How The Industry Can Help Pardoned & Expunged Individuals Reenter Cannabis

The effect of a pardon can reinstate access to employment, loans, housing, and even travel. People charged with cannabis-related offenses may need to meet different pardon requirements depending on the state in which they were charged. In California, blanket expungements absolve all time and monetary responsibilities. But, according to border laws in the United States, some foreigners with these charges are banned for life from visiting America.

The cannabis industry is emerging and evolving at a rapid rate. There’s a lot to transform, from the various banking and financing options available to cannabis businesses, to the way the industry plays a role in reversing the harm done by the War on Drugs. Businesses, advocates, and those most affected are obliged to explore what is being done and what should be done to help formerly incarcerated individuals who have been directly impacted by the War on Drugs.


Photo credit: Cornelio Greer

Is enough being done? There has been a slight uptick in states reforming criminal justice and prison sentences as of late with respect to cannabis charges. Meanwhile, ECO Cannabis is doing all it can to participate in the reintegration process for those returning from prison and adequately supporting them with employment opportunities. As a business in the cannabis industry, to help ensure their transition is a success, ECO reserves 50% of its employee roster for those who were formerly incarcerated and directly impacted by the War on Drugs. This is part of ECO’s effort to set industry standards to integrate affected individuals into the industry.

What other companies should do to ensure they are doing their part is actively participate in this way and more. “More” looks like providing resources in the workplace for formerly incarcerated employees to connect with the community in which we prompt them to thrive. That means cannabis companies that want to be part of this effort need to consistently connect with community groups and resources that address housing accommodations, healthcare (including mental health), and extracurricular activities that make sense for their formerly incarcerated employees to be active in the community.

Viola, a company founded by former NBA player Al Harrington, uses cannabis to reinvest in systematically oppressed communities. Their social equity initiative, named Viola Cares, partnered with Root & Rebound, an organization committed to help folks reintegrate in society after incarceration. The partnership produced a toolkit to guide participants in expunging their records, begin and excel in cannabis industry careers.


Photo credit: Cornelio Greer

These initiatives, in addition to Oakland’s social equity program that requires half of available permits get issued to those who were directly harmed by the War on Drugs, go a long way in creating opportunities that begin to heal not only individuals but their communities, too. As for the other half of available permits that are issued through social equity programs like this one in Oakland, transformational systemic change is possible when those permit holders who have privilege use it to fight against the system that gave it to them by incorporating their own sustainable business initiatives that can further help pardoned and expunged individuals rise to leadership in the industry. That will be the product of true social equity in cannabis.

Is there more that you’d like to unpack about this topic? Send an email to [email protected] to send an inquiry to Ivy Summer.

About the Author:


“Ivy Summer is an independent consultant and collaborator with ECO Cannabis with 5 years of experience working in the cannabis industry both as a consultant and wedding planner. She introduced the annual Cannabis Wedding Expo to California in 2016 and launched America’s first cannabis art museum tours and cannabis yacht tours from 2016 through 2018.

From your workforce, content, or your customer base to your daily interactions – if you aren’t sure how to start incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into various aspects of your life, and you want to commit to making an intergenerational impact in business and beyond, Ivy is your go-to. “Let’s make a diversity committee,” is one of the most common phrases she hears from her prospective clients. She’ll take you deeper. She helps solopreneurs and small-to-medium sized organizations develop ownership over real systemic change within their community and champion diversity and inclusion initiatives they never thought possible. Ivy specializes in identifying areas of business that hinder an organization’s potential for diversity and recommending how to establish best practices in a sustainable way.”

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