By Ryan Velez
We’ve mentioned in the past how the legal marijuana industry stands to make billions, but people of color may end up being left out of the boom. Madame Noire reports that a new non-profit has been formed to help keep that from happening.
In 2015, Nina Parks, Tsion Lencho, Amber Senter and Andrea Unsworth, all women of color, created Supernova Women, an Oakland-based non-profit organization that educates and empowers people of color to invest in the cannabis industry. Their mission statement on their website reads as follows.
“Supernova is an organization formed by and for Women of Color in 2015 with the goal of utilizing our diverse talents to empower our people to become self-sufficient shareholders in the evolving cannabis economy. Supernova is founded with the mission to foster community empowerment through holistic education, advocacy training, and skills acquisition. Supernova Women fosters a safe space for hard conversations, and will amplify the messages of our constituents at the local, state, and national level.”
Lencho studied cannabis prohibition and law at Stanford, and addressed some concerns on how the industry would address possible stakeholders with records of marijuana use, possession, or distribution in a Huffington Post article:
“When you came to the business side of things, there was a complete dearth of conversation about inclusion, even though social and racial justice were at the forefront of the talking points around why you should legalize and why you should allow local jurisdictions to give permits,” Lencho said. “But no one was talking about providing permits for those who actually went to jail for cannabis.”
Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks echoed this fact, taking it further by pointing out that only one demographic is benefiting from weed commerce while other demographics are being shut out.
“When you look across this country, the people who are making money in respect to cannabis and recreational marijuana are white men,” Brooks told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “The people who have historically gone to jail for the same activity are predominantly African-American and Latino.”
We previously covered one program Oakland is trying to implement to handle this issue. The city’s new department of race and equity will set aside half of the medical and recreational marijuana business licenses for applicants who meet the following criteria: They must live in Oakland; make less than 80 percent of the area median income; and had either been convicted of a cannabis crime or live in an area of the city with disproportionately high marijuana arrests.