This article was originally published on Cannabis & Tech Today, and appears here with permission.
An estimated 40,000 people are currently incarcerated in the United States for marijuana offenses. While they are in prison, the cannabis industry is booming in the U.S.: 11 states and D.C. have legalized the substance completely and only eight states have no marijuana legislation whatsoever.
According to New Frontier Data, overall sales within the legalized U.S. cannabis industry were expected to reach $13.6 billion throughout 2019.
It begs the question, with business owners and consumers alike reaping the benefits of cannabis legalization, what of the 40,000 people who sit behind bars of marijuana offenses?
With the recent calls for the U.S. to reexamine their police force, issues around mass incarceration have also begun to enter the spotlight, and some people think the cannabis industry needs to do more.
Getting the Conversation Started
Many cannabis businesses have been willing participants in the conversation around the need for expungement of marijuana offenses and the need for racial diversity in the cannabis space.
In late June of this year, Vangst, a cannabis staffing agency, hosted a webinar discussing how to achieve racial justice in the cannabis space.
“Too many are in jail for activity that has subsequently been legalized. It’s an irony of gruesome proportions,” expressed Richard Bronson, founder and CEO of 70 Million Jobs, a staffing agency for people with criminal records.
Also featured on the panel, which was moderated by Vangst CEO Karson Humiston, were Arlene Mejia, re-entry project lead of Last Prisoner Project, which focuses on criminal justice reform; and Weldon Angelos, co-founder and president of The Weldon Project. (Angelos was actually pardoned by President Obama in 2016 for a 55-year prison sentence for three counts of selling marijuana, totaling $900.)
While being a part of the discussion and facilitating dialogue is a good start, Richard Bronson stresses the need for action on the part of the cannabis industry.
“I absolutely believe it behooves the cannabis industry and is an obligation of theirs,” Bronson said, …