic for blacks and latinos whose average income is well below the norm. In Colorado, it is recommended that you have at least $250,000 in starting capital to just cover business plans. In Connecticut, that price is even higher, with a recommendation of at least $3 to $5 million.
The newly formed marijuana industry is a perfect example of how disenfranchisement happens. A set of rules are created that are harmful to a select group of individuals, decreasing competition and directly benefiting another group. Criminals arrested for nonviolent marijuana crimes should be able to own, operate, and sale marijuana. The only thing those crimes prove is that they sale marijuana (which if they did it today, with a license, would be legal). Open up the competition and allow for fair play for everyone, otherwise this industry will end up like most, rich people getting richer, and poor people unable to even have a chance at success.