Analysis of U.S. Cannabis Industry, Legislation, and the Impact on Marginalized Populations

  • Christine Choi

Abstract

This essay analyzes the intersection between the United States quasi-legal cannabis industry and marginalized populations with a particular focus on state legislation and how certain policies have either restricted access to the cannabis industry via dominant narratives or have encouraged entry into the cannabis industry via equity programs. I argue that these latter policies can be considered counternarratives and, in doing so, become legitimated forms of master narratives within certain communities.

In addition, I argue that due to the long-lasting, detrimental racial consequences from the “war on drugs”, individuals who were once targeted are now being socially stigmatized with a master status and face challenges in making the transition out of a formerly viewed “deviant career” and into the legalized cannabis industry. In this essay, I will analyze the legal and policy discourses of recreational marijuana. First, I will observe the racial influences and consequences of policy discourses. Second, I will examine California permits and licenses for cannabis businesses and in what ways their equity programs have achieved success and have failed. This essay seeks to examine not only how initial cannabis policies delimits business ventures amongst marginalized populations, but also to illuminate the racialized interactions between policies and minority populations.

Recreational cannabis has slowly but steadily been legalized across America. The legalization process brings about a new growing cannabis industry, which in turn brings in much needed revenue. Currently, cannabis’ federal status remains under Schedule I categorization, but as states continue to pass legislation for both medical and recreational marijuana the rising industry in California is expected to become the largest recreational market in the US (Weed, 2018, para. 10). The purpose of this paper is to examine how marginalized populations (i.e., black and Latino communities) have been impacted by state policies that have restricted access to the cannabis industry. Due to the long-lasting impact that the “war on drugs” had on marginalized populations, individuals in these communities who have been targeted are stigmatized with an identificatory master status and struggle with transitioning out of previously perceived “deviant career” into the legalized cannabis industry (Becker, 1963).

Dominant narratives surrounding the cannabis industry are focused on barring certain groups (i.e., formerly incarcerated cannabis felons/convicts, predominantly people of color) entry to the industry and maintaining the privileges of the dominant group. More recently, there has been a new focus on the negative impact that the “war on drugs” had on marginalized populations and how the rise of equity programs has provided valuable resources and opportunities for communities of color to gain access to the profitable industry. These new narratives of inclusion can be categorized as forms of counternarratives and help explain the recent pushback on dominant narratives in the cannabis industry.

In this essay, I will critically analyze the legal discourse of recreational marijuana. First, I will observe the racial influences and consequences of new policy discussions. Second, I will examine California permits and licenses issued for cannabis businesses in relationship to equity programs with varying success. Overall, this essay seeks to examine not only how initial cannabis policies restricts business ventures amongst marginalized populations, but also to shed light on the racialized discourse between policies and “deviant” minorities.

Published
2020-05-02
Section
Articles