It seems like every time I look at news on my phone, or I am scrolling through social media, there is a new story about the cannabis industry’s growth. The numbers involved are astounding. The legal cannabis industry in America sold over $6.7 billion dollars worth of cannabis last year. Considering that there were no legal adult-use states in America just five years ago, that is very impressive growth. To be fair, the medical marijuana industry was already in existence, but in a much smaller way than it is today.
The cannabis industry is the fastest growing, most exciting industry in the country right now. But, sadly, it is largely an industry of haves and have-nots. Unfortunately the communities that were most impacted by cannabis prohibition and the greater War on Drugs are not as well represented in the cannabis space as they should be. To put it into perspective, in 2015 African Americans made up 11% of Washington State’s cannabis arrests. However, currently less than 3% of cannabis retail license-holders in Washington State are African American.
The number is even worse nationally. A study from 2016 found that nationally the number of dispensaries owned by African Americans was less than 1%. Historically African Americans have been 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis in America. In St. Louis, Missouri specifically (data from 2013), African Americans have been 18 times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis. The math speaks for itself. The war on marijuana is basically a war on minorities. That’s not to say that white people aren’t arrested too. I have had my problems with law enforcement and I know that I am not alone. But the disproportionate arrest rates for cannabis in minority communities cannot be denied.
Minority communities should not be left out of the ‘green rush.’ Minority communities should be given a spot at the head of the line to benefit from the booming cannabis industry. As I have heard Jesce Horton say (co-founder and Chairman of the Minority Cannabis Business Association), ‘we need to create a new kind of industry, not just a new industry.’ The cannabis industry has the opportunity to right a lot of wrongs in the cannabis world, and it’s something that everyone should support.
The topic of ‘Sustainably Growing the Industry Through Inclusion of Communities Targeted by the War on Drugs’ is going to be covered at the upcoming Cannabis Business Summit in Oakland, which is hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association, and is taking place June 12-14. Members of the panel include Jesce Horton, as well as one of my favorite activists and leaders of the cannabis industry Shaleen Title (partner at THC Staffing). They will be joined by Rachel Knox M.D. , MBA (Board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association) and Tsion Sunshine Lencho (co-founder of Supernova Women). These are four of the most brilliant people in the cannabis world, and freedom fighters to the fullest. Everyone can benefit from their knowledge.
This is an extremely important issue that everyone needs to learn about. If you are at the Cannabis Business Summit (which you should be!) make sure to check out this panel, take notes, and spread what you learn far and wide. A limited number of tickets are available for the event, but they are almost guaranteed to sell out, so get them while you can. The event is going to be packed with leading experts in the cannabis space, as well as a sold out exhibitor floor featuring the top companies and entities in the cannabis world. Hope to see you there!