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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

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.