US: New rules stir fear that Black Missourians will once again lose out in cannabis licensing

When a cannabis legalization amendment was being criticized last year over concerns it would calcify the lack of Black participation in the burgeoning industry, Adolphus Pruitt was one of its most vociferous defenders.

Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis City NAACP, and other local NAACP leaders insisted the constitutional amendment establish a “microbusiness license” program. The intent was to award cannabis licenses to business owners who live in communities that have long felt the brunt of cannabis criminalization — and studies show that’s largely Black communities. 

But Pruitt’s tone changed Thursday when he saw the fine print in the requirements for the microbusiness license application the state will release on June 6. “I was shocked,” Pruitt said when he saw the list of ZIP codes the state deemed as qualifying for historic high rates of incarceration for cannabis-related offenses.

Of the 121 ZIP codes listed, nine are in the St. Louis region — but none are in North St. Louis, where about half of the state’s Black population resides. Three are ZIP codes for P.O. Boxes — two in downtown St. Louis and one in St. Charles. Three are to banks and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in downtown St. Louis that have  “unique” ZIP codes, which are designated to institutions with high mail traffic. 


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