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News, Politics

Urgent Call for Equitable Cannabis Policy: Senators Warren & Markey Address Congress

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

July 20, 2023 12:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Urgent Call for Equitable Cannabis Policy: Senators Warren & Markey Address Congress

In a joint effort, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and  Sen. Ed Markey,  has called on Congress to approve regulations that curb the ongoing expansion of Amazon, Big Tobacco, and other large alcohol conglomerates in the U.S. cannabis market to prevent monopolization. 

The Senators were allowed to address the audience at the Federal Cannabis Policy Crash Course event on Saturday, the 10th of June. This half-day event was organized by Parabola Center for Law and Policy in Massachusetts and aimed to analyze the current political landscape of cannabis reforms. It informed the public on the types of reforms that can be adopted to ensure everyone benefits from legalization of marijuana in America, especially communities that were negatively impacted by years of over-policing.

A Voice for Fairness and Equality After Legalization

In a prerecorded video for the event, Sen. Warren emphasized that simply legalizing cannabis is insufficient. She highlighted the importance of establishing an equitable weed industry, ensuring that communities most affected by the war on drugs receive priority in benefiting from legalization:

 “We need to ensure that the communities most harmed by the war on drugs are at the front of the line for reaping the benefits of legalization and we need to legalize in a way that avoids Big Tobacco and alcohol corporations or retail giants from dominating the cannabis market.” (The Dales Report)

Amazon has recently voiced its support for the ongoing federal cannabis legislation. However, Warren believes that Amazon’s lobbying is  a self-interested move to monopolize the industry. This step can prevent Black and Latino entrepreneurs from profiting from the emerging market.

Vision for an Equitable Cannabis Industry

 “Now is the time to get creative and think big about how we can ensure fairness and competition in the cannabis industry. Right now, we have the rare opportunity to shape how a new industry develops from the ground up. And that means we have the chance to avoid repeating the same old story of corporations crowding out small businesses and dominating markets.”

In a compelling prerecorded video, Senator Ed Markey passionately addressed the event’s participants, shedding light on the failure of the war on drugs and the unjust criminalization faced by certain communities. He praised these very communities for their resilience and activism, stating, “The same communities that have been unfairly criminalized stood up and fought for a different future. It is because of their leadership that we are seeing a significant change in cannabis law all across the United States.” Notably, he mentioned President Joe Biden’s mass cannabis pardon in 2022 and Massachusetts’ commitment to prioritizing equity in the legal weed market.

Having acknowledged the negative consequences of decades of marijuana criminalization on many communities, Markey emphasized his support: “In developing cannabis policy, Congress must give a voice to the communities harmed by the war on drugs. Nothing about them without them.” He said, “I’m ready to work together to create a new system—a system that emphasizes inclusion, empowerment, equity. Let’s all work to achieve those goals.”

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Warren has been supporting cannabis legalization for a long time. She was one of the lead sponsors of the States Acts, which protected states with recreational and medical marijuana markets. She was also the lead sponsor of the legislation to protect veterans who legally work in the cannabis market.

Parabola Center for Law and Policy

It is a non-partisan initiative founded by Shaleen Title, a former Massachusetts cannabis supervisor. She is also its current director. The center is made up of drug policy professionals and legal experts who come together to protect the interest of people, not corporations. Their mission is to provide ‘everyone with the education, access, and expertise to support cannabis legalization policies that put people and small businesses first.’

The Federal Cannabis Policy Crash Course event was well-attended by marijuana regulators across New York City, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. It also featured major cannabis advocacy groups like Marijuana Justice, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition.

In view of the event, Parabola rolled out the “Anti-Monopoly Toolkit.” A release that provides a summary of state and federal policies that do not profit young cannabis businesses. It also provides practical arguments and tips on how to communicate with policymakers to prevent legislation that only benefits large marijuana companies.

Speaking about the toolkit, Title acknowledged that ‘This document is not an endorsement of every example provision for every situation, nor can it provide specific legal advice. Our goal is to raise awareness of important policy considerations that are too often overlooked in conversations around legalization.” Alongside direct communication with congressional legislators, the toolkit is part of the policy efforts made by the Parabola Center.

Toward the end of 2022, Parabola voiced the effect that alcohol and tobacco industries would have on federal cannabis reforms. They advised lawmakers to consider patterning legal marijuana laws after those already set for alcohol.

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