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It’s been known, it’s been history, racial disparity has been part of every textbook worldwide. And yet, we’re never introduced to the war on drugs as a crucial movement that impacted the racially disadvantaged.
The war on drugs waged back in 1971 had a deteriorating impact on the racial relations of the country. The movement that was initiated for the purpose of bringing down the number of drug crimes in the state, ended up being the leading cause of a long war of racial disparity.
From Bernard Noble, sentenced to 13 years in prison for possession of two marijuana cigarettes, to Allen Russel, sentenced to life for possession of 30 grams of marijuana (along with 2 previous convictions), the list of unjustifiably long sentences over marijuana possession is never ending.
Higher arrests and incarceration rates created a divide in the society that we are still trying to overcome. That isn’t to say that we’re still dealing with the same racial conditions as when the laws were initially created, but the tide is too wide and we’re still dealing with the after effects.
The war is still on today, with members of minority and marginalized races being targeted, especially the blacks, for drug crimes more often than other races.
However, it’s still safe to say that with the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, as well as the decriminalization in multiple states, the number of POCs entering the marijuana market and vocalizing their opinions, the number of arrests and incarcerations of people of color has marginally gone down.
However, even though the face of the society has changed, the traumas of the past aren’t forgotten. What led to the imprisonment of some, is also what led some towards great success. While men of color were being punished for the possession and consumption of weed, there were new cannabis ventures being established that have made some white entrepreneurs extremely rich.
Marijuana was one of the major drugs that the propaganda was supposed to oppose. So what makes us think that the cannabis industry might help reduce racial disparity today? What changes have we witnessed as a society?
The road towards social equality is a long one and a hard one to achieve, but social equity is a place to start. Setting up fair and just scenarios for entrepreneurs to establish and perform cannabis trade despite their color is the first step.
These social equity programs have been established in recent years to support minorities and POC to take a stand in the marijuana industry, especially those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. The idea is simply to even out the platform as much as possible. While the starting point is different for those negatively impacted by cannabis and those who made the best of the cannabis boom, current programs are trying to reduce these discrepancies as much as possible.
These equity programs aren’t the solution to decades of discrimination as they too have their limitations. With high tax rates, varying regulations across cities, a long and confusing application process and the start-up costs required, all limit the scope of these programs.
This is why the black market for marijuana is still thriving. Not everybody can afford to become part of the legal market that requires a lot of commitment. This puts other legal minority owned businesses at a disadvantage as well because only a few are able to thrive.
This makes us hope-hope for programs that not only provide discounted licenses to minorities but also support them through incentives, rent start up costs, assistance with their revenue and more.
We all care about what our favorite celebrities are up to. These public figures are always in the eyes of the public, being scrutinized, appreciated and followed. So when we tell you that cannabis companies are being set up by some of your favorite POC artists it is enough to get the conversation going.
Snoop Dogg, Jay – Z, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Harrington, Jaleel White and a bunch of other African American celebrities are names that go well with marijuana today. These celebrities have well established and well functioning cannabis companies, cashing in on the industry.
These legends have garnered a place for themselves in the cannabis industry today, celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z have played their part by making donations to black owned marijuana businesses as well. The black rapper has dedicated $10 million to invest in minority owned cannabis businesses
While these celebs have used their name and fame to gather loyal consumers for their brands, there is a long list of black owned marijuana businesses that have been built from scratch and are in need of investments.
Small new black entrepreneurs are still finding it hard to establish their own lines, a majority of them finding themselves low on investments. They missed the marijuana boom and we’re not the only ones who think that.
At the present scale, the platform isn’t even. Some have more to invest, others are starting from scratch. Racial disparity is still right here, very visible, very obvious. But the legalization to possess and consume marijuana also comes with the ability to conduct marijuana businesses in some of the states. Members of minority races have realized this and are all up for grabs.
Brands like Simply Pure, run by military veterans especially dedicated to fighting for the rights of the Black; or a company like Supernova Women, that is run by a group of Black and POC women, has turned into a beacon of hope. These brands, like many others, that are run by POC have made easy access to cannabis a reality.
Some other well known brands like Mary and Maine, Deuces 22, and 99th Floor etc., have also taken over the cannabis market today.
Though marginally lesser in number and smaller in size, the entry of black men and women along with other people of color in the cannabis industry is turning the picture around.
The war on drugs hasn’t been fair in it’s impact, and neither has the law enforcement been. The trouble welled up on people of color for too long and only recently, after the changes in cannabis legalization, have loosened the noose. Blacks and Hispanics can now enter the cannabis game a little stronger, as a community rather than a company. With multiple black owned brands giving back to their community, celebrities setting up their own companies and supporting that of other POCs, we might be getting closer to our goal of breaking through the racial disparity.
One has to remember that there is a long and extensive history of social and racial disparities that are hard to eradicate. The discriminations still live in your history books and memories, that cannot be undone. Even with current legislative measures, equity programs, and more POC representation in the industry, we still have a long way to go.