The Cannabis Industry Is Embracing Diversity But Can Do Even Better
Cannabis prohibition was created, and kept in place, because of racist motivations. In cannabis prohibition's earliest days, it was used as a public policy tool to target minorities.
Harry Anslinger, the 'father of prohibition,' used cannabis and racist fears of bi-racial relations to scare people into supporting prohibition.
One of President Richard Nixon's advisers admitted on the record that cannabis prohibition, and the entire War on Drugs, was created and perpetuated because it was an effective tool that allowed law enforcement to target minorities.
Cannabis prohibition is a clear form of institutional racism, proven by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition on minorities.
The cannabis industry needs to embrace minorities and encourage and assist members of minority communities to help them carve out their own part of the emerging cannabis industry.
As a cannabis community, we need to not just create a new industry - we need to create a new kind of industry. One that sees those most affected by prohibition being given an easy path to the financial rewards that are being created by a newly legal industry.
An inspiring push is underway to ensure that the future cannabis industry is diverse, led by some truly amazing members of the cannabis community.
One of my favorite organizations in the entire cannabis world is Supernova Women. Supernova is an organization founded in 2015 by and for Women of Color.
Supernova Women seeks to empower Women of Color to "become self sufficient shareholders in the evolving cannabis economy."
From Massachusetts to California, members of Supernova Women are showing up and speaking out in favor of diversity in the cannabis industry at public hearings.
The organization has also organized events that included educational panels featuring Women of Color from the cannabis space, such as two of my personal heroes Amber Senter and Shaleen Title, both successful industry members and longtime activists.
The City of Oakland recently approve a measure which calls for half of all new cannabis permits to be issued to people from neighborhoods hit hardest by cannabis prohibition. A vast majority of cannabis arrests in Oakland were of People of Color.
As the Supernova Women Facebook page shows, the organization showed up multiple times to speak in favor of the measure, and the impact their advocacy had is obvious.
Minority Cannabis Business Association
The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) was also founded in 2015. The organization serves 'the specific needs of minority cannabis entrepreneurs, workers, and patients/ consumers.'
MCBA made headlines recently when it released model legislation that would repair the harms of the War on Drugs via 'justice reinvestment,' often referred to as 'drug war reparations.'
The model legislation calls for expunging prior cannabis convictions, and the creation of a cannabis tax funded Office of Justice Reinvestment to 'foster a diverse, lawful cannabis economics sector to ensure that revenue is directed towards communities most impacted by the drug war.'
“People of color, especially African-American males, have been put in jail and our families torn apart by the war on drugs in a vastly disproportionate manner," said Jesce Horton, President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
"The cannabis plant can heal in so many ways and we feel the cannabis industry should be aligned with the same principles. This bill is a road map for doing so by ensuring we build a strong and sustainable industry, where diversity, inclusion and reconciliation are cornerstones.” Jesce would go on to say.
Members of MCBA don't necessarily expect the entire model legislation to be adopted by a state, but it serves as an excellent roadmap for legislators that may not know a lot about diversity and the cannabis industry, and hopefully some of the ideas in the model legislation will be incorporated in future legislation.
Two lawmakers at a local level (Boston and Hartford) have plans to introduce the model legislation in their jurisdictions.
How cannabis consumers can help promote diversity in the cannabis industry
One of the biggest hindrances to minorities entering the cannabis industry are prohibitions on prior convictions. People that have been convicted of a cannabis offense are exempt from industry licensing opportunities in many areas.
If that is the case in your area, contact your local lawmakers and let them know that no one should have to carry around the 'cannabis scarlet letter.'
A cannabis offense shouldn't stop someone from leading a normal life and chasing their dreams, and that should be especially true in the emerging cannabis industry.
Cannabis consumers can help promote diversity in the cannabis space by supporting minority-owned cannabis businesses, and becoming familiar with and sharing the model legislation released by the MCBA.
Decades from now, future generations will look back on the cannabis movement and industry. Hopefully what they see is that the cannabis community stepped up big time and created an industry that is diverse and helped people most affected by cannabis prohibition find their place in the cannabis space.
Have you ever been arrested for cannabis?