Black Missourians Worry About Being Shut Out Of Legal Marijuana Industry By Licensing Caps

Black Missourians Worry About Being Shut Out Of Legal Marijuana Industry By Licensing Caps
MJ moment

“The industry is growing, but our involvement is not.” By Rebecca Rivas, Missouri Independent Abe Givins sunk into a leather armchair at the Cola Private Lounge in St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, where his company hosted a panel of doctors speaking about medical marijuana. Givins is co-owner of Village, which advertises itself as the only vertically-integrated medical marijuana company in Missouri that’s 100 percent minority owned—meaning they have licenses to grow, manufacture and sell marijuana products.  A key part of the company’s mission, Givins said, is fighting for social equity in the cannabis industry, particularly in light of how the war on drugs has ravaged minority communities. “A lot of people that I know have been incarcerated for cannabis offenses that were non violent,” said Givins, whose company is part of the Viola Brands franchise, one of largest Black-owned cannabis companies in the country. “So why not fight to get into the space and make it better for the people that are incarcerated?” More than 2,000 applications were submitted for medical marijuana licenses in 2019, but fewer than 400 were ultimately awarded. And while the state doesn’t track the race of those who got a license, Givins and others in the burgeoning industry say few went to Black-owned businesses.  With the state potentially on the verge of another vote this fall on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, many in the Black community fear being shut out yet again. “The industry is growing, but our involvement is not,” said Brennan England, state director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, an advocacy organization for cannabis legalization.  At the heart of the Black community’s concern are the license caps implemented by state regulators. The state decided early on to only issue the minimum licenses allowed under Missouri’s constitution: 192 dispensary, 86 manufacturing and 60…

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