The lawmakers say that unless people of color are guaranteed a share of the potentially $3 billion industry, there may be no legalization this year. They want to be assured that some of that money will go toward job training programs, and that minority entrepreneurs will receive licenses to cultivate or sell the marijuana.
…They say one misstep, in particular, stands out: None of the 10 states or Washington ensured that minority communities would share in any economic windfall of legalization — missing out on an opportunity to redress years of having a disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested on marijuana charges.
…Critics say marijuana legalization has fostered an inequitable system in which wealthy, white investors often reap the profits of the fledgling industry.
In Colorado, black entrepreneurs said they were banned from winning licenses because of marijuana-related convictions. Black people make up just a handful of the thousands of cultivation or dispensary license holders there, and continue to be arrested on marijuana-related charges at almost three times the rate of white people.
In California, several cities introduced equity programs retroactively. Oakland now requires at least half of licenses to go to people with a cannabis-related conviction and who fell below an income threshold.
…Ms. Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat who represents a district that includes Buffalo. She has introduced her own bill, which directs half of all marijuana revenue to a community fund supporting job training, and prioritizes licenses for people from communities most affected by criminalization.
…That concern has made itself so clear that the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, worried that legislators might seek to shut them out of the new industry, sent a letter to Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders on Monday promising to set up a $25 million “Cannabis Economic Opportunity Fund” to provide zero-interest loans to companies led by women and people of color.
…The City Council’s Progressive Caucus and the Black Latino and Asian Caucus recently introduced laws and resolutions calling for the city to have local control over home delivery and cultivation of marijuana, potentially allowing smaller businesses to share in the sales.
“Not arresting people is not good enough,” Donovan Richards, a city councilman from Queens, said. “Economic justice must be served.”