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Demonstrators in New York City seeking to end racial bias in marijuana arrests. Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

With states rapidly legalizing marijuana, concerns are growing among social justice advocates that people of color — who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs — do not have equitable access to the burgeoning cannabis industry.

The big picture: Less than a fifth of marijuana business owners identify as racial minorities, and only 4.3% are African American, according to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily.

”Axios on HBO" spoke to Kika Keith, a community organizer and applicant to L.A.’s social equity program, who has been paying rent on an empty storefront for almost a year — but is still waiting for a license to open her business.

  • “Don't give us any handouts, but give us that opportunity to compete,” she says.

Pot means a potential windfall, at least for the few: 

  • When former politician John Boehner joined the board of U.S. marijuana company Acreage Holdings, he was granted shares currently worth about $12 million. If the company gets sold as anticipated, Boehner's stake will be closer to $20 million. 
  • Boehner was "unalterably opposed" to legalization when he was a politician, a stance that had significant criminal-justice consequences.
  • He told "Axios on HBO": "I don't know that there's any harm that's been done" by any delay in legalizing marijuana.
  • The main obstacle facing people of color interested in breaking into the legal marijuana business, said Boehner, is access to capital.

The bottom line: L.A. has yet to issue a single license to a social-equity applicant who wants to open a retail dispensary. Meanwhile, the overwhelmingly white executives and venture capitalists behind North America's largest marijuana companies are already sitting on billions of dollars in stock.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
59 mins ago - Podcasts

Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck

President Biden has said that getting Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 is his administration’s top priority given an initial rollout plagued by organizational, logistical and technical glitches.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the bottlenecks and how to unclog them with Carbon Health chief executive Eren Bali, whose company recently began helping to manage vaccinations in Los Angeles.