The Marijuana Industry Alienates Black People and Benefits White Folks
White people are capitalizing off of a plant that led to thousands of Black people getting incarcerated and essentially shutting us out of the legal cannabis market.
In 1992, Tupac famously said “instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” The effects of the War on Drugs are still active and visible 25 years after the rapper called attention to this already decades old problem. Black people are nearly four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite marijuana usage being the same between the two groups. In 2015, African-Americans made up 30 percent of the population of Oakland,California but 77 percent of cannabis arrests, compared to 4 percent for whites.
Like many of the public policies in the U.S., the policies around the prohibition of marijuana was racialized and relied on racist propaganda instead of factual, scientific research. Before Richard Nixon, the man known for inciting the War on Drugs, there was Harry J. Anslinger, the director of the Bureau of Narcotics (known today at the Drug Enforcement Agency). Anslinger’s message to America was clear — weed is evil and it makes Blacks and Latinos “forget their place in society.” Anslinger was even quoted saying “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” Like many white men throughout history, Anslinger used the hypothetical sexual assault of white women to convince the country that marijuana was a dangerous drug.
Today, those same white women are benefitting heartily from the legal cannabis market. This week, Fast Company profiled Karson Humiston, a 24-year-old white woman who created a job-listing website for cannabis-related jobs. Black and Brown people have experience growing and distributing marijuana in the underground market. We have also suffered the most from unfair laws and enforcement, but we remain overlooked for the same jobs that appear on Humiston’s website.
Of the 3,200 to 3,600 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S., fewer than three dozen are Black-owned. That’s about 1 percent. White people are capitalizing off of a plant that led to hundreds of thousands of Black people getting incarcerated and essentially shutting us out of the legal cannabis market. If you are a marijuana user, support Black owned dispensaries. Your support can help Black entrepreneurs enter the industry and increase the share of Black owners to a rate that is proportional to Black users. As Pac said, “we gotta start makin’ changes.” Check out these Black-owned businesses that are making their mark on the cannabis industry.
The Hood Incubator’s mission is to increase the participation of Black and Brown communities in the legal cannabis industry as investors, owners, workers, patients, and consumers. The transition from the underground cannabis market to the legal market can be fraught. The Hood Incubator facilitates this transition by translating and augmenting their members existing capabilities. Lanese Martin, Ebele Ifedigbo, and Biseat Horning — the co-founders of The Hood Incubator — accomplish their mission through community organizing, policy and advocacy, and economic empowerment.
Members of The Hood Incubator have access to monthly programming including community skill shares and legal workshops. Folks interested in the transition from informal to formal cannabis operations can take part in the Pre-Seed Accelerator, a 4-month program that provides training and mentorship with Oakland’s cannabis legal and business community. Black and Brown people have been on the forefront of the underground cannabis market, The Hood Incubator can help budding entrepreneurs create legal businesses.
District Growers, a licensed medical cannabis cultivation center in Washington D.C., focuses on providing the best quality product. Corey Barnette, the owner of District Growers, uses a variety of methods to grow marijuana, including aeroponics and fogponics. District Growers’ product is only for medicinal purposes; therefore, only registered patients can purchase the product from select facilities. District Growers believes transparency leads to better quality, and they want their patients to know the process behind their flowers, concentrates, edibles, and pre-rolls.
Established in 2010, Simply Pure is a edible and cooking cannabis company, a medical dispensary, and recreational dispensary. Simply Pure’s owner, Wanda James, was the first Black dispensary owner in Colorado. James is a self-described pothead, and she became interested in cannabis advocacy through her knowledge of the devastating effects of mass incarceration. James created her business to be a healthy alternative to the edibles that were currently on the market. She manages a staff of professional certified chefs who create gourmet sauces and confections. All of Simply Pure products are 100% organic, vegan, and gluten free. Get high and healthy with these products.
Do you know of any Black-owned marijuana-related businesses we didn’t list? Please tell us about their work and link to their website in the comments!
Image via Hood Incubator
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