Oakland approves unique MMJ business licensing rules

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A marijuana conviction often can disqualify you from receiving a cannabis business license, but in Oakland it can give you an advantage over applicants with clean records.

The Oakland City Council passed a first-of-its-kind measure Tuesday night, the Equity Permit Program, which flies in the face of national trends in marijuana policy. Many legalized marijuana programs prohibit people with drug or other convictions from participating.

The new rules stipulate that every other medical cannabis business license awarded in the city will go to applicants who’ve been convicted of a marijuana-related offense in the last two years – as well as applicants who’ve lived for the last two years in one of six Oakland police department beats hit hard by the War on Drugs.

Supporters hope the new rules will improve diversity in the marijuana industry, given that minorities make up an overwhelming majority of marijuana-related convictions.

Medical cannabis industry officials are worried that reserving licenses for a small population of people in select districts will slow a planned expansion of licensed medical cannabis growers, dispensaries, processors, and others, according to the East Bay Express.

Critics also noted that most of the six police beats included in the bill lie in the city council district of the councilor who sponsored the legislation.