No Room For Racism In The Cannabis Industry

Originally posted on Medium.com:

After the tragic events of Charlottesville, many of us have had to take a hard look at how we respond to racism in the United States in 2017. Unfortunately, for as amazing as our country can be and all of the opportunity we have, our history is one mired in a sometimes suffocating legacy of white supremacy.

Part of that brutal legacy is the War on Drugs, of which the war on marijuana has long been the linchpin.

Marijuana was made illegal in 1938 after decades of propaganda had convinced Americans that “marijuana crazed negroes” were running wild, raping white women. However, the crackdown on marijuana was kicked into hyper drive after the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970.

The War on Drugs eventually lead to the current era of mass incarceration, which has seen a 600% increase in the U.S. prison population from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, largely on the backs of black and brown men who were convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. According to the NAACP African-Americans and Hispanics account for 32% of the US population but were 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.

Due to drastic racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws, African-Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as their white counterparts.

With 52% of all drug arrests in the U.S. being for marijuana and 88% of marijuana arrests being for simple possession, you can begin to understand how the war on marijuana has really been a war on black and brown people.

Image from ACLU report “The War on Marijuana In Black and White”

Thanks in large part to the movement to end marijuana prohibition, the war on drugs and mass incarceration has finally begun to come to the forefront of our national consciousness, Dr. Michelle Alexander has written extensively about how the War on Drugs and mass incarceration has merely been a continuation of white supremacy through legal means.

In fact, according to Alexander there are more African Americans in the correctional system today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the civil war began.

Last week I wrote a piece for Weed News about an event organizer in the cannabis industry inviting Roger Stone who has been called the “sinister Forest Gump of American politics”, to deliver the keynote address at an upcoming cannabis industry conference in LA.

The invitation led to the Minority Cannabis Business Association, a trade association dedicated to people of color in the cannabis industry, boycotting the event.

Since then the story has also been covered by LeaflyMerry Jane & Celeb Stoner.

A Change.org petition has also been started by a couple dozen prominent members of the cannabis industry calling on the organizers of the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo to drop Stone as a keynote speaker. I’ve also seen posts from several other people who have confirmed that they have dropped out as speakers over the weekend.

Some voices within the cannabis community disagree with MCBA and other speaker’s decisions to boycott the event, making the case that the cannabis movement needs all of the bi-partisan support it can garner and that Stone is a potent political force within the Republican party and a close confidant of the President.

They point to the fact that Stone has started a bi-partisan organization with Orlando attorney and medical marijuana activist John Morgan as evidence that he is doing good and that we should be willing to work with him.

I passionately disagree. I think the entire industry and movement needs to #DisownStone.

This is a man who has made his career off of dirty-tricks and race baiting. Stone was in the Nixon administration when the war on drugs started. He was working for Reagan when the war on drugs became militarized. He was in positions of power and influence at a time when millions of black and brown men were being locked up for a plant that he now wants to profit off of.

The decision by the organizers of CWCBE to invite Roger Stone to speak after he was banned from CNN last year for calling one of their contributors a “stupid negro” is baffling. Less you think his tweetstorm’s are isolated incidents, I think it’s important to remember where Stone has come from.

Stone points to Barry Goldwater (who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act) as being one of the reasons he fell in love with politics. He then went on to work for Richard Nixon who famously implemented the “southern strategy” which was based on using the whitelash to the Civil Rights Act as a means of dominating politics in former slave holding states.

After Nixon resigned from office Stone would eventually go to work for Ronald Reagan, who kicked off his 1980 Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi giving a speech about states’ rights in the city where three civil rights workers were murdered by klansmen in 1964.

While running the New York campaign for Reagan, Stone first met Donald Trump. Stone was introduced to Trump by Roy Cohn, a corrupt lawyer who was best known as the Chief Counsel for infamous Senator Joe McCarthy during the “red scare” years. Cohn came into the Donald’s orbit when he was defending Trump against the Department of Justice who had brought suit against Trump for racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

One of Stone’s former business partners Charlie Black, was an aide to racist North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms who while a member of the Raleigh City Council in the 60’s spent a decade “railing against” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & “negro hoodlums”.

As I said in my piece last week, I don’t necessarily think Roger Stone is a racist. I don’t think he hates all black people. I think it’s worse than that. I simply think he has been manipulative enough that he’ll use other people’s racism to advance his political and financial interests.

The cannabis industry is unique in that we have an opportunity to shape an industry that is inclusive in ways that other industries are not, and give back to communities that have been devastated by the war on drugs.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with how much the legalization movement has had to lean on “states rights” as the frame through which we try to convince politicians to hear us out, but beginning to bring operatives into the fold from a school of thought that traditionally used that rallying cry to marginalize the civil rights of black and brown people is a step too far for me.

Watching the narrative unfold around Stone’s entrance into the cannabis industry seems to have a bit of desperation and a “savior complex” embedded into it. Those who criticize the backlash against Stone’s invitation seem to think that his connections to Trump & Attorney General Jeff Sessions is somehow going to magically force their hand (if Trump even lasts through Christmas), but I don’t think we need him.

Our movement has sustained itself for decades on the organizing power of grassroots activists who have dedicated their lives to the cause. That’s not to say that the movement doesn’t need professional political organizers and strategists, but there are plenty of good conservative political strategists who don’t call people a“stupid negro”.

I agree that our movement needs support from Republicans to win, but we don’t need Stone.

According to Gallup, Republican support for marijuana reform has more than doubled since 2005. There is already a bi-partisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus in the House of Representatives and almost a dozen billshave been introduced by Republican members of the House. We are making progress.

No one is attacking him for his support of cannabis, just calling people a “stupid negro”.
This was tweeted from Stone’s “StoneColdTruth” account then Retweeted by his personal account. Looks like someone is feeling the pressure.

The issue of raising Stone to a level of prominence within our movement is not an issue of partisan politics, it’s an issue of human decency. It’s not an issue of left vs right — — this is about wrong vs. right.

It’s time for the cannabis industry to #DisownStone.