What's Race Got To Do With It? A Cannabis Industry Policy Analysis Using Critical Race Theory

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The evolution from cannabis prohibition to a lucrative business opportunity presents a complex social landscape in the United States. As of October 2023, 24 states have fully legalized recreational and medical marijuana. This shift has prompted agencies like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to argue that marijuana legalization is a racial justice issue since racialized communities have suffered the most from marijuana prohibition. Using Critical Race Theory and a qualitative content analysis methodology of 23 written policies from California, Nevada, and Washington state, this study examined the role of race in the written policies. The final 23 policies analyzed were chosen after data immersion. Thematic coding was used in Dedoose software The findings revealed that all three states (1) were written from a colorblind perspective, (2) gave power to either an appointed board of the state itself, (3) required financial and social capital to have access to marijuana business licenses, (4) Washington state compared to the other states had written action to serve the community, and (5) Nevada used problematic language in their policy that may hinder access compared to the other states. Findings indicate that colorblind policies may perpetuate racial inequities in the cannabis industry. More research on other states and racial equity needs to be conducted to deepen understanding of racial equity and the cannabis industry.

Marijuana policy, Cannabis policy, Critical Race Theory, Racial Equity, Drug Policy