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Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to federally legalize cannabis. Among the beneficiaries? Women and minority cannabis entrepreneurs. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to federally legalize cannabis. Among the beneficiaries? Women and minority cannabis entrepreneurs. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Senator Elizabeth Warren, in her bid to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, recently unveiled her plan to create “a just and equitable cannabis industry.”

And in it, she singles out two groups she hopes to help in particular: women and minority cannabis entrepreneurs. Specifically, she says she would ensure access to banking resources for these business owners, while also investing directly in them.

The inability to use traditional banking services has long plagued cannabis entrepreneurs, including those with whom we’ve spoken. To address this, Warren vows to “protect access to the interstate banking system for those who wish to start cannabis-related businesses.” She also says she would “investigate discrimination in cannabis-related capital lending that prevents many aspiring entrepreneurs of color from securing needed loans.”

[Related: The Movement to Get More Women into U.S. Politics]

But cash matters, too, she adds. “I’m a proud supporter of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act which, in addition to decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, would use revenue collected from regulated marijuana businesses taxed under existing federal laws to establish a fund specifically to support women and minority owned small cannabis businesses,” she says. The bill was introduced last year by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York; fellow candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is also a co-sponsor.

Warren continues, “I’ll also work to mitigate the high permitting and licensing fees that prevent many aspiring entrepreneurs of color from starting a cannabis business” — another pain point cannabis business owners have mentioned to us directly.

[Related: Women Are Getting Shut Out of the $12.2 Billion Cannabis Industry. Here’s Why]

She also lays out her reasons for supporting federal legalization of cannabis, citing positive economic results in states that have already legalized it. “States have saved hundreds of millions of dollars by decreasing their rates of marijuana arrests and incarceration, and collected billions of dollars in tax, licensing and fee revenue from the marijuana industry,” Warren says.

Beyond that, it’s lucrative — the average U.S. dispensary pulls in $3 million a year — which is why many women and minority entrepreneurs want to be more involved in this growing industry. Whether or not more candidates address the obstacles as vocally as Warren remains to be seen.

[Related: Megan Rapinoe Joins Sister’s Cannabis Startup]

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