It’s worth noting for Black History Month, particularly for those that need it, that it should be considered a true privilege to daydream, work, or shop within a legal industry where, even today, draconian and racially-anchored War on Drugs policy continues to negatively affect black people in exponential numbers compared to white people despite similar usage data.
But that’s always the first thing brands point out, and for good reason. Until there’s a greater degree of industry equality, as well as the release and expungement of the over 400,000 cannabis prisoners in the US as per the Last Prisoner Project (which Canna Provisions is a Roll It Up For Justice participating dispensary as well as donation avenue), that topic will always be front and center.
But what else can one do as a general consumer or worker in the industry?
SUPPORT & LEARN ABOUT BLACK CANNABIS LEADERS LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY, AND EDUCATE OTHERS
The easiest thing you can do is look for black-owned products being carried on shelves, or in the case of Canna Provisions, suggest ones we don’t already carry for consideration. Doesn’t just have to be cannabis flower itself, there loads of ancillary businesses and startups and products being born every day, and networking is part of the cannabis game. Or if you know an cannabis entrepreneur that would qualify but isn’t aware of the Social Equity program in the state, tell them about it. If they need a briefing, turn to groups like the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and their Massachusetts Equity State Brief. When we carry a product or partner with a black-owned business you come to like, learn more about them while you enjoy their products.
Here’s an example: Have you heard how cannabis literally saved the marriage of cannabis entrepreneur power couple Leah and Sieh Samura, who are behind Purient Bedroom Cannabis lubricant that’s a favorite at our Lee and Holyoke stores? Check it out here. But also, Leah is now turning a former police station into a women-led Yamba – a term for weed use in West Africa – into a cannabis shop and educational center in Greater Boston. It’s inspirational, and you can check out the WCVB clip here.
You can also learn about who to know about within the minority of the minority – black women leaders – in the industry at large across the country. Take this piece from our good pals at Honeysuckle Magazine who have covered us in the past, and produced this great “Black Leaders In Cannabis” series, which includes Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare & CEO and Chairwoman of the Board of Women Grow.
From Honeysuckle: Dr. Chandra Macias is among the very few Black women who are Multi-State Operators! In addition to being chief executive of Ilera Holistic, she’s the CEO and chairwoman of Women Grow, the for-profit networking group, and the CEO of National Holistic Healing Center, a medical dispensary in Washington, D.C.
While earning her Ph.D. in Cellular Biology at Howard University, she initially expressed her wish to study the effects of cannabis on health. A professor dismissed her request, stating that cannabis was an area far too risky for a Black scientist to enter. She would go on to become the Director of STEM Education at Howard’s College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences. Eventually, she came back to her interest in cannabis.
In 2015, she founded the National Holistic Healing Center (NHHC) in Washington, D.C. It was the second medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S. that a Black woman owned. Through NHHC, Dr. Chanda promotes education on ailment strain alignment, which pairs particular strains of cannabis to treat specific pain points.
During the Women in Cannabis session at MJBiz 2021, she said: “We have to have those constant affirmations saying that you belong here, and the truth is that we all belong here…When it comes down to it, the real challenge is to encourage everyone and invite you all into an industry that most of us have built based upon our healthcare to our families, to our parents, and the things that we need in our communities… I struggled, but damned if I’m not an MSO today.”
KEEP YOUR EYE ON SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND GET INVOLVED
However it’s hard not to focus on the social and racial injustice that still permeates across the country as it relates to cannabis. States like Massachusetts and others which have passed decriminalization or full legalization state laws tend to see a trend for fewer arrests for cannabis overall, but that data doesn’t take into account the granular numbers which reveal a more depressing reality.
According to an 2020 Report from the ACLU, found that black people in the Bay State were 4x more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. For the same plant, and doing the same thing with it.
Why is simple possession worth being the metric to make comparative analysis? Because in 2018 alone, there were roughly 693,000 cannabis arrests in the country. 90% of them were for possession. And yes, in states where it’s legal. Guess who gets targeted?
Moreover, they found that where you are in Massachusetts can demonstrate just how wide the racial gap truly is even in a state with legal cannabis. Berkshire County arrested black people at 13x the rate as white people, and Franklin County in the Pioneer Valley arrested black people at 116.5x the rate as white people.
The ACLU research report is worth a read: A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, which details marijuana arrests from 2010 to 2018 and examines racial disparities at the national, state, and county levels. It was an update their previous report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White, looking at arrests from 2000 to 2010. They also state that more than six million arrests occurred between 2010 and 2018, confirming the sad reality that black people are still more likely to be arrested for weed than white people regardless of the legalization laws at the state level.
From the report: States must legalize marijuana, and do so as a matter of racial justice. This means not only legalizing marijuana with the specific goal of undoing some of the harms of decades of racist criminal legal policies, but pursuing broader reforms in the criminal legal system to ensure that the harms of the war on marijuana do not simply re-materialize in other ways after legalization. We must take on the war on marijuana as a whole. When states legalize, they must center legalization in racial justice by seeking to repair past harms wrought on communities of color by marijuana prohibition and ensure that people of color have opportunity and access to the burgeoning marijuana marketplace. Upon legalization, states should offer expungement and re-sentencing for past convictions, so that hundreds of thousands of people — disproportionately Black and Brown — do not remain marginalized for prior offenses. It’s also important that states not continue to use marijuana laws to over-police youth and instead decriminalize or de-penalize youth marijuana offenses to prevent funneling more young people into the criminal justice system. States also must not replace marijuana prohibition with a system of civil fines and fees.
Educate yourself. Read how respected cannabis justice non-profits like the Marijuana Policy Project are celebrating Black History Month, and read their spotlight on national black cannabis advocates to know continuing to fight for racial justice and cannabis freedom. Or check out this great simple six-minute breakdown on the racist origins of cannabis prohibition from Business Insider:
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About Canna Provisions
Canna Provisions is a recreational cannabis dispensary in the Berkshires as well as a recreational cannabis dispensary in the Pioneer Valley focusing on a unique and thoughtful customer experience. We are here to guide you and towards the right provisions to fit your lifestyle, and provide knowledgeable support every step of the way. Founded by established industry pioneers with extensive cultivation, regulation and consumer sales experience, Canna Provisions stores provide a broad range of top-grade craft cannabis products that are locally sourced and thoughtfully produced. Life is a journey. No matter the path, trust Canna Provisions to better your journey. To learn more, visit CannaProvisionsGroup.com. Join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Please Consume Responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. For use only by adults 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children.
This product has not been analyzed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is limited information on the side effects of using this product, and there may be associated health risks. Marijuana used during pregnancy and breast-feeding may pose potential harms. It is against the law to drive or operate machinery when under the influence of this product. KEEP THIS PRODUCT AWAY FROM CHILDREN. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgement. The effects of Edibles may be delayed by two hours or more. In case of accidental ingestion, contact poison control hotline 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1. This product may be illegal outside of MA.