Will the Show-Me state get social equity right? Voters approved recreational cannabis in Missouri back in November. But many activists who supported legalization opposed the proposed amendment, concerned it would create the “permanent exclusion” of minorities from the industry.
Now, the Department of Health and Human Services must select a chief equity officer to ensure that the social and economic equity parts of the new law are met. The position will oversee the equity measures in the microlicense program that campaign supporters boasted to be “a first of its kind.”
According to the law, the chief equity officer must be selected by February 6th, and a DHSS spokesperson has stated that the department will announce the new officer soon. The selected officer will lead communications about the program and conduct reviews to certify that microbusinesses are in good standing for licensure.
Additionally, the officer will create and promote educational programming for the licensing process and available resources for applicants. They will also establish a technical assistance program and compile an annual report on compliance.
So, not a job to be taken lightly.
“This could be the path forward for minority inclusion goals for Missouri’s marijuana industry,” said St. Louis City NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt, who pushed for the creation of this specific role as part of the legalization campaign.
Pruitt says one of the most important responsibilities for the new officer will be to contribute to an annual report with aggregate data for each license type. The reports are set to include demographic characteristics of business owners and their employees.
The annual report could also serve the same purpose as a disparity report, says Pruitt, which could prevent the legal battles often brought forward by white-owned businesses. “If the state enacts [minority participation] goals without data, they sue and we lose. We’ve been down that road before,” Pruitt previously told the Missouri Independent.