By Ryan Velez
With laws on marijuana loosening around the country, many have raised the question of what will happen to those who have been imprisoned for charges that would no longer be illegal, especially considering that most of the people with this issue are people of color. Vibe reports that Oakland is trying to do its part, but allowing a number of felons who were imprisoned for charges pertaining to marijuana to reportedly have the opportunity to open legal weed businesses in the Oakland area.
The Oakland city council unanimously approved its new initiative, the Equity Permit Program, last month. This program will reportedly issue 50 percent of all licenses for medical marijuana facilities to previous felons and residents of six neighborhoods that police excessively targeted for drug arrests, reports the National Post. “Communities of colour have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by disparate enforcement of cannabis laws,” and ordinance filed by the Oakland city council reads.
This doesn’t mean that you get your license as soon as you step out of prison, though, Greg Minor, assistant to Oakland’s city administrator, said all felons and residents must undergo a rigorous application process. The program will start up later this year.
In the past, both Pusha T and John Legend have pushed for the release of felons who were locked up for simple possession or selling charges. “What’s important to me is keeping people who are coming home, home,” Pusha T said in a previous PSA regarding California’s marijuana bill. “If ending prohibition on marijuana reduces recidivism, then let’s do it.”
John Legend has taken another approach. Legend’s nonprofit, FreeAmerica, came together with New Profit and Bank of America to scan the country for the most impactful returning citizen social entrepreneurs. The result? Unlocked Futures, a 16-month accelerator for social entrepreneurs impacted by the criminal justice system. Eight applications were ultimately selected out of hundreds.
“Though 1 in 4 Americans has a criminal record, too often are formerly incarcerated individuals locked out of job opportunities because of their past. I have seen that entrepreneurship is a viable way for formerly incarcerated individuals to build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their communities and neighborhoods,” said Legend in a statement. “We hope Unlocked Futures will serve as a powerful tool to break through the barriers to opportunity that exist for so many who have criminal records.”