Saying they have years, and, in some cases, decades of experience selling marijuana, a group of Black citizens say they cannot wait on delayed government bureaucracy to establish policy for them to land jobs in the lucrative new legalized cannabis industry. They need and want jobs now.
The men and women, some ex-felons, have turned to Tio “Mr. Ceasefire” Hardiman, executive director of Violence Interrupters, to assist them in their quest to secure permits, just like food vendors, to distribute and sell marijuana legally in their neighborhoods. For those who have felonies from illegal drug sales, they are requesting that Governor J.B. Pritzker clear the road for amnesty as soon as possible.
Hardiman and those seeking permits and amnesty held a rally and press conference outside The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave., on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. calling on Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to assist them in getting permits.
“Everyone is promising to direct profits from the sale of marijuana into the communities that have been most impacted by the sale of illegal drugs,” Hardiman said.
“Well, these unemployed men and women are saying they can’t wait until that happens. And to be frank, they don’t believe it will happen. History shows those promises are never kept. The licensed cannabis businesses are already making millions of dollars from sales since January 1, and those citizens with the most experience in the industry are still in the streets unemployed.”
Mr. Ceasefire added, “Those in line to make the profits and get the jobs are not the residents from the struggling neighborhoods. If California, Colorado and Washington, D.C. are examples of what can happen, Black and brown people in those communities will not get the jobs and surely will not make the profits.
“Recent reports show the percentage of Black men unemployed in Chicago is 45 percent. We need our governor and mayor to support this appeal to make sure this does not happen to the unemployed men and women in Chicago. This is one real solution to interrupt the violence.”
Some of the men and women planning to participate in the press conference say they commend the aldermen who have been advocating for people of color to reap benefits from the legalized cannabis industry. They also support any efforts by cannabis companies like Herbal Life to hire Blacks and other people of color.
The rally and press event, they say, is to echo those sentiments, but also place the urgency on the need to help the neediest. Bureaucracy, they say, has a way of coming too little too late. The permits and amnesty are needed now.
“Now that selling weed is legal, we need permits so we can continue to build and grow our businesses just like other legitimate businesses in Chicago,” said Don Aklin of Englewood. “We need licenses for peddlers. The city provides licenses for those in the food service business to sell meals from their trucks and on the streets. The city does not require street vendors to work in restaurants when they make a living from their trucks in the community. We want the same protections, and we need this help now.”
Hardiman said the permits will reduce unemployment and violence in the community, because it will remove some of the tension that is created in the illegal drug market.
“This can be a win-win for everyone,” Hardiman said.