As legal cannabis takes shape across the United States we are seeing positive outcomes in legal states. The cannabis industry is projected to reach over $30 billion by 2023 and has also sustained over 250000 much-needed jobs during these pandemic times.
One thing that has been fairly slow off the mark is people of color entering the growing cannabis market. In this article, we will discuss the past, present and future of this predicament we are seeing unfold in the industry that is often compared to the Californian Gold Rush of 1848.
The True Color of Cannabis History
To understand where we are today and where we are heading we also need to understand the past. A very dark past in the history of the world and that was a racial bias that was very much prevalent for the past few centuries.
Let’s be honest black, brown and yellow people have not exactly been included on the same playing field as whites in almost every industry across the spectrum.
It goes back to the days of slavery where African Americans played a major role in the development of the agricultural industry during the 19th century. This was largely due to the widespread practice of slavery, especially so in the hemp and cotton industries.
“Hemp… is abundantly productive and will grow for ever on the same spot, but the breaking and beating it, which has always been done by hand, is so slow, so laborious, and so much complained of by our laborers.”–Thomas Jefferson, 1815
Legislation has never been in favor of the African American farmer and this was even during the good years where black and white farmers would rub shoulders as neighbors, and landowners.
We can all agree that for most of history, black farmers have been discriminated against. If you don’t believe that fact, just ask the United States Department of Agriculture who settled with 18000 black farmers for undue discrimination by paying $1.2 billion in 1999.
This class-action suit was over allegations of widespread discrimination by federal officials over loans and assistance to black farmers, just because of their race.
The War on Drugs which was formulated by the Nixon Administration during the 1970s was in essence a war on humanity, black humanity. The 50 years of the war has seen more black families incarcerated than any other period of history and for what, a plant.
A plant that a few are now making millions on, still while many people of color are still incarcerated for, or patching the wounds of families that have been ripped apart because of this failed war.
Although decriminalization of cannabis for non-medical use has already happened in 16 states and legalized in 11 other states as of April 2020. One still has to realize that African Americans are arrested at an alarming rate of more than four times in comparison to their white counterparts.
Yet both ethnicities consume marijuana at a very similar rate. Decriminalization is a step in the right direction, but the damage has already been done, it has been enforced for decades, if not centuries.
“It is black and Latino moms that are getting their kids taken away while white moms are on the cover of GQ magazine talking about how marijuana helps their parenting.” – Kassandra Frederique
A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that in every single state Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession and in some states up to 10 times more likely to be arrested.
The data also suggests that in over 30 States, racial disparities and arrests were great in 2018 than in earlier years such as 2010.
Further to the above, The Cannabis Industry Association reports that already wealthy white males have amassed fortunes in the growing cannabis industry. According to a 2017 Marijuana Business Daily survey, roughly 74% of cannabis businesses in the USA are owned by males, and 81% of the ownership is by white males.
After most states designated cannabis as an essential service during the COVID-19 lockdown, over $2.6 billion of private equity and pension funds were ploughed into corporate cannabis. Multi-state cannabis businesses posted record sales during this period.
These historical and economic barriers entrench the lack of black representation in the industry. So what is the solution?
The Future and Social Equity
People are adapting fast during these pandemic times and navigating new ways of doing business online and off. Entrepreneurship is a key driving force in this new uncharted world and this is what will make the difference for many people, especially black people.
Not only entrepreneurship but also policies and legislation needs to be introduced to change the racial problems of the past and present.
“Social Equity is the active commitment to fairness, justice, and equality in the formulation of public policy, distribution of public services, implementation of public policy, and management.”
For instance, take Hazey Taughtme, better known as Haze. Haze is an American black entrepreneur who originates from New York. He is a well-known specialist brand manager and held in high regard by industry insiders as a professional business person. He is the founder of Haze Ent and recently launched a new venture, Black Cannabis Magazine.
Hazey Taughtme entrepreneurial spirit has helped in creating opportunities for people of color in the cannabis industry. This is in turn has helped establish collaborations with non-profits such as the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance (NDICA).
Inline with Haze’s vision, NDICA mission is to promote social equity and justice within the cannabis industry. The non-profit organization has chapters in Los Angeles, CA, Fresno, CA, Chicago, IL, Oklahoma City, OK, and Columbus, OH.
These chapters help ensure that people who have been negatively affected by years of persecution simply for their race, give them a platform to establish a foothold in the legal cannabis industry.
Haze and NDICA work with social equity applications and license holders in need of technical assistance, mentorship and resources to thus ensuring a fair and equitable cannabis industry.
Haze, the man behind the brand, and like many was severely affected by the pandemic and his cannabis wellness event in February at the popular Super Bowl party was featuring big media personalities like Diddy.
Getting to know Haze in the context of his values, his work ethic shines as legendary. His dedication to serving his clients, companies, partners and anybody actively involved in a project with him is unparalleled. His hard-working routine has him actively working from seven in the morning until midnight, constantly grafting and creating expansion opportunities.
Interestingly, he claims to have extraordinarily little of personal social life as he is too busy working, driven to create the best value for himself and his clients as possible. Before COVID-19 drastically changed everybody’s plans for the year, Haze had planned a cannabis wellness event at the popular Super Bowl party in February for rapper-mogul Diddy.
Nevertheless, in high spirits, Haze has continued to forge new business relationships and partnerships with interested parties that share similar principles and values of his. He feels there is no limit for people of color in the future of this rapidly growing industry and excited for helping leverage his network of industry insiders to achieve their dreams and goals.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that the key values of his are the driving factor to make things happen now. Haze has been working hard to set the groundwork to create more opportunities for black Americans within the cannabis and related industries.
According to Haze, this will be achieved through expungement policies, educational events, group classes to meet, network and action. This in turn will help grow the chapter base of organizations like NDICA, and therefor help bring more awareness to the social injustices of the past and help bring everyone closer to an equal playing field.
Many states and cities have already implemented social equity programs in connection with the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis use.
For instance, take the newly formulated Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program which was proposed for ensuring that communities historically impacted by the criminalization of cannabis have an opportunity to participate in the legal cannabis industry.
The question remains whether such programs will be effective in the long run, but organizations like NDICA and business people like Haze are working on the frontlines to not only help these people but also provide the necessary technical support and guidance to assist in successful and sustainable cannabis ventures.
Although still largely under-represented, the more people that are inspired by businessmen like Haze and start their own initiatives in their local communities, the more chance of success.
This is about community, about sharing and not just helping oneself but getting our people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds into the green rush on an equal footing as some of the bigger players who already have the advantage.
List of Cannabis Reform Organizations 2021
If you are interested in supporting national organizations that work for social equity in cannabis you can visit:
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
The National Diversity & Inclusion Cannabis Alliance
The Marijuana Policy Project
National Cannabis Industry Association
Marijuana Justice Coalition
Minority Cannabis Business Association
^If we missed an organization or group of activists worthy of a shout out please let us know in the comments or reach out via our contact page and we’ll happily consider them for inclusion as well!
Herb CEO Final Thoughts
There is no doubt that the cannabis industry is rapidly evolving and reforming the equitable landscape when it comes to both legislation and private industry participation.
While the historical lack of social equity for colored people has been a dismal one, the gradual legalization and growing political support for decriminalization and record expungement gives us hope that we can do better in the future.
If you feel everyone should have equal access to cannabis, both as consumers and entrepreneurs we strongly encourage you to get involved at the local level as that will allow you to be hands on and actually implement the change that you are seeking to find in the world.