Corporate Influence In Biden's Cannabis Policy? The Risks Of 'Born-Again Champions Of Justice And Equity'

Zinger Key Points
  • Shaleen Title of the Parabola Center says tobacco & alcohol industries put profits over public health & warns against this for weed reform.
  • Title criticizes the notion that removing ownership limits for corporations will enhance social equity, arguing that it promotes monopolies.

President Joe Biden‘s May 16 announcement to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug has been framed as a racial justice policy aimed at reversing long-standing inequities. Biden said it himself about cannabis arrests: “Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

A survey recently conducted by the Parabola Center for Law and Policy with RTI International, reveals that Americans prioritize social equity and ending arrests over corporate benefits when it comes to marijuana policy.

"When President Joe Biden announced his administration was moving marijuana to Schedule III, there's a reason he didn't lead with ‘Curaleaf might save more than $150 million in taxes this year!'" said Shaleen Title, founder and director of Parabola Center in an op-ed published by Marijuana Moment about the survey. "Instead, despite a lack of factual support, he touted it as a racial justice policy, calling it ‘an important move towards reversing long-standing inequities.'"

Big Tobacco, Alcohol And Pharma…Please Stay Away

The survey, wrote Title, indicates a strong distrust towards executives from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, given their history of harm. "Respondents believe that the beneficiaries of legalization should be medical users, cannabis industry workers, and those harmed by previous marijuana laws, rather than large corporations. This perspective underscores the belief that those most impacted by marijuana laws should drive reform."

Despite this, ongoing legislative efforts, such as the SAFER Banking Act, appear to favor large corporations by facilitating their access to capital and market consolidation, which contradicts the stated goals of equity and justice.

Title, a former Massachusetts cannabis regulator, criticizes the notion that removing ownership limits for corporations will enhance social equity, arguing that it promotes monopolies.

"In reality, while it may incidentally help some small businesses, the bill is a green light for the biggest players to access even more capital and corner the market through consolidation," Title says.

Advocacy groups are accused of paying lip service to equity while enabling corporate dominance by avoiding involvement in regulatory details. Title warns that if this pattern persists, it will result in policies that offer minimal tangible benefits to marginalized communities while preserving the status quo.

Title stresses the tendency of industries like tobacco and alcohol to prioritize profits over public health and warns against repeating these mistakes in cannabis reform. She says their "scheme" relies on a "transparent ruse: pretending to be born-again champions of justice and equity. As if anyone's buying that the Marlboro Man suddenly cares about Black and brown people."

Good News: It Doesn't Have To Be This Way

"We don't have to play along with this corporate charade. We can demand real change instead," Title said. "If the Biden administration truly wanted to address inequities in marijuana policy, there are concrete steps it could take right now."

Title lists such examples as ending marijuana-related deportations, allowing states to collaborate on social equity initiatives and expanding pardons for conduct that is now legal.

"All of us, including policymakers, face a critical choice: Will we continue to allow corporate interests to co-opt cannabis reform behind a facade of social justice, or will we push real reform that puts people over profits?" concluded Title's Op-Ed.

Now read: Top Federal Drug Official Praises Psychedelics’ Potential, Psilocybin And Ketamine On City Health Plans And More

Photo courtesy of Parabola Center for Law and Policy

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Posted In: CannabisNewsRegulationsPoliticsLegalTop Storiescannabis reformParabola Center for Law and Policy surveyPresident BidenShaleen Title
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