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Did you know that weed laws started in America as far back as the 1930s? Historically, the legal marijuana industry has never been fully honest and truthful – there’s always been some kind of hidden agenda. In our generation now, massive corporations are profiting off of legal weed because they realized that there’s a lot of money to be made. Everyone has wants their piece of the pie, not just entrepreneurs and business owners, but politicians too. If there are millions upon millions of dollars to be made, why wouldn’t governments want their share? Even politicians who previously vocalized their firm opposition to legalization are now suddenly large shareholders of leading producers in the industry. Hasan specifically talks about John Boehner, who is now one of the nation’s most prominent marijuana pitchmen and has a huge stake in Acreage Holdings, a cannabis investment firm.
“Licenses” is the name of the game
It’s no surprise small growers who have been in the business for generations are now being overshadowed and bullied by large corporations that have the capital to purchase legal licenses and crush smaller businesses, creating an unfair marketplace. We learn that the State of Florida is often times referred to as the “cartel of license holders”. In Florida, they implement something called vertical integration, a system which limits business licenses to marijuana operators that grow, process, transport, and sell their own cannabis products. In other words, seed to sale. This automatically blocks newcomers from joining an industry dominated by only a handful of companies. This legislation has led to only five companies controlling 65% of the state’s legal cannabis market and licenses that sell for up to $55 million.
“States are building systems that are good for giant weed companies and bad for almost everyone else,” Minhaj says.
How social equity programs are helping communities harmed by the war on drugs
There is a glimmer of hope especially for those who were previously disproportionately harmed by America’s war on drugs. Social equity programs are creating opportunities for people who wouldn’t have previously had any in this growing industry. We see an interview between Minhaj and the owners of Pure Oasis, the first economic empowerment owned dispensary in Massachusetts and first minority owned dispensary on the East coast. The program helped these two owners move up the list and get a license faster. Without this program, they may not have been able to open their own dispensary, independent of a large corporations. But these programs alone are not the solution that we need. Co-owner Kevin Hart explains “What this needs in order for people to be successful are a list of wraparound services—access to capital, legal, tax help, technical assistance.”
Check out Hasan Minhaj’s new Patriot Act episode on Netflix.