Current approaches to social equity in the cannabis industry continue to fail to promote racial equity while simultaneously exacerbating gender, environmental, and other inequities. To better understand the structural dynamics underlying this phenomenon, I first present a multi-disciplinary recounting of not only the racial inequities, but also the stigma, business, research, energy, sex and gender, hemp, and international inequities of the War on Drugs. This serves as the foundation for a compilation of the structural and theoretical reasons for how current social equity policies, whether targeting the cannabis industry, community reinvestment, social justice, or access equity, will only continue to fail to address the inequities they target. In short, state licensing processes, managed market dynamics, and natural characteristics of the industry conspire to undercut states’ attempts to address social inequity solely by reserving limited numbers of “social equity licenses.” State community investment programs to address inequities are funded by taxes on the populations they are intended to help, and industry-led initiatives are treated as marketing campaigns. Retroactive pardons and expungement are routinely underfunded, hobbled by technical issues, unused by beneficiaries, and insufficiently comprehensive to provide effective resentencing solutions, all while states maintain arbitrary criminalization limits that continue to exacerbate inequity. Finally, direct cannabis regulations remain only tangentially associated with the employment, child custody, housing, insurance, bankruptcy, environmental, and medical research issues presented by the ongoing criminality of cannabis, and the associated inequities remain unaddressed by cannabis regulatory regimes to the ongoing detriment of those most negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.



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