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How The Cannabis Industry Can Create Space For African-Americans This Black History Month

How The Cannabis Industry Can Create Space For African-Americans This Black History Month

The cannabis world should be a colorful would. It should not be a reflection of the world we’re living in today.

In 2011, a few weeks after my 18th birthday, I had my third close encounter with death. Her chaotic darkness had my mind lost in the clouds. My first encounter with her happened on October 11th when my cousin Corey was murdered in a quadruple shooting. The second time was at his funeral, as my family began the slow procession into the church to say our final goodbyes, the grief I had been ignoring burst from my soul, while tears rained from my eyes. When I awoke from that nap a few weeks later, sweating, heart beating fast, and certain that my life was ending, every cell in my body was flooded with fear.

In 2018 on New Years Eve, I got high as hell, and I had this beautiful, spiritual experience that helped me understand why Corey’s unexpected death had caused me to lose my mind. It all made sense: everything that hurt me was meant to help me. Typical, beautiful high thoughts. I learned to ride and enjoy the waves that a good high promises. Given my history of anxiety, I faced a lot of fearful thoughts that night, yet all of the anxiety I experienced felt necessary. Because not only was I dealing with my own fears, but I was also processing generational trauma caused by 400 years of unresolved racism, sexism, and poverty.

Though there are millions of layers to the Black experience in the U.S., being able to touch and be touched by Mama Ganja is extremely significant because healing, contentment, and wealth are all luxuries that aren’t (yet) synonymous with Blackness in the 3D world. Cannabis is a tool for self-care, and Black folk need to be loved and supported more than ever right now. We come from a broken experience that needs to be assessed and healed on every level.

African-Americans are not mundane people, and cannabis isn’t a mundane plant. Our coupling would create a whole new world, which is why I think the U.S. government has made it hard for African-Americans to safely access the plant and the industry.

In an ideal world, my cousins death wouldn’t have affected me so much because he wouldn’t have been killed. Why? Because we wouldn’t have existed in a reality where trauma fueled everybody’s actions. The script would look totally different.

I know it seems totally far fetched but having more African-Americans touch and be touched by the cannabis would be the continuation of something beautiful, necessary, and deserving.

The world is on fire, and more African-Americans should light a joint and match her passion. She wants something different, and so do we.

Any African-American advocating for cannabis is bold because it is so widely misrepresented in the African-American community. If I wouldn’t have opened up to cannabis, then I would have never found healing that night. I was able to elevate my mind and see that the sun was always shining down on me even though there were so many dark clouds covering it. I was finally able to reach Cloud 9.

Through my work in the cannabis industry, I’ve been able to connect with so many African-Americans who want to make Cloud 9 accessible. Though we all have relationships with the plant for various reasons, we all believe that more African-Americans need to be in contact with cannabis because it can heal bodily and mental disease, economic devastation, and spiritual confusion.

I asked some of these same friends, who are business owners, activists, advocates, and artists, to share what they hope to see 2020 offer African-Americans in the cannabis space, and this is what they had to say:

“Cannabis advertising — specifically on Instagram — is insanely white washed and completely ignores entire demographics of cannabis consumers. In our community, we often talk about ‘beating the stigma against cannabis’ and according to any major cannabis company, the only way to do that is to feature a white women hitting her bong and doing yoga. There are rarely any Black women featured in any form of cannabis marketing. Although we are consumers, we are never represented in any way, shape, or form.”

Anonymous

“[Uplift Maryland’s] social equity resolution is to ‘Open It Up!’. Opportunity is the solution to social equity. Closed markets have created such a volatile marketplace, and an atmosphere of corruption, around a plant that gives us all so much joy. It’s important to also understand that opportunity doesn’t guarantee success. Based on statistics from open legal cannabis markets, entrepreneurs are much more likely to fail than to succeed. It is our hope that states willing to provide opportunity are also willing to provide resources, especially to minority and disadvantaged business owners. 2020 could be the year that we, as a nation, decide if we want to continue on our current path, or ensure fair and equitable opportunity for all who seek it.”

Kevin Ford Jr., Uplift Maryland

“Yes. I would love to see more unity in the African-American community within the cannabis industry in 2020. [We need] more collaboration in the market. We all come to the table with different skill-sets. We can contract with each other for specific projects while we maintain our own legal entities. Freely sharing information in reference to business resource, groups etc. It feels like each entity is a silo and I just don’t feel the connectedness. We, African -Americans, are not comfortable being open, vulnerable and communicative because we are untrusting and always ‘watching our backs’. How do we get past this? I started with myself by allowing others to see the authentic me and my intention, which is to help those in need see medical cannabis as a viable solution to help manage their chronic symptoms.”

Star Graves

“I’d love to see us more involved in the politics of cannabis. There are a lot of conversations that happen without us that we should be a part of if we’re going to participate. I’d like to see more proactive behavior from governing bodies when issuing licenses instead of reactions in the form of Social Equity programs.”

Querida Escalera

“I believe every state should take a percentage of tax revenue from marijuana sales and set it aside for minority owned businesses to get into the cannabis industry. This should be a revolving loan.”

