Cannabis markets in the US are progressing rapidly. States that are yet to legalize cannabis are making active efforts to penetrate the market, while those with cannabis programs in place are developing ways to ease restrictions for users.
Advocates of cannabis progression are also working hard for decriminalization, so at least the previous cannabis offenders behind bars for possessing amounts of cannabis that are no longer illegal can be excused. Similar efforts have been seen recently where previous cannabis offenders are being encouraged to work in the legal market to get their lives back on track.
This article will aim to shed light on one of such programs that strives to provide cannabis offenders with a place in the legal job market.
The Current State of Cannabis Criminal Justice
Before we get into the program for employing ex-cannabis offenders, it is important to understand the repercussions of becoming a cannabis offender. Users have to go through constant extensions of court dates while they continue to spend time behind bars. For some, the hearing dates may take more than a few months.
Moreover, offenders have to potentially face extensive fines. The worst part is, in most cases, offenses are registered for life, which makes it extremely difficult to pass background checks for jobs searches, let alone traveling, as organizations are wary of hiring ex-cannabis crime offenders.
However, it only takes one step in the right direction to embrace change, and that step has recently been taken by URC Grows – An Ohio-based non-profit. The NGO partnered with Riviera Creek Holding (an entity behind multiple medical cannabis dispensaries).
Both companies aim to launch programs that enable previous cannabis offenders to find respectable jobs in the legal cannabis market.
The Initiative to Employ Cannabis Offenders
URC Grows has been working hard to provide everyone an equal chance to continue their career-driven lives without focusing on the mistakes they’ve made in the past. In addition, the NGO is also enabling such people to grow their skillset by offering them certifications approved by the Ohio Department of Education.
The certification is being provided to users in three different domains in addition to entrepreneurial development services, which enables them to get their lives back on track. In addition, previous cannabis offenders who are looking forward to becoming an entrepreneur in this industry are also provided land for cultivation by URC Grows.
In short, NGOs like the URC Grows provide opportunities for ex-cannabis offenders to start and build their lives from the ground up through an array of programs.
The Need for Reform
There are several reasons why programs like these are essential for cannabis offenders and the local community in general. One of the primary concerns is the federal status of cannabis legalization. Since cannabis is still listed in the list of Schedule 1 drugs, users adhering to state laws are always concerned about federal imprisonment, despite following the state laws for legalized cannabis.
Countless arrests have been made in the past couple of years where the offenders were not violating state laws but were still put behind bars due to undue federal raids. Furthermore, several offenders who are no longer criminals, as per the change in state laws, have found themselves rotting behind bars due to delayed hearings. Even if ex-offenders are released, they may find it difficult to secure jobs and get life back on track due to criminal records.
To be precise, as per the statistics released by the US Department of Justice, approximately 60% of the prisoners who find their (legal) way out of prison are left unemployed, even after a year of their release. This was, and still is, a concerning factor for local communities and the progress of state and federal government in general because a significant amount of people who are willing to work hard are denied the opportunity to do so.
For such people, programs like the ones initiated by URC Grows are nothing less than a blessing and a sheer opportunity to work and become a constructive part of the local community. The Chairman of Riviera Creek Holdings LLC – Brian Kessler – commented on this program stating that it will “provide ex-prisoners a chance to acquire gainful employment.”
The Program is Open to All
Anyone with a minor blemish to a major cannabis offense can become part of this program in pursuit of engaging in lawful employment. The idea behind employing all ex cannabis-offenders is to benefit from their potentially significant understanding of cannabis. The growing cannabis industry can benefit from people who understand the cultivation and sales of cannabis and are willing to give it a (lawful) shot.
The Wretched Reality
In an interview, the Executive Director of URC Grows – Dionne Dowdy, stated that “it’s just sad to see how so many people are behind bars for crimes that are no longer illegal. Others are making money producing and possessing the same amounts for which many are suffering behind bars. There may be people among them who truly seek a second chance to make things right, and such people deserve a second chance!”
More Programs in the Near Future
Advocates of cannabis are hopeful that once the federal cannabis legalization takes place (which may be anytime soon due to the MORE Act 2021), more of such programs could and will be initiated for the benefit of ex cannabis offenders.
The program by URC Grows has not gained traction as yet, but officials are determined that once people learn about this opportunity, they would love to grab it in pursuit of changing their lives. Once the program gains pace, it would benefit the ex-pot-offenders and prove to be an excellent move for the growth of the community and the city of Ohio on the whole.
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