Cresco Labs CEO: The Future Of Cannabis Legalization Includes Social Equity

Cresco Labs CEO: The Future Of Cannabis Legalization Includes Social Equity

As the cannabis industry pushes to enter more states, it may be more than traditional business and regulatory issues that determine who is successful.

A key factor may be helping communities address social equity, said the head of a company that's trying to be at the forefront of that mission.

"I firmly believe there will not be another adult use law passed that doesn’t have a social equity component," Charlie Bachtell, CEO of Chicago-based Cresco Labs CRLBF, said Tuesday in a keynote address at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference

'Social Equity First' 

"The future development of cannabis laws … is going to have a focus on fairness, social equity and restorative justice," Bachtell said. 

While that may help predict the next state that will legalize, it also could help predict who gets licenses, he said.
In January, Illinois is kicking off a legal, non-medical cannabis market after becoming the first state to legalize through its legislature rather than with a ballot initiative. 

If the industry legalizes by legislation, it must accommodate communities that will be home to companies — and large numbers of people who were harmed by prior drug policy, Bachtell said. 

Illinois’ law is "social equity first, tax and regulate second," the CEO said. "It’s fundamental to the way this law got passed. You’re going to see other states learn from this."

Companies that follow this example will get licenses, he said. 

Cresco To Back Expungement Fairs 

Cresco Labs, which has three of Illinois’ 21 cultivation licenses and five of its 55 dispensary licenses, launched a comprehensive social equity initiative this year.

The plan includes expungement fairs for people convicted of drug offenses who are now eligible for record expungement.

“If I’m an investor … I wouldn’t invest a dollar in an organization that doesn’t have a social equity plan,” Bachtell said.

“If they’re not seeing this is where the industry is heading, that’s a giant blind spot from my perspective.”

Cresco Labs shares were down 2.75% at $6 at the time of publication Tuesday. 

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