CHICAGO — Would allowing small-scale pot peddlers help ‘even the playing field’ in the marijuana market? It’s an idea being pushed by community activists.
The idea is to bring recreational pot to the people by letting it be sold at farmer’s markets.
When recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois not a single one of the recreational dispensary licenses went to minorities.
Activist Tio Hardiman, who is the president of the group Violence Interrupters, Inc., said part of the problem is the licenses take tens of thousands of dollars to obtain.
“It’s totally unacceptable that none of the marijuana dispensaries are owned by people of color,” he said. “We have a black mayor, we have a black drug czar, we have a black lieutenant governor.”
Hardiman said a way to reach underserved neighborhoods would be cheaper licenses that would allow small-scale sale of pot.
“My vision would be a 250 dollar peddler’s license and the young men could set up shop at farmer’s markets,” he said. “There would be designated areas where they could sell marijuana from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
The idea appeals to the group Black Lives Matter, who said it would be a way for the community most adversely affected by the war on drugs to see some benefit from the legalization of marijuana.
The state of Illinois will award the next 75 licenses in May and experts say many will surely go to minority owners and investors as part of the social equity component of the new law.
The mayor’s office noted that the city will hold a cannabis resource fair February 1 which aims to increase minority involvement. And the governor’s office said the law is intended to regulate the market for health and safety of consumers.
“The response from the governor’s office and the mayor is talking about making sure everything is safe,” Hardiman said. “Why does everybody have to make sure things are safe now that we’re talking about empowering African-American males and females in the hood, so to speak?”
It’s unclear if this idea will gain any traction in Springfield but Hardiman says he plans to meet with key lawmakers to discuss the idea.