How States Can Bring African-Americans Into the Marijuana Industry

Stew Members, Moderators, Writer Posts: 52,234 Regulator
edited April 2017 in The Social Lounge
Legal marijuana has become big business. Thanks to recent ballot initiatives, 28 states and the District of Columbia now permit medical marijuana use, and eight of those have passed measures legalizing it recreationally – a number that is expected to grow in the near future. As a result, we are witnessing the explosive growth of an industry projected to surpass $40 billion by 2020.


California Passes Recreational Marijuana Bill Prop 64
But not everyone is benefitting from the marijuana boom. As more and more people race to cash in, it's becoming apparent that African-Americans in particular are being left behind. According a BuzzFeed report last March, just one percent of America's 3,200 to 3,600 marijuana dispensaries are black-owned. Although there are number of barriers to entry, one of the most concerning is that people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes are often disqualified from participation in the marijuana industry altogether – something that states like California have begun to address with their marijuana reform initiatives.

More states need to follow suit. Given the history of marijuana prohibition in the United States – a history rooted in the deliberate demonization and criminalization of black and Hispanic men – it's clear that barring access to people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes ends up reproducing many of the same racial inequalities that have characterized marijuana laws for decades.

Rewind to 1937, when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, effectively banning marijuana at the federal level. At the time, one of the most vociferous anti-marijuana crusaders was Harry Anslinger, head of the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics (an early predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Agency).

To garner public support, Anslinger blatantly exaggerated the dangers of marijuana use – to include murder, suicide and "deeds of maniacal insanity" – and linked them to "degenerate races," particularly black and Hispanic men. Among his more colorful claims was that "? makes darkies think they're as good as white men" and that it causes "white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."

Anslinger's strategy of tapping into racial anxieties anticipated a war on marijuana that would continue in the decades to come. For example, in the early 1970s, President Nixon, the founding father of America's contemporary drug war, took a hardline stance on marijuana, ignoring mounting evidence for its medical applications and its low potential for abuse.

Nixon's position was less about public health than it was about settling political scores. As Nixon aid John Ehrlichman put it, criminalizing drugs like marijuana allowed the administration to go after the groups Nixon detested the most: antiwar activists and black people. "We could disrupt those communities," Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum. "We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news."

Under Nixon, marijuana arrests skyrocketed, part of a broader drug war that has resulted in staggering numbers of incarcerated Americans, most of them people of color. For arrests involving marijuana – roughly half of all drug arrests in the U.S. – the racial disparities today are stark. According to a 2013 report by the ACLU, black Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though marijuana use among white and black people is essentially equal.

The current movement to legalize marijuana offers a small but important opportunity to dismantle these inequalities. And yet the people most likely to be victims of marijuana prohibition are the least likely to profit in its aftermath.

This is often due to state regulations that prohibit convicted felons, including those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, from operating, or even working in, a dispensary. In Washington state, for example, where recreational use of marijuana is legal, anyone convicted of a felony in the past decade is generally ineligible for a license to operate a dispensary (although there is a process by which people convicted of a marijuana offense can petition for licensure). Colorado, which also legalized recreational marijuana use, has similar rules, and people who have only marijuana-related convictions may be eligible for a license, if what they were convicted of wouldn't be illegal today.

Other states, such as Massachusetts and Maine, are more explicitly forgiving when it comes to marijuana-related offenses. The recently-approved Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, for example, is written to "promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." One way the initiative seeks to accomplish this is by ensuring that people convicted solely of a marijuana-related offense (unless it involved distribution to a minor) remain eligible for employment and licensure in the state's legal marijuana industry.

But no state goes as far as California. Under Proposition 64, which voters passed last month, many people with marijuana-related convictions are eligible to have their records wiped clean, and those convicted of most nonviolent drug crimes are still eligible to operate marijuana dispensaries.

This is the right approach, one that acknowledges the full scope of the damage caused by our discriminatory drug policies. Indeed, thanks in large part to these policies, more than 25 percent of non-incarcerated black men now have a felony conviction on their record, a stigma that helps push unemployment among African-American men to levels twice as high as their white counterparts.

As marijuana reform begins to de-escalate the drug war, creating new opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in the process, it is imperative that the people most in need of a second chance actually get one. The price they have already paid for our failed drug policy is steep enough.

Michael Render (a.k.a. Killer Mike) is a Grammy-winning rapper and activist from Atlanta, Georgia


  • twizza 77
    twizza 77 Members Posts: 4,201 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2017
    The feds can still shut you down. Black smoke shops would get raided a lot.
  • northside7
    northside7 Members Posts: 25,739 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2017
    HafBayked wrote: »
    This whole transformation is frustrating to say the least....I'm happy for the future of legal recreational use, but watching this billion dollar business emerge is like a slap in the face....people who already made fortunes and didnt give a ? about weed will be the primary owners of your biggest farms, dispenaries, etc

    Meanwhile the people who have essentially kept this thriving business alive all these years all while risking everything will be boxed out

    Last standing former Cannabis Culture dispensary set to close doors

    The so-called “prince and princess of ? ” Marc and Jodie Emery confirmed that the last of the former Cannabis Culture dispensaries will close its doors this weekend.

