Social Equity Concerns in New Jersey
Spotted an article in NJ.com with a heartwarming headline:
The Father-Son team of Donald and Skye Blanks are applying for a dispensary license in Keyport, which is on the northern end of the New Jersey Coast. They have plans to operate from a former Wells Fargo Bank.
You'll see the picture of the father and son at left, suited up, the son a spitting image of his dad, standing in the doorway of the bank vault.
The Blanks in a bank, hoping to make some bank!
According to the article, the Blanks are “operating under Wanda James’ Simply Pure brand. Simply Pure and Wanda James made history as the first Black-owned dispensary in Colorado.” They are also working with another equity applicant father-son team: Darrin Chandler and Darrin Chandler Jr. who run Premium Genetics based in New Jersey but operating in Colorado.
“Both fathers come from the background of a market where cannabis was still illegal. They are now helping their sons — and each other — on the legalized side of the market.”
… and here’s some happy talk for ya: “The dynamic is an example of one of the core aims of legalization — generational wealth for those impacted by the War on Drugs. For the Blanks to win a license in the Monmouth County shore town will take the state one small step closer to helping to fulfill New Jersey’s core mission in ensuring racial equity and economic justice.
THE DEEPER DIVE
So, a great feel-good story, but I worry that it has the potential to give people the wrong idea about how "social equity" is actually working in New Jersey and other American states.
If the Blanks and the Chandlers are able to get licensed and make a go of it, they will be two of the too-few.
“Social Equity” and “Generational Wealth” are magic words these days. They have the same feel as “The American Dream” … that if you get a license, it’s your golden ticket, and your children’s children will be wearing Gucci diapers.
Which might be true if states like New Jersey practiced what they preach on social equity.
The clues that this is not the case are hidden in plain sight. That quote above about "fulfilling New Jersey’s core mission in ensuring racial equity"? It’s actually a LINK to another article in the same publication. The headline under that link is:
“For all of the talk of social equity … the average prospects for Black ownership equity in America was between 1 out of 20 and 1 out of 50 in the cannabis industry, according to statistics released by cannabis platform Leafly.”
... and ...
“The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission had touted on Oct. 15 how diverse the businesses being awarded vertically integrated and medical cannabis licenses are. Except most, if not all, of those minority license winners were white women. In the following days, applicants of color would claim they had not received accurate points for being “minority” applicants in the scoring and award process.”
By the way, Al Harrington, who was born in New Jersey, was rejected by his home state.
THE LOOP BACK
Also, the Blanks are opening a dispensary only at the moment. Retail is tough, and only one part of the cannabis puzzle, especially while 280(E) penalties still apply. Unfortunately, the potential for true generational wealth (wealth that will sustain for several generations in a family) might exist with the larger licenses that allow vertical integration.
“Those licenses with vertical integration and access to making their own supply of cannabis are some of the most economically valuable ways to get into the cannabis industry — and to create generational wealth,” said Jamil Taylor, who wrote the applications for Al Harrington, “There’s an imbalance… To be clear white women were not the targets of the War on Drugs,” he said.
Stay tuned in New Jersey and let’s see if the Blanks, the Chandlers, and the Harringtons, can get a piece of the pie that’s estimated in the $billion$ in just a few years.