Duane Dunn says he got lucky when he obtained his cannabis business license in 2014.
Before he opened Emerald Leaves in Tacoma, one of a few Black-owned cannabis retailers in Washington, Dunn supplied medical dispensaries from the crop he grew in his garage, which he said existed in a legal gray area. Though he avoided any issues with the law, a marijuana charge on his record could have prevented him from ever getting a license.
In an industry where 3% of retailer licenses statewide are held by Black people (the number drops to 1% for cannabis producers and processors), Dunn says the system favors wealthy and connected entrepreneurs, often at the expense of people of color and those harmed most by the war on drugs.
While it’s hard for Dunn’s shop to compete with larger cannabis retailers, he said just getting a cannabis license can be a challenge.
He said he sees laws around the country are geared more toward eliminating people of color from the licensing process, whether that’s through exorbitant application fees or asking applicants to have millions in liquid assets.
“I see these laws being crafted almost, in a sense, targeting people specifically to be successful and targeting people specifically not to be successful in this application process,” Dunn said.