    Jodie Emery told CP24 that the last standing shop located at 461 Church Street will shut down after being a frequent target of police raids.

    There used to be a total of seven Cannabis Culture locations throughout Toronto. The dispensaries were selling marijuana without a medical prescription, which is against the law, at least until recreational marijuana is legalized by the government, a move expected to happen in 2018.

    Emery said that after police launched an investigation dubbed ‘Project Gator’ back in March it has been harder for the remaining shops to stay open. After the raids, the shops removed their Cannabis Culture branding. The location on Church Street, which was formerly owned by Marc Emery, was taken over by one of the employees and was renamed The Village Dispensary.

    But, despite the name change, Emery said the shop continued to receive a lot of pressure from police and their landlord.

    “(After) the landlord getting calls from the police it looks like the lease is being terminated and they are shutting their doors,” she said.

    Emery says government is ‘getting their way’

    Emery said that the recent raids come with the federal Liberals wanting to keep the recreational marijuana market clear for licensed producers who are already legally selling medical marijuana.

    “It’s wrong for (the government) to exclude us,” she said. “We don’t want everyone else out. I believe in a free market, we should let everybody participate.”

    Emery said that her and her husband will not have a role in the sale of marijuana if the government legalizes it as “the pioneers” will be pushed out by licensed producers.

    “If anyone should be allowed to sell cannabis legally it should be those who actually fought to make it legal in the first place,” she said.

    It's happening already. And it's only the locations in Toronto that got shutdown. smdh.

    The little guy will get in. Somehow, someway, it will happen eventually.
  • mryounggun
    mryounggun Members Posts: 13,451 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Me and my ? got into the medical marijuana business and last year and still haven't decided whether or not we wanna play up the 'black owned' aspect of our ? . For our patients, there doesn't seem to be much benefit at all. seems much more likely in our city that the ? would be a hinderance.
  • Fosheezy
    Fosheezy Members Posts: 3,204 ✭✭✭✭✭
    You can be as legal as you wanna be till Feds decide to come wrecking shop.

    And Don't worry if recreational goes legal nation wide and brothers having trouble getting a piece of the industry supporting ya local dealer looks like a win / win
  • mc317
    mc317 Members Posts: 5,548 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No Jews and No Blacks-Peter Griffin
  • anduin
    anduin Members Posts: 1,080 ✭✭✭✭✭
    even in Canada, if you want to grow your own for medical you can't have had any marijuana conviction in the 10 years prior, even simply possessing it will negate you. Same with the industry, its meant to keep out the black market producers who outproduce these big bank/wall street invested yokels. ? , even a guy I was talking to who owned a dispensary in my city was raided by police and he said ? it to the whole venture.
  • The Lonious Monk
    The Lonious Monk Members Posts: 26,258 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2017
    So ILL wrote: »
    Whoever made the rule that disqualifies you from starting a weed business because you got locked up for a non-violent drug "crime" needs to get pushed into a volcano head first. But they knew what they were doing since ? are often the first ones to get locked up for it.

    Yeah, that wasn't an accident. They were basically trying to keep the people with established ties to the business out, so the people they want can corner the market.

    It's the same reason they've gone the dispensary route for sales. They know the average street dealer probably doesn't have the resources or know-how to open up a dispensary.
  • deadeye
    deadeye Members Posts: 22,884 ✭✭✭✭✭
    HafBayked wrote: »

    watching this billion dollar business emerge is like a slap in the face....people who already made fortunes and didnt give a ? about weed will be the primary owners of your biggest farms, dispenaries, etc

    Meanwhile the people who have essentially kept this thriving business alive all these years all while risking everything will be boxed out

    I know this doesn't make sense on the surface, but this is the main reason why people shouldn't be so supportive of legalized marijuana.

    Decriminalization would be better, but AG Sessions already said he's not having it.

    So yeah, like somebody said people trying to get in the game would probably be hit the hardest by this.
  • deadeye
    deadeye Members Posts: 22,884 ✭✭✭✭✭
    ghostdog56 wrote: »
    Lol at ? thinking the government will let us get paid off some ? they criminalized just to put us in jail in the first place

  • rickmogul
    rickmogul Members Posts: 1,961 ✭✭✭✭✭
    We can't let this pass us by man. It's enough of us and we got the $ collectively. They can and will play hard ball but they always do. They already held up/ robbed a dispensary out here in Vegas that ain't been open but a minute. We need a mole. Get a job there ( Super easy) learn the ropes inside and out, establish some connections and put a plan 2gthr. It's a lot of ? work with a small window 2 get it done. Peep The Jungle Boys on B Reals Smoke Box. They echoed allot of the sentiments spoken here. Birthday Cake is their Hybrid Strain. They dropped mad jewels.