Cannabis legalization is celebrated by many as a long-overdue rectification of a drug policy that has oppressed and incarcerated vulnerable people and communities for decades. But as the legalization era continues and the legal cannabis industry starts to take shape, legalization advocates and industry stakeholders must reckon with a sobering reality: the benefits of legalization are not being equitably shared, and vulnerable communities that were hit the hardest during the war on drugs are not well represented in legal cannabis markets.
This reality is as true for stakeholders of cannabis agriculture as it is for other sectors of the cannabis industry. As the first step in the supply chain, the cultivation of cannabis sets the tone for the industry as a whole. A well-regulated, equitable, and sustainable cannabis agriculture industry has significant catalytic potential for downstream market participants. Unfortunately, however, the cannabis agriculture industry suffers from many equity shortfalls.
This Essay will explore three of these shortfalls: (1) access to agricultural lands and start-up capital, (2) cultivation licenses and state distribution of benefits, and (3) labor standards and farmworker protections. While there are many more equity issues facing cannabis agriculture, this Essay shines a light on these three while identifying areas of concern for future research. It is clear that stakeholders of cannabis agriculture, including regulators and business owners, can and should prioritize equity and participation in the development of their industry.
Stoa, Ryan, Equity in Cannabis Agriculture (April 22, 2021). Boston University Law Review, forthcoming.