November 30, 2023

In an in-depth exploration of emerging cannabis policy, substantial evidence uncovers a troubling strategy framed as a fight against illicit cannabis, predominantly driven by entities primarily funded by major tobacco and alcohol companies. The Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) is found to be at the forefront of pushing a highly controversial enforcement mechanism – marijuana tax stamps. CPEAR’s agenda, purportedly intended to suppress unregulated cannabis transactions, is brimming with policy recommendations, which include implementing a nationwide system to discern regulated cannabis products from unregulated ones.

However, investigative scrutiny reveals these proposals as potential instruments of racial inequity, with Black and Brown communities fearing their severe repercussions. There is growing apprehension about whether these are mere tactics in a hidden agenda to continue the criminalization and marginalization of Black and Brown people under the guise of legal cannabis regulation, thereby perpetuating structures of white supremacy.

CPEAR’s strategies involve rigorous surveillance and trace programs, seeming to intensify enforcement against non-licensed entities rather than facilitating market entry. Kaliko Castille, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, speaks out against this, stating, “It’s clear that big cannabis and big tobacco are coming together.” He condemns the proposals, illustrating them as harbingers of a renewed cannabis prohibition era that historically targets and disparages communities of color.

Notably, the report conspicuously lacks initiatives to ease the transition for operators in the illicit market into the regulated sector. Critics contend that the true solution is inclusivity and reasonable regulations, not enforcement that typically bears down unjustly on marginalized communities. The emphasis on policies reminiscent of the early 1900s, when governmental suppression of cannabis was pervasive, sparks fear and uncertainty, threatening the aspirations of countless Black and Brown entrepreneurs striving for a stake in the legal cannabis industry.

In spite of efforts by states like California to level the playing field by reducing taxes and providing grants, the shadows of harsh policies like those proposed by CPEAR persist, menacingly looming over Black and Brown communities. These concerns emphasize the dire need for equitable and inclusive policies to truly actualize the promise of legalized cannabis, focusing on support and barrier reduction instead of enforcing potentially discriminatory policies, that may further incarcerate and marginalize already vulnerable communities.

By unraveling these tightly woven threads of proposed policies, this investigation aims to shed light on the critical need to advocate for fair and balanced legal cannabis structures, foregrounding the voices and aspirations of Black and Brown entrepreneurs and communities. The nuanced interplays of legalization, policy proposals, and their undercurrents of racial disparities underline the urgent necessity to direct collective focus and effort toward building a truly inclusive and equitable legal cannabis environment.

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