The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) is set to release its National Cannabis Equity Report and National Cannabis Equity Map on February 10 to showcase the data it has collected on social equity programs across the country, and MCBA executive director Amber Littlejohn said the data paints a grim picture of social equity in the industry.
“When you start to look beyond these social equity provisions, you start to see how these merit-based selection and lottery systems have inequalities and barriers to entry built in more subtly and quietly. “, she told Cannabis Business Times. “We really hope this will be an opportunity for reflection for the whole industry on how it can align its values with its actions.
The National Cannabis Equity Report and National Cannabis Equity Map, made possible with support from the ArcView Group and in association with Weedmaps and Parallel, provide essential data from equity programs and other policies that impact equity in state and municipal medical and adult services. -use markets.
Littlejohn said the project was initially inspired by questions she received in the two years since she began leading the MCBA.
“One of the most common questions I get in the two years I’ve been with MCBA – almost three years now – is how many social equity programs are there and what do they do?” she said. “The project itself originally started with our desire to look at all social equity programs and understand which programs were doing what and be able to provide insight so people could see what was there. down and what was done.”
When the organization began conducting the research, however, it quickly realized that the end result was not going to be the tool originally envisioned by MCBA.
“When we actually started doing the research, we realized that if we only looked at social equity programs and provisions that are part of social equity programs, this tool was not going to be very useful as tool for change because, as we all know, none of the programs work to actually create equity,” Littlejohn said. “There are elements of programs that work, but none of them work holistically to actually create a fair and sustainable industry.”
The MCBA team then decided to analyze 40 different data points, looking beyond social equity programs and examining factors such as number of licenses, opt-ins, and how expanding a medical cannabis program into an adult-use market affects fairness in the industry.
David Abernathy, director of ArcView, sits on the MCBA Board of Directors and has connected the two organizations. ArcView then agreed to help organize and present the data, while Weedmaps stepped in to help with a digital component of the research.
“In addition to the report, we have a social equity map, where you can click on a state and then see what provisions exist in that state,” Littlejohn said.
The MCBA has identified seven initial findings from the research that it urges advocates and lawmakers to consider when reviewing state social equity programs:
- The number and effectiveness of state social equity programs do not reflect
commitment to achieving equity through cannabis.
- The use of non-racial criteria in qualifications and definitions of social equity has not
has given rise to various cannabis markets.
- Despite evidence supporting the cited concerns, many states continue to use
licensing caps to limit state markets leading to a lack of diversity and the proliferation of
- Of the few social equity programs that offer funding, even fewer provide access to
timely funding for social equity applicants and licensees.
- Requirements for securing premises prior to issuance of license or conditional license
continue to represent a significant barrier to entry for social equity actors.
- Prohibitions of ownership for people with previous cannabis convictions remain common in
state-legal cannabis programs.
- Inequalities in existing medical markets create inequalities in adult use markets.
“I think something we’ve overlooked is how inequalities in the medical market impact inequalities in the adult use market,” Littlejohn said. “For example, the inability for people with so many beliefs to own or operate or even work in medical facilities, this is perpetuated. And then on top of that, oftentimes medical operators get early market access before anyone else, and then we see a series of lawsuits delaying everyone’s entry and extending first-mover advantage for existing medical operators. . We see things like opt-in and opt-out and land use exemptions so that they basically create and facilitate oligopolies because the only people allowed to operate in the land use market by adults are entities that previously existed in the medical market.”
Another example, she said, is the ban on vertical integration that exempts medical cannabis companies.
“These are things that when you look at them cumulatively, you’re like, ‘Wow, no wonder this is a struggle for everyone,'” Littlejohn said. “The interplay between inequalities in the medical market and how that affects the adult utilization market was a huge element. [of the report].”
Another surprising area of data, she said, is that, basically, few social equity programs prioritize licensing and funding for social equity applicants and licensees for help to really enter the market.
“None of the programs that were rolled out provided funding at the time the adult program rolled out,” Littlejohn said. “This means that any support for social equity operators comes after everyone has had a chance to enter the market. Even in California, where funding doesn’t depend on adult-use revenue, it didn’t really start until after the adult-use market started. Then, [in other states], the funds depend either on providing early access to someone else or directly on taxes and other fees. So we’re really, seriously lacking in support for operators and entrepreneurs who are actually looking to get into the industry.
So what, if anything, works well in social equity programs, according to MCBA research?
Littlejohn said marketplaces without state-level licensing caps tend to provide more opportunities for social equity applicants, as do those with compliance-based application processes that allow anyone who meets the requirements to obtain a license.
Merit-based, lottery-based, and hybrid merit-lottery-based licensing systems in limited markets “are a recipe for exclusion,” she said. “When you start to look beyond these social equity provisions, you start to see how these merit-based selection and lottery systems have inequalities and barriers to entry built in more subtly and quietly. .”
Going forward, Littlejohn hopes the industry can use the report as a research and advocacy tool.
“It’s something journalists can use to answer questions and do their own research to figure out where they should be looking to find answers to advocates’ questions so they can look at what’s happening in different states and really how we can do better,” she said.
Littlejohn also hopes that others can take the report’s underlying data and use it to create more tools that can help shape policy.
The MCBA is in the process of finalizing its updated state policy model to outline what it considers to be the ideal solutions for states considering cannabis policy reform.
“Over the past two years, we’ve had a kind of recommitment to making social justice and fairness a part of the cannabis industry,” Littlejohn said. “Unfortunately, what we are seeing is that the stated views, ideas and beliefs do not match the policies put forward at the state level. If you are advocating for a very limited market that creates an oligopoly, you are not advocating for diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry. So the two are incompatible. We’re going to really reach out to industry and ask our advocates and partners to really hold industry accountable to make sure that what we say are our values are actually reflected in the policies we support at the state level. . »