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Small Entrepreneurs Getting Squeezed out of Oakland's Equity Program

In a Bingo-style drawing, Oakland’s City Hall awarded cannabis dispensary permits under the so-called Equity Program.

Are Oakland's Cannabis Equity Ordinances Actually Working?

In what some described as a Bingo-style drawing, Oakland’s City Hall awarded cannabis dispensary permits under the so-called Equity Program designed to help Oakland residents affected by the War on Drugs.

Let us review why an equity program is necessary: Of the 8.2 million weed arrests between 2001 and 2010, blacks were, and still are, arrested 3.7 times more often than whites, despite roughly equal usage rates.

We already know the Nixon-era War on Drugs, which attributed to multi-generational trauma and community destabilization, was a strategy to bring down the “anti-war left and black people.”

Now in the era of legal weed, white mostly males make up over 80 percent of marijuana business owners, as compared to only 4.3 percent of blacks.

Some say, however, that Oakland’s equity program is already operating like business as usual.

One of the first MMJ delivery services in the Bay Area, Proper Rx, is among them.

Founded by Elliott Marshall, Proper RX has complied with the law, paid taxes and contributed to the welfare of the community for the past ten years, but yet was denied a license.

“Elliott Marshall was instrumental in educating the city on the actual work of a delivery service so that they could enact this law that now threatens the business,” said Amy Levy-Savage of Amy Levy Public Relations, who represents Proper Rx.

One of the few stated requirements of the program is that an applicant must provide 1,000- square-feet of free business space to qualify as an incubator.

That rule put another small operator, HigherVeda Medicinals, who makes edibles, at a huge disadvantage.

“The city created a structure that left out the little guy because the city decided not to take financial responsibility for its direct role in discriminatory policing in low-income communities of color,” said Robert Selna, an Oakland attorney who represents marijuana businesses.

“The city has decided that big business will foot the bill for a problem the city created. In turn, the city has grossly tilted the playing field in favor of big business at the expense of small operators.”

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