By Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD
It is no secret that the war on drugs became a war on Black and Brown people and disproportionately filled prisons to bursting with Black men.
It’s also not a secret that Prop 64, legalizing recreational marijuana use, signals the starting line for the official rush for the gold represented in legal pot sales.
Oakland is not planning to be left out. According to Henry Lee, Fox News reporter, Oakland has long held progressive views about pot and been on the forefront of legalization.
The Oakland City Council has endorsed Prop. 64 and according to news reports, the city has no plans to ban legal sales or offer any new regulations for the sale of recreational cannabis.
However, on Nov. 14, Oakland city council is scheduled to vote on several proposals to amend the permitting system it passed in May. Sponsored by Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Larry Reid and Noel Gallo, the plan requires every cannabis operation to tithe a quarter of its profits to the city and to offer up a board seat to the city as well.
If the plan proceeds as written, districts headed by Brooks, Gallo and Reid will benefit greatly from pot profits. The plan is under review by the Department of Race and Equity, which consists only of one person, department head Darlene Flynn.
Why there is only one person in the Department of Race and Equity is a topic for another article. However, the plan was put off until Ms. Flynn can analyze it. It goes without saying that a fully staffed Department of Race and Equity is essential in a city that says it is concerned about fully realizing racial equity.
Cannabis attorney James Anthony credits Oakland with understanding weed law at the state level.
But Assemblyman Rob Bonta thinks Oakland’s equity plan may not pass state muster, and others think that one equity permit per one unrestricted permit will clog the system by refusing to permit qualified people while trying to subsidize the narrowly defined pool offered in the plan.
While we are deciding how the cash cow represented by pot sales will be divided, how about earmarking 20 percent of those funds for the implementation of the Black Arts Movement and Business District’s comprehensive plan for community development, which calls for increased access to services for all of Oakland’s marginalized population, among them the formerly incarcerated retuning to communities that have changed substantially in their absence.
Many of the formerly incarcerated will experience the culture shock of returning to a West Oakland that has transformed.
The Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBD) envisions increased access to a wide range of culturally appropriate services that include access to qualified and motivated providers offering advocacy for reentry populations and other disenfranchised Oaklanders across all sectors of civic life.
The district would offer a myriad of interfaces for civic engagement that have potential to effect recidivism and prevent initial involvement in the prison system, while providing opportunities to thrive mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Give BAMBD a seat at the cannabis table. Oakland City Council members asked about their thoughts on cannabis funding racial equity in Oakland all declined comment.
According to Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, who is a BAMBD executive planner, “I want to make sure we grandfather in the Black and Brown people who spent time in jail over the green.”