Cannabis Industry Struggles With Hiring People With Previous Marijuana Convictions

 In Blog: Industry, News

As the cannabis industry continues to expand, a debate is emerging over whether those with drug convictions should be allowed to work in the industry. Marijuana businesses are at a halt with the situation due to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-drug rhetoric. Meanwhile, the fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar industry is calling for investors and entrepreneurs.

There is some evident hypocrisy in some areas of the newly legal cannabis market. Massachusetts medical marijuana provider Patriot Care drew a debate earlier this year after it denied a proposal to remove the ban on felony drug convictions from the state’s medical cannabis program.

CEO of Patriot Care, Robert Mayerson, wrote in a letter to the Massachusetts Public Health Council, “Permitting those who have demonstrated the interest and willingness to ignore state and federal drug laws sends the wrong singles to those who would participate in the legal, regulated industry.” While companies like Patriot Care operate under state law, all state-legal cannabis companies are violating federal drug laws.

Many states have marijuana laws that ban drug offenders from entering the cannabis industry in attempt to legitimize the trade and prevent out-of-state diversion. The ban does not prevent trafficking, but it does shut out individuals with marijuana-related convictions, who are mainly black and Latino. And many of these felony bans only apply to drug-related crimes.

Ran Anslin, who has been in the industry for nearly four years, said, “You can go to a cannabis investment conference and no one is talking about the fact that just down the road there are people who are incarcerated for smoking or dealing or growing this very same product. To entirely leave that out of an investment conversation is fundamentally wrong.”

CEO of Terra Tech, Derek Peterson, refers to it as a “disaster” that there are executives in the marijuana industry who oppose social justice forms. Terra Tech is a cannabis company that operates in Nevada, California, and has a cultivation facility in Oakland, California with minority interest. The company equality programs similar to that in Oakland, and is working with lobbyists to insert criminal justice-reform language into legalization in New Jersey.

He said, “We don’t feel very comfortable about the opening up of markets and economic development [while] watching people sit in prison. There needs to be allowances in new legislation that allows for people who have been incarcerated for drug crimes to [enter] this industry.”

Banning those with experience in this market could also shut out people with relevant experience. Rob Hunt, principal of the consulting firm ConsultCanna, said, “It’s doing a disservice to some of the best knowledge base in the cannabis industry. These are the guys who paved the way.”

Hunt explained that an organic cannabis cultivator in Northern California who got swept up in raids has valuable knowledge that could be useful in the upcoming legal market. For someone who is transporting cannabis across state lines, not so much.

“That makes it challenging to pass sweeping legislation. There has to be a fine line that’s detailed in these types of reform pieces. Giving [marijuana] to minors is different from someone doing a home-grow,” said Peterson.

Anslin’s key to crafting reforms is focusing on record expungement. He said, “As an employer in the space, I would always be really careful to hire people who have knowingly done things against the letter of the law. But when it comes to certain marijuana offenses, they shouldn’t have even been convicted of anything to begin with.”

Patriot Care has yet to respond or comment on their support for record expungement.


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