Editorial: The greener pastures of the recreational pot remain elusive for some
“New Mexico’s cannabis legalization policy must ensure equity and diversity, while reinvesting in the communities hardest hit by cannabis criminalization,” state officials Javier Martínez and Andrea Romero wrote. in a column published in the Journal in January 2021.
“We will provide equity, not only to New Mexicans who are engaged in this economic opportunity, but (also) to entire rural communities that I know are represented here today,” Governor Michelle said. Lujan Grisham at a conference on the legalization of cannabis in June 2021.
But, more than a year later, and four months after legalization, this promised “fairness” is still elusive.
According to the New Mexico Department of Regulation and Licensing, only 39% of approved cannabis license applications were made to people who self-identified as having Latin American, Hispanic, or Spanish origins. This compares to the latest census figures for New Mexico’s population at 50% Hispanic.
And only 29% of approved license applications went to those who identify as women, according to the RLD.
At first glance, there certainly seemed to be plenty of opportunities for women and minorities to get into what lawmakers and the governor touted as an important way to diversify the state’s economy. The nearly 2,000 cannabis licenses issued include not only retail stores, but also growers and micro-growers, manufacturers, couriers and testing labs.
And yet, the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce admits that fair corporate ownership remains a goal, not a reality.
“I am deeply saddened because we haven’t made much progress in terms of fairness in this cannabis industry,” said Cannabis Chamber Executive Director Ben Lewinger.
One reason is that those entering the cannabis industry need access to capital. Many lenders are hesitant to provide loans because marijuana remains a federally banned controlled substance. Those with cash on hand are much more likely to enter the industry than those who need a business loan. And those who have access to money are more often men and non-minorities.
The Cannabis Control Division holds monthly workshops that provide information to train potential entrepreneurs. CCD also partnered with two pueblos in an intergovernmental agreement to open licensing opportunities to tribal members, and the state opened a loan program to lend microbusinesses up to $250,000. with low interest rates.
But we are not yet seeing the results hoped for in breaking down barriers in the cannabis industry for women and people of color.
Meanwhile, recreational sales have yet to meet forecasts. Legal recreational sales have an annual pace of $263.7 million in the first year, below the $300 million projected by the governor and other legalization proponents.
Four months later, the state’s nascent recreational pot industry is yet to deliver on politicians’ promises.
Equity is a tough egg to crack, there’s no doubt about it. And, as an editorial board, we have expressed concerns about the effects of cannabis use and are not about to encourage greater use to boost sales. But the governor, lawmakers and other proponents of legalization sold the public on specific economic benefits for the state and aspiring entrepreneurs of color.
And they still have to deliver them.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.