The Oakland City Council is considering a proposal from an organization that calls itself the Oakland Diversity and Equity Cannabis Coalition that would reduce the benefits of a recently passed ordinance that gives preference to Oakland drug-war victims for city cannabis selling permits.
Under the city’s cannabis Equity Permit Program, which was sponsored by Councilmember Desley Brooks, half of the city’s cannabis industry permits will go to people who have spent jail time for possessing marijuana in the past 10 years, or who have lived in six particular Oakland Police Department beats in the last two years.
In a letter to the city council’s Rules and Legislation Committee Thursday, Brooks said the cannabis coalition’s proposed amendments would “water down the equity programs by reducing the ownership requirement from 50 percent to 25 percent.”
In addition, the proposals would change the eligibility requirement that says someone has to have committed a drug offense in Oakland, expanding the requirement to anywhere in California; and “arbitrarily adding so many beats as to effectively render them meaningless,” said Brooks.
“For whom are the proposed ‘improvements’ seeking equity?” asked Brooks. “Rather, the proposed amendments are nothing more than a veiled attempt to minimize and/or lock out ownership opportunities for people of color,” she said.
“The council has one opportunity to get this right; and not continue the systemic racism in this burgeoning industry that has allowed some to be advantaged while others are left out,” said Brooks.
The organization that is making the proposed amendments has a 90 percent white membership, according to Brooks.
Speaking at Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting, President of 100 Black Men Frank Tucker said, “I don’t know who they are, and I am a long term resident of Oakland.”
He continued, “This group has an amendment to the medical cannabis equity proposal that hasn’t yet been vetted by the council, and they’re already trying to water it down. Watering down the equity component originally tied to the amendment could very well be a continuation of the systemic racism that we have experienced here in Oakland.”
Attorney James Anthony, representing the Oakland Diversity and Equity Cannabis Coalition, was previously a zoning prosecutor for the City of Oakland. He told the council, “We all have dirt on our hands. You were the ones that sent me out to take (homes) of people of color for minor marijuana violations. I agree, let’s get it right the first time. Equity is simple, give everyone a permit who wants one.”
Said Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Private Industry Council, “This is an opportunity for the formerly incarcerated to be entrepreneurial. Thanks to Desley Brooks’ initiative, Oakland’s impacted neighborhoods can receive a measure of restorative economic justice.”
The council is scheduled to discuss the Cannabis Equity Program in September.