Thursday, December 7, 2023
The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by William Garriott and Jose Garcia-Fuerte now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Today, many states have adopted a commercial-based approach to cannabis legalization which reflects the market for alcohol to govern the production, distribution, and consumption of the cannabis plant and its derivatives. As a result, legalization has prioritized economic benefits and structures over justice concerns that would dismantle the old infrastructure of prohibition. This continues to shape the way legalization is unfolding across the United States.
One impact of this market-based approach is the push for social equity within the cannabis industry. Though poor people and people of color have disproportionately suffered under prohibition, it is those least likely to have been targeted — wealthy and/or white people — that have disproportionately benefited from legalization.
To change this dynamic, social equity advocated have argued for a suite of policies that we term “the social equity paradigm.” These policies are multifaceted and take various forms, but focus on three priorities: (1) increasing access to the industry, (2) addressing criminal records, and (3) re-investing cannabis tax revenues into disproportionately impacted communities. All three priorities reflect the shortcomings of the market-based legalization model. They also reflect the principle of equity, which in this context simply means that those disproportionately harmed by prohibition should receive disproportionate benefit under legalization.
This article surveys the social equity paradigm across the country, and discusses the many legal, political, and social challenges confronting the paradigm that may require a shift in the approach to social equity. The article provides recommendations for how the principles of the social equity paradigm can be sustained while avoiding the challenges that seek to undermine it.