It is time for a Cannabis Opportunity Agenda

  • The racist roots of the War on Drugs inflicted significant collateral damage on minority groups, saddling young men and women of color with drug convictions often before age 30 and setting them on a course of institutionalized disadvantage because of the crippling, collateral consequences of criminal records.
  • We argue that 2020 is an opportune moment to design a comprehensive pragmatic Cannabis Opportunity Agenda: a set of policies that addresses the social harms of marijuana prohibition and seeks to rehabilitate impacted communities with a focus on equity, opportunity, and inclusion.
  • We argue that such an agenda must include five critical features: expungement of cannabis-related criminal records; a well-defined class of beneficiaries; protections for the physical communities most ravaged by the War on Drugs; enable minorities to enter and successfully persist in the cannabis economy; and transformative interventions that reduce invisible institutional barriers to opportunities.
  • In addition to expungement, proposals should include provisions regulating the commercialization of federal criminal justice data and funded mandates empowering criminal justice agencies to enact record protection measures proactively.
  • On the one hand, sealed records limit public access, while remaining accessible to law enforcement agencies and courts for sentence enhancement and charge determinations.
  • Alternatively, that revenue could be used to authorize and fund compliance technical assistance units within state and local government agencies, which could provide standardized guidance and assistance to minority-owned small businesses and enable them to minimize system-wide compliance risk proactively.

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