Legal Missouri 2022, one of the proposals with chances of ending up before voters this fall, would allow the state to cap licenses, giving current license holders an advantage over the new applicants.
With the state on the verge of another potential vote on legalizing Missouri’s recreational marijuana, local minorities fear being excluded by regulations. “The industry is growing, but our involvement is not,” said Brennan England, state director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, reported the Missouri Independent.
Although the state does not have records of the race of license holders, according to Abe Givins, social equity activist and co-owner of Village, a vertically-integrated medical marijuana company that’s minority-owned and part of the Viola Brands franchise, few licenses were granted to Black business owners. Upon the legalization of medical cannabis in the state, regulators issued limited licenses.
According to a report released by the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade), the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has approved 322 facilities, including 185 dispensaries, 63 infused products manufacturers and 46 marijuana cultivation facilities. In addition, the Department has licensed and certified a total of 386 facilities to cultivate, manufacture, test, transport and dispense medical marijuana to Missouri patients.
Legal Missouri 2022, one of the proposals with chances of ending up before voters this fall, would allow the state to cap licenses, giving current license holders an advantage over the new applicants. For the first 18 months, the state would only award recreational cannabis licenses to the entities that already have medical marijuana business licenses.
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“[Legal Missouri] creates monopolies,” said state Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove (D), president of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. “People who have the desire and the skill set, and maybe the bare minimum qualifying capital, are boxed out.”
Legal Missouri 2022
The proposed legislation contemplates the creation of 144 “micro licenses” for applicants with ZIP codes with high incarceration rates for marijuana. However, licenses on their own do not guarantee access to capital or business networks.
According to Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP chapter in St. Louis, the lack of access to traditional banking is another burden on Black business owners in general.
“Those micro licenses are what’s going to be Black folks’ entry into the marketplace because they don’t have the capital,” commented Pruitt in support of Legal Missouri.
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“If you want to have equity for the people that win the micro licenses, then you do want to have some level of limits there,” added John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri.
On Tuesday, a Missouri House committee heard testimony on a proposal sponsored by Republican Rep. Ron Hicks that would legalize recreational marijuana without caps on licenses, arguing that these affect minority-owned businesses.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.