Suen Adedeji, Elev8 Cannabis

“I look forward to seeing more symbiotic partnerships and missions amongst Black organizations. Much of our efforts are diluted by the over saturation of messaging and services. Let’s be strategic with our outreach and alliances by developing and cultivating relationships that will allow us more specific and successful penetration of common markets. It’s my hope that the industry recognizes its obligation and responsibility to communities destroyed by the war on drugs, that we begin to truly hold them accountable and demand tangible retribution and truly impactful social equity measures that address very basic and clearly identified systemic obstacles. Change isn’t going to come from conferences and sound bites so Iook forward to legislation and funding not basketball hoops and paint jobs. We need investments into communities that will keep schools open, make neighborhoods safer, and provide healthy options to food desert neighborhoods. The industry and the continuous conversation on the need for social equity are bullshit, and we must demand better. I look forward to seeing more minority ownership and tangible opportunities for African-Americans in technology and agriculture.”

Sheena Roberson, Cannabisnoire

“When asked about things that the cannabis industry could do better to serve African-Americans, there are a few things that come to mind. I think it’s important that we watch how the implementation of the Illinois Social Equity Program plays out to see if we might find some best practices that are repeatable for other states looking to repair the harm done to communities [of color]. One area of the program that I find most interesting is the establishment of the cannabis business development fund. The fund will require currently-licensed medical cannabis businesses to contribute $30 million toward low-interest loans and other technical assistance and support to social equity applicants. With access to capital being one of the primary barriers to entry, this investment can help to level the playing field for hopeful entrepreneurs.

I’d also like to see an increase in the number of African-American C-Suite executives and board members at large cannabis companies. According to the US Marijuana Index – which is comprised of companies focused on marijuana or hemp with a minimum market cap of $200 million and a daily trading volume of $2 million – there are only four with African-Americans serving on their companies’ boards, and only one company had African American leadership on their executive team. Another two companies had African-Americans listed as advisors. While the industry is still young, I think that it is important to ensure that we don’t follow the path of the largest US Corporations where this is already a huge problem.

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Let's Vape Some Flowers

There is no shortage of studies that show the positive impact that diversity and inclusion can have on an organization. 47% of companies included on the S&P 500 currently have a Chief Diversity Officer. The cannabis industry should have executives serving in this role focused on implementing strategies to attract and retain diverse talent at all levels of the organization.”

CannaBison

“In 2020, my goal is to see not only a change of perspective of how Black and Brown people are viewed within the industry but also being able to see a more inclusive world in the cannabis industry. We’re told to be the change we wish to see in the world, so creating conscious consumers through education and awareness is how I will be that change!”

Deon Hawkins, Cannaclusive

“I’d like to see more African-Americans take ownership of their own perspective and identity. The most timeless ideas come from untapped vibrations, so you’d have to do the impossible to capture and transfer someone else’s.

WEED need THEM

“In a lot of ways, the cannabis industry, just like this country, has been built on the backs of minorities. I think the lack of participation by people of color in the cannabis business comes from the fear of it. The current racial wealth gap is the consequence of many decades of racial inequality that imposed barriers to wealth accumulation either through explicit prohibition during slavery or unequal treatment after emancipation based on American history.”

Evan J Hilton, MonCheríMeds

“I hope to see more and more faces of color raising their voices in solidarity to require, and even demand when need be a fair and just distribution of sustainable cannabis resources in their communities. “

La Kia Gooch, Twice Baked Podcast

“I would want companies to take it serious. Social equity is more than a conversation, it’s an action. It’s something that can’t be completed in with one hiring or with one event. I would hope companies in cannabis would look it social equity as a way to sustain a brand for a longtime, versus just trying to check a box off.” – Mehka King

Mehka King, Cash Color Cannabis

”’When the playing field is level opportunity is fair,’ Meaning qualify people by their skill and determination not by their color or gender.

Chef Jazmine Moore, Green Panther Chef

“Working in the Cannabis industry got me a plane ticket to visit my father oversees. He was deported due to the war on drugs and my single mother of three just didn’t have the funds. Smart hard working people. Just didn’t have the funds. And so, the Emerald Triangle is where many of us, made our money without fear of getting arrested like folks on the East coast and in the urban cities where cannabis is a gateway drug to prison. God forbid I get sick and need to depend on medicine. The medical industry doesn’t believe in alternative options. Just look at the many natural doctors who’ve been killed due to their findings. Many of us depend on natural health solutions due to this institutional terrorism. Thankfully we have those like Dr. Sebi, Dr. Cayenne, Ayurvedics, Indigenous and other cultivated teachings for plant medicine. Bet you didn’t know the LAZY stereotype had to do with the termination of FREE labor. In 2019, we see perspectives are valuable and stereotypes have profitable motives…And over the past how many years, we’ve managed to get from 0$ an hour to $7.25 an hour. What a victory folks. Let’s make these Cannabis jobs better than the ones now and before. Maybe Cannabis employees can get benefits and a living wage. Ever heard of the #Emeraldtriangle The past is our window to the future. Change the Perception.”

Black Dragon Breakfast Club

“We need more diversity in the cannabis community, especially when it comes to women. We need more color and more flavors like the strains we enjoy to dabble in. The cannabis world should be a colorful would. It should not be a reflection of the world we’re living in today.”

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