Cannabis and ‘Social Equity’: Good Intentions, Bad Ideas?

Cannabis and ‘Social Equity’: Good Intentions, Bad Ideas?
Cannabis and ‘Social Equity’: Good Intentions, Bad Ideas?

There is an element of controversy in the cannabis industry that is not a product of media hype. It concerns the growing call (particularly in the U.S.) for “social equity provisions” to be attached to the legal cannabis industry.

Herein lies the problem.

Proponents of this “social equity” cite the absurdity of cannabis Prohibition. They point out the enormous numbers of people who have had their lives impaired or ruined from criminal convictions based upon bogus anti-cannabis laws. And (in the United States) they observe how cannabis Prohibition has always had strong racial undertones.

All valid points.

Victims have been created by cannabis Prohibition – lots of victims. Those who have suffered from cannabis prosecutions deserve (as a start) to have those criminal convictions expunged. There is a strong argument to make that visible minorities in the U.S. who have been disproportionately victimized by Prohibition deserve some form of compensation.

Again, valid points.

However, the legal cannabis industry did not create cannabis Prohibition. The legal cannabis industry is not connected – in any way – to all of the victimization that occurred as a biproduct of cannabis Prohibition. It didn’t even begin to exist until Prohibition had started to end.

The legal cannabis industry bears absolutely zero responsibility for the crime of cannabis Prohibition, perpetrated by the U.S. government (and other governments) against its own people.



Who is responsible for all of the Americans victimized by Prohibition? The U.S. government. Who must assume responsibility – in terms of both blame and compensation – for the victims of cannabis Prohibition? The U.S. government.

Not the legal cannabis industry. Not individual cannabis companies.

It’s easy (and cheap) for U.S. politicians to make promises of “social equity in cannabis” while saying that the legal cannabis industry should write the checks. It’s not right. It’s terrible public policy.

What is the other problem created by governments as a result of their misguided Prohibition? The cannabis black market.

Simultaneously, as governments were victimizing millions of people with senseless convictions for “cannabis possession”, they were also handing a lucrative industry to organized crime. Cannabis Prohibition was as stupid as it was corrupt.

Again, this is a problem created 100% by government. Again, it is a problem for which the government is responsible to solve.

And governments won’t get rid of the black market by heaping “reparation” costs for cannabis Prohibition on top of the legal cannabis industry.

Should racial minorities who have been especially victimized by cannabis Prohibition receive assistance/compensation to recover from the harms of Prohibition? Sounds like a great idea. Fund it out of general tax revenues.

The U.S. government was acting on behalf of all Americans when it persecuted some Americans with cannabis Prohibition. Everyone is responsible. Everyone pays.

There are many mistakes that need to be fixed by the U.S. government as a result of 80+ years of cannabis Prohibition. Undoing some of the harm done to Prohibition victims and phasing out the cannabis black market are equally important priorities.

Only the legal cannabis industry can eliminate the cannabis black market. And it can only do so if it is able to compete with the black market – through reasonable regulations and fair taxation.

Compensating/assisting the victims of cannabis Prohibition is all on the U.S. government. It has nothing at all to do with the legal cannabis industry.