The Equity Of Oakland’s Cannabis Culture: Free The Weed

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Last Tuesday I attended the Oakland City Hall meeting regarding the distribution of medical marijuana operating permits. After a formal introduction of who was present on the panel, citizens had their chance to let the city know how they felt about things. People spoke on the newest changes to the applications for medical cannabis permits, and how they felt about being included in equity. Many spoke on issues that the city council members are having to answer to so that the permits can be issued as soon as possible.

The biggest conversations of the night were around inclusion, and equity. Two key roles in rather people will choose to operate in Oakland, or open facilities in surrounding cities where the process of creating cannabis operating laws seem to be less of a headache and possibly more beneficial. It is being decided if cannabis businesses will have to give 25% of their earnings to the city. To many this is a discouragement because the 25% does not include state taxes. So, yes, that would mean no matter what amount you earned, your cannabis business would still have to pay. The 25% is said to go back into the community toward the Cannabis Equity Fund, funding social services — issues of blight (beautification of the city), loans, and job training programs. With the current disparity of who is making money in the industry and who is deciding the rules (board wise), it makes you question who will be in charge of the Cannabis Equity Fund. And, will those who have been left out finally have a chance to be included in the multi-million dollar industry​?

In the first meeting I attended months back, there were folks from across the nation in attendance seeking to get a piece of the Oakland-pie, as residents have come forward and expressed that they should have priority, there has since been a requirement to show proof of residency. One woman exclaimed to me, “It should be 10 year minimum required.” I personally have thought about it, and before being able to voice my opinion someone read my mind. During this particular one meeting a man came to the podium stating that the cost of living has caused many Oakland residents to be pushed out, or placed in roommate/private residential agreements without physical documentation o​f​ being an Oakland ​r​esident. Just what I had been thinking. The latest answer given by the city was the ​type of ​documents that can be accepted as proof of residency​. At this time exceptions aren’t being discussed but will probably be case by case in the near future.

In the wake of the countdown to the November ballot there is also a another case around the legalization involving equality. Charlo Green, the news anchor who quit her job on live tv to open a medical marijuana business is facing 54 years in prison for the beloved, yet dividing plant. The state of Alaska is charging her for running her business before the operational permission and legalization in the state. The legislation's​ that are happening city to city, and state to state, are causing many to think about if they should come forward as advocates and growers. Charlo Greene is an African American woman, yet I have had conversations with white males in Oakland who use the method of hydroponic indoor gardening and do not want to be documented as cannabis cultivators in fear of grey areas that is ​in existence, and the grey area that may occur in the future. No one wants to be punished over a plant which provides health benefits.​

The last city meeting made two things clear: Many are going to operate without a license (some in fear of federal law and others not wanting to give 25% of their profits), and Oakland is going to lose many local residents if something close to fair isn’t decided. The applications for permits​ were set to be given out earlier this year, but once the city seen that more than the initial number of less than 10 jumped to over 200, many changes have had to be made in creating the newly crafted special use permit. Be sure to follow for Bay Area cannabis reports where you can keep updated as the city of Oakland decides what will be best for everyone in this history making legislation.