As it all unfolded, Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, stood at the front of the room, surveying the process and silently taking it all in. Not all of the people crowded in the room, taking copious notes and whispering to their team members, were actual dispensary owners.
But with the exception of a few women and two African Americans in the room, most of the representatives for marijuana businesses were white and male, Ervin pointed out.
“I wanted to see for myself how many applicants and where they were deciding to cite their locations. And it proved what I thought: Our communities are going to get left behind,” he said. “This will probably generate a billion dollars’ worth of sales in the city. With no African American participation, I just think that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”
Lightfoot issued a statement acknowledging the lack of diversity and said she was not satisfied with the current equity in the city’s cannabis industry. She vowed to improve minority representation by next May.
“Transforming the cannabis industry won’t be easy, but I want to make clear that we are working with advocates fighting for equity in this emerging industry to ensure we help diverse businesses thrive and fix the unjust policies of the past,” Lightfoot said in the statement. “That’s my pledge